Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tiger you owe me nothing by Roland S. Martin

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin, a CNN political analyst, is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith," and the forthcoming book, "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One Cable Network and host of a one-hour Sunday morning news show.

(CNN) -- When Eldrick "Tiger" Woods joined the ranks of professional golf a dozen years ago, it was via the heralded "Hello, World" Nike commercial. When he steps to the podium Friday to speak to an assembled group of friends, colleagues and journalists, the world will truly be watching to see and hear the greatest golfer of this generation talk about the sordid events over the last three months that have kept him off the golf course and shredded his well-cultivated image and reputation.

The broadcast networks will air live reports with their main anchors there to report and comment on every word; the cable nets will undoubtedly have multiple individuals ready for instant analysis; and millions will tune in to hear Tiger likely apologize and possibly say if and when he will return to competitive golf.

He isn't expected to take any questions, and that has made for an angry bunch of columnists and commentators, denouncing Woods for calling a news conference to make a statement, and not undergo the grilling many want to give him.

Woods hasn't even said a word, and already he's been called a spoiled, petulant child who has lived in a sheltered world of handlers since he was 2 years old. Some have even gone as far as saying nothing has changed about him and he's showing that he is just as selfish and self-absorbed as ever.

Tiger, let me be as clear as I can as to whether you owe me or the American people an explanation of the events surrounding your car accident Thanksgiving weekend: Hell no.
I repeat: Tiger, you don't owe me or anyone else anything!

I'm sick of these sanctimonious folks who are blabbering about Woods needing to be grilled about his private behavior. Look, Tiger Woods didn't cheat on me. He's not my daddy, brother, cousin, church member, neighbor or friend. He didn't let me down or crush my view of him. He is not and never was my role model.

The only people he owes a grand apology are his wife, momma, family, maybe his friends, and his children, when they come of age. He doesn't have to work hard for me to trust him again. The most important audience he has to satisfy is a very small group of people.
That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Ever since I was 14, my desire was to be journalist. And in the last 27 years, I've covered it all. In all of those years, I've never believed I was entitled to ask anyone a question. If it was at a county government board meeting in Austin, Texas, or a city council meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, public officials made a choice to talk to me and other journalists. It's our duty to ask; it's not their obligation to answer.

Yes, they were public figures, but no matter how many times I asked the same question, they didn't have to talk to the media. Should they? Yeah. Must they? No.

Every sports league has a rule requiring their locker rooms to be open to the media shortly after a game ends. Athletes are required to make themselves available or face a fine, but there is nothing that says they must answer our questions. If they choose to expound on what happened in a game, that's their decision. But their personal life? That choice is all up to them.

We have had to bear witness to all kinds of allegations about Tiger, the married sports star and successful product pitchman, being involved in a variety of affairs with cocktail waitresses, party girls, and porn stars. The details have gone from freaky to bizarre. His reputation has taken a substantial hit; companies he endorsed have removed his face from billboards and canceled contracts; and by multiple (and unsubstantiated) accounts, his marriage is hanging by a thread.
Yet still, he doesn't owe the American public or me a damn thing.

Meryl Streep has always earned my respect. When you see magazine cover stories on her, such as the recent one in Vanity Fair, she will talk about a host of subjects and pose for a ton of photos, but her family is off limits. She makes it clear: I'll talk about the work, not my home life.
Jodie Foster is the same way. If she is scheduled to discuss a movie, anything work-related is fine. But when you start asking about the father of her children, her love life and anything personal, she shuts you down quickly. In fact, her folks will let you know before the interview what the rules are. She's consistent and clear.

Intensely private people choose to remain that way, whether loving and faithful couples or a married athlete who is accused of bedding anyone and everyone.

Someone's personal life is just that, personal. None of us have the right to know what's going on in someone else's life when they are out of public view, especially if no laws were broken.
I've been clear that I'm a huge Tiger Woods fan. I've walked inside the ropes of many golf tournaments he's played in; shot hundreds of photos of him that hang on my wall; and count an interview with his father, Earl Woods, as one of my all-time favorites. But journalists need to cut the crap when it comes to demanding that he owes it to us to talk to as many of us as possible.
What's amazing is that many of us are hypocrites on this subject. For example, if a journalist is fired, you will hear the suits at the company say they cannot discuss the actions behind the move "because it's a personnel matter." Wait. Isn't a TV anchor, columnist or reporter a public figure? In some cities, they are considered celebrities. So the rules are different for us?

In fact, what if a reporter covered a news conference and returned with a team owner or elected official saying the following about one of their employees: "That's a personnel matter and I'm not at liberty to share with you the details of his termination." Would that editor, news director, or network president say that is acceptable? No! They would jump all over the reporter "to do their job" and keep digging to find out what happened. And the columnists and bloggers would be ripping them to shreds.

So what's the difference between them and Tiger? Personnel? Personal? Hello!

Isn't it amazing how different the view looks from the other side of the river?

iReport: Share your reaction to Woods' statement

We live in an age where public figures often share with the world who they slept with, want to sleep with, what they ate, what they wear, their travel and everything else. Nothing is off limits. The public craves it all on blogs, and in magazines, newspapers, TV and radio. For me, I don't care about any of it.

All I want is to see is a good movie, dance to a great song, watch an awesome sporting event, and witness one golfer take on his peers to become the greatest in the game.

When that public figure, whether Meryl, Jodie or Tiger, chooses to walk off the public stage, they don't owe me or anyone else an explanation. Their body of work is all that matters and that is what we will discuss for generations to come.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.

My opinion: Could anything be more true?


David said...

He's absolutely right. I think a press conference and a public apology was the absolute worst thing Tiger could have done. The one person to whom his apology matters most wasn't even there.

I think in America when our stars or heros do something to disappoint us we expect some sort of ceremonial bloodletting, and we've elected the media to perform it. Once the perpetrator has been appropriately grilled and shamed then we're ready to move on, but not until.

Some husbands cheat. Some wives won't stand for it, some look the other way. Nobody else is entitled to know anything.

For myself, I'm not disappointed. As the author said, he didn't cheat on me. I'm also not looking to anyone else, professional athletes included, to be my moral compass.

From what little I've paid attention to, it sounds like his cheating partners were a veritable dream team of women in need of improving their circumstances. What has surprised me most is that a man with his level of fame and fortune on the line wasn't more discriminating.

Toad said...

Ala Elliot Spitzer?

Mrs. Blandings said...

I fear that apology had more to do with sponsorships than family, but what do I know? I never met the guy.

Gail, in northern California said...

Am I nuts? Am I the only person who doesn't give a rat's ---
about Tiger Woods' sex life?

I realize there are a ga-zillion dollars at stake and he's been
forced by sponsors to take this walk of shame, but I felt the
same way about Bill Clinton and Big Mouth Lewinsky. What
Clinton did in his private life was between him and Hillary.

I'm embarrassed for both men.

Shelley said...

I agree. Tiger and Bill have to answer to their families, not to me. I've always felt this obsession with private lives of celebrities to be rather prurient and distasteful. I don't give a damn about Tiger Woods' sex life; I don't care much more for golf, mind, but that's neither here nor there.

Patsy said...

I love a good gossip tidbit from time to time, but not when there are children involved. Elin knew what she was signing on for, as did Tiger's mother, but not his kids.

I hold public figures accountable for their private actions, only in cases when they are completely contradictory to what they stand for (or against).

NCJack said...

I, too, hold public figures to a higher standard: they're trustees of public money, and have authority to change my life.

Private individuals, big deal. The only one of Tiger's "lies" I want to see handled is the sidehill one 200 yds.from the pin at Augusta.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Very well said. I mutter these thoughts to myself frequently.

Toad said...

Gail, as you can see you are not alone.

JMW said...

Well said. Hopefully that will shut down the circus and everyone can move on.

soodie :: said...

AGREED! We follow Tiger for his game of golf only, and not his tallywhacker. It is a private matter.

Kathie Truitt said...

This was a great article and one I agree 100% with. What really irritates me though, is the porn star who made the comment after the news conference who said SHE is the one he should be apologizing to. She never signed on for any of this....WHAT?!! Now, I've heard it all.

Sartre said...

Count me out on this one. I won't bother to cite the opposing case but the author and the commenters who say "we follow Tiger for his golf game only" are quite obviously missing something.