You know what I miss? I miss those days when being a sports fan did not also require a deep and textured understanding of body language. I miss the time when you could follow the games people play without having a hyper-sensitive scent for sincerity. I miss the time when being a judgmental sports fan meant only that you made moral judgments about a manager's decision to bunt or not bunt in the third inning or a golfer's choice to go for the green in two from a balky lie.
This is what I was thinking about when watching
On and on and on... a million questions and comments and judgments about a 13-minute statement made by a brilliant golfer who cheated repeatedly on his wife.
The absurdity here is that this isn't absurd anymore. To be a sports fan in this new time, you need advanced insight into the maze of human frailty and a solid quartz sincerity-meter for the apologies that inevitably follow. How many sports apologies has it been in recent days? There's
And there's Tiger Woods, the first apology that was ever boycotted by the Golf Writers Association of America. I don't blame the people from the GWAA for refusing to be background scenery in what was clearly meant to be little more than a Tiger Woods photo-op. However, it should be said that there is some absurdity here, too.
So, Tiger found himself walking through blue curtains into what seemed an airless room with a carefully selected audience, and he read words off a few pieces of paper, words that said he was sorry, that he had let himself believe that he was entitled to live a wild life, that there have been a lot of lies written and said, that he hopes after some time that people can yet again believe in him.
And then, like Olympic judges, we were left to rate his performance. On sincerity: 9.1. On emotion: 9.3. On artistic interpretation: 9.0. His technical score: 8.7. Oh, the Spanish judge really scored him low on that one.
How are we supposed to judge these apologies? I have no idea. I clearly have a fault barometer for sincerity. I thought that Alex Rodriguez's apology -- largely because he spent so much of it railing against the reporter who broke the story that he used steroids -- sounded thoroughly insincere, even though he wore a very sincere looking blue sweater (blue, I think, is the most sincere of colors). A lot of people disagree with me and despise that reporter, too. I thought that Mark McGwire's apology did seem sincere -- even though he refused to concede that steroids made him a great home run hitter -- perhaps because to me he did not seem to blame anyone else. Even more people disagree with me there.
Well, they may be right. I may be wrong. Or I may be right. They may be wrong. Or none of us are right. And none of us are wrong. That's where we are. One of the great thing about sports is that, if you can slow down the video enough, you will find that a runner is out or safe, crossed the plane of the end zone or didn't, got the shot off before the buzzer or did not. In sports, most of the time, almost all of the time, there's a winner and a loser, a right and a wrong, and few shades of gray. That's part of what makes sports so appealing.
Apologies, meanwhile, are all gray. I suspect that even the person apologizing is not entirely sure about the depth of his or her own sincerity. There's a great exchange in
In Tiger Woods' case, I'm not even sure why I'm supposed to be forgiving him. At least with A-Rod and McGwire and the various PED users and the law breakers, well, you could say that they misled the fans who were cheering for them. But this Tiger thing is different. I don't know his wife. I don't know these women that he cheated with. These aren't close and personal friends of mine. He never promised me that he would lead a chaste life. He never misled me. I may be surprised that he lived the way he lived, and it might lessen my opinion of him as a person (assuming I already had an opinion about him as a person) but all in all, I never really had any intention of asking Tiger Woods to babysit my kids.
So, I'm left judging only his apology performance, like he's auditioning for a part in my forgiveness play. And my verdict? Sure, I'd give him the part. It wasn't that I thought his words were especially moving or that his reading was especially stirring. I didn't. I thought the speech bounced all over the place. I never understood why he was angrily lecturing people for making assumptions about Elin hitting him when he had always refused to SAY what happened, leaving everyone only with a scene of busted car windows, a wife with a golf club, and Tiger himself lying on the ground. I understand that it's nobody's business. But you can't keep people from talking.
And I thought he looked robotic; his voice hummed. He seemed like one of those Animatronic U.S. Presidents at Magic Kingdom. I remember, years ago, when I was a paper boy, I got into a fight with one of my customers, who insisted that I had given him too little change. I was sure that he was trying to cheat me, and I said so. We argued for quite a while, and I got quite belligerent. Finally, the man shrugged and gave up. When I got home, we went over my collections and found that the man was right, I had cheated him. My parents made me go over to his house, return the money and apologize (while they watched). I did. And I remember my bland and empty voice sounded much like Tiger Woods' voice on Friday. I thought it was telling that Tiger Woods' mother was in the front row... his was the sort of apology that you give with a parent watching.
But, that said, I really WAS sorry that I had cheated the man, even if I did not sound it. And I suspect that Tiger Woods really is sorry for leading a selfish life. To me the most telling part of the whole thing was that, while most people thought Tiger Woods would announce his return to golf, he did not. That's something more than words. We all know how much breaking
And, in the end, it's just not hard to forgive someone that you don't really know. I hope Tiger Woods becomes the person he wants to become. And, someday, I hope to once again watch him play golf so I can say out loud: "I cannot believe he's using a three-wood here." That sort of judgment is a lot more fun.