Opinion divided on Woods

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Oh, the cynicism of it all.

However "heartfelt" Tiger Woods' televised mea culpa on Friday over his infidelity may have been -- that was the word used to describe it by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem -- much of the public, at least in the blogosphere, didn't seem to be buying it.

"Blah! Blah! Blah! Sponsors, please come back!! I'll be good from now on!! NOT!" posted Sherry on TMZ.com.

"Tiger Woods Buries Himself in Recovery Cliches," sniffed Doree Shafrir at Gawker.com.

The golf legend's appearance at 11 a.m. was carried live on the three major broadcast networks, on cable channels and streamed on the Internet, in what was perhaps the most widely covered public apology since then-President Bill Clinton's admission of an "inappropriate relationship" with White House intern Monica Lewinsky more than a decade ago.

In his nearly 15-minute statement, Mr. Woods, whose serial extramarital relationships came to light after a November car accident outside his Florida home, apologized for hurting his wife, his family, his foundation and his business partners. He also denied reports that his wife, Elin, struck him with a golf club after she discovered his affairs.

"There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage. Ever," he said. His wife was not present at his public appearance.

Mr. Woods also said he planned to return to golf one day, "I just don't know when that day will be."

Media experts were divided over how far his public apology will go toward repairing not only his personal but his professional life.

"What I expected to see today was humility. What I saw was arrogance," said Rick Cerrone, former New York Yankees public relations manager, who declared it a "public relations disaster" on CNN afterward.

Others felt that the golf superstar accomplished what he needed to do to move forward.

"On balance I'd give him an A-minus," said Mark DeMoss, head of a public relations and crisis management firm in Atlanta, The DeMoss Group. "A lot of times we hear people get up and use sugar-coated words like 'mistake,' and 'indiscretion.' He used a lot of words like 'irresponsible' and 'selfish,' 'unfaithful,' 'shame.' I have to give him credit for owning up to his behavior."

Crisis communications expert Mark Macias, author of "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media," gave Mr. Woods a B-minus for delivery and an A-minus for content, claiming he came across as authentic.

"He took full responsibility for his actions, he acknowledged his wife throughout and he humanized himself without sounding too much like a victim," Mr. Macias said.

Indeed, Mr. Woods' public statement seemed to be very much a part of a 12-step program that many drug, alcohol and sex addicts undergo, noted Chris Wolf, a sex therapist with a private practice in Upper St. Clair.

Ms. Wolf studied with Patrick Carnes, a widely published author and a leading figure in the field of sex addiction, who is reportedly treating Mr. Woods at a clinic in Hattiesburg, Miss.

This type of treatment, which originated with Alcoholics Anonymous, requires, as one of the first steps, some kind of public acknowledgement of remorse along with eight to 12 hours a day in group therapy.

"The sex addict has to accept the fact that he or she needs treatment, they have to acknowledge the secret life they've been leading and eventually they have to make amends. To do that is part of the 12 steps, to bring about change. It's going to take time for him to show his wife and the public that he means it," said Ms. Wolf.

Sex addiction is not listed in the mental health field's Diagnostic Statistics Manual as a formal diagnosis, noted Kailla Edger, a sex therapist at the local Gateway Rehabilitation Center, because of disputes over terminology, but "most experts agree that compulsive sexual behavior with many partners is problematic and cyclical."

That means, she added, that Mr. Woods "will have a hard road ahead of him because he's in the public eye. The very fact that his public image was all about being the perfect family man, that it didn't allow him to be imperfect, contributed to his compulsive and 'hiding' behavior."

That's why he is so controlling, she added.

That desire for control manifested itself even in his "news" conference, with selected reporters invited to sit in but not allowed to ask questions, noted Jess Todtfeldt, a New York-based media and communications consultant.

Mr. Woods "has dodged the press in the last three months," Mr. Todtfeldt said. "He went out there and did the non-press conference press-conference, so, yeah, he deserves tough treatment."

Still, "the main thing I was looking for was emotion, and there was genuine emotion there, even though it was obvious he rehearsed," said Mr. Todtfeldt.

Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1949. First Published February 20, 2010 5:00 AM


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