Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
Tiger Woods has chosen the Masters to mark his infamous return to golf. If the comments of Augusta National’s Chairman, Billy Payne, are any indication of how the rest of the golf world feels, his return will not be a positive one.
There is a right way and a wrong way for an athlete to return to competition once they have been involved in ignominy of any kind.
Or perhaps I SHOULD say there is a right way and Tiger’s way.
In returning to competition the “right” way, the focus of the athlete’s return is not on the scandal itself, but it is instead on the athlete’s performance in the game. Michael Vick’s return to the NFL was a great example of the “right” way to come back.
When Vick finally returned to the game of football, the focus was not about his dog-fighting scandal, because there were no questions left to ask about his actions. In the time leading up to his return, he was very transparent in his behavior, making himself accessible to the media whenever they wanted to chat. More importantly, though, was the fact that his apologies and actions POST-scandal all seemed to be genuine and heartfelt.
Sure, there were protests surrounding his return, but those protests were not a focal point any more. The voices of dissent had already been heard, and because they had nothing new to protest, and there were no unanswered or unresolved situations to further fuel their fire, their complaints were considered yesterday’s news.
Vick had taken back control of the situation by giving the press and the public what they wanted. He partnered with the NFL in the build-up to his return, and they cooperatively organized his transition back into competition. He answered all the questions, no matter how unpleasant it may have been for him, and the general public seemed to be satisfied with his responses. In doing so, his return was not about what he DID, but instead was about finding out what he will DO now that he is back.
As a result of that positive and cooperative effort, both the NFL and Vick benefitted from his return to the game. Instead of Vick’s presence on the field being a DISTRACTION, he became one of the most intriguing characters of the previous NFL season.
Tiger Woods and the PGA should have taken a page from Vick’s book.
Where Vick was open and accessible, Woods has been reclusive and inaccessible. Where Vick gave the appearance of genuine sincerity, Woods has portrayed resistance and after his seemingly insincere apology, the only SINCERE regret I believe he feels is that he was caught. The result of his foolish commitment in trying to avoid the scandal (which ironically appears to be the only commitment he CAN honor) is that the unsatisfied public will continue to dig and question until they get what they feel are satisfactory responses. Just ask guys like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, or Mark McGwire about how easily the public forgets.
Sure, the scandal was set off by off-the-course indiscretions that had no bearing on the PGA Tour, but now there is speculation of possible HGH use, which would have impacted his play ON the course. As the scandals surrounding Woods continue to swirl unchecked and unaddressed, they will increasingly draw attention FURTHER from the game of golf.
This whole situation has already been a major distraction from the PGA Tour, and Woods wasn’t even playing. Just imagine the damage that will be done if he begins to win tournaments again amid speculation that he may have used HGH. Because Woods’ credibility has been damaged, and he has failed to portray a SINCERE act of contrition with regard to his peccadilloes, the public is less likely to believe his denials of HGH involvement. A snowball effect ensues, where the layers of doubt build higher and higher.
The public’s quest for the truth will ultimately supersede any interest in the competition that will take place on the course. While the officials at Augusta may be able to exert some influence over the media during the Masters, they cannot extend their control beyond the confines of this one tournament. The Woods saga will eventually become a distraction to the PGA Tour, and as each day passes that questions go unanswered (or new accusations arise), the press will become more insistent on seeking information.
This situation cannot be swept under a rug, and it will not just go away. If anything, the American public is forgiving, but until Tiger addresses the elephant in the room and portrays a SINCERE attempt at repentance, the general public will not be willing to forgive, and they will CERTAINLY not be willing to forget.
The PGA may need Tiger Woods back in competition, but they need a Tiger Woods who is not mired in controversy even more.