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Woods Doesn’t Owe Us an Explanation

By Ed Sherman, Crain’s Chicago Business Sports Blog

Nov 30, 2009

Like everyone else, I spent the weekend surfing the Internet to follow the Tiger Woods saga. The New York Times reports that there were 3,200 stories published worldwide in the first 36 hours following Mr. Woods’ errant drive Friday morning. And many more since then.

Ultimately, I never thought I would be turning to John Daly for guidance in this situation, but a report out of Sydney, where Mr. Daly is playing this week, sums up my view here.

“I don’t really care what happened between Tiger and . . . whatever happened. I’m just glad he’s OK,” said Mr. Daly, preparing for the Australian Open. “We need him, probably more than anybody on the tour, to keep things going, the way the economy is. Tiger’s the biggest asset the tour’s had in a long, long time. Whatever happened, as long as he’s OK, that’s all that matters.”

Obviously, Mr. Daly speaks from experience. He has seen the mess of his private life thrust into the public forum.

Mr. Woods is much more savvy than Mr. Daly. An extremely private man, he is determined to keep this matter out of the tabloid/Internet blender.

That’s as it should be. I’m in the camp that believes Mr. Woods doesn’t owe us an explanation as to what really happened at the end of his driveway.

Just because he is a huge celebrity doesn’t mean we get to know everything that goes on behind closed doors. I’ve always been disgusted that we have become a society of star-struck eavesdroppers. Somehow, the TMZ, National Enquirer mentality seems to have validated the notion we should have access to everything and anything.

Mr. Woods never provided a glimpse into his personal life when things were going well. So we should expect him to change his tack now? Ha!

However, there is the awkward problem of what Mr. Woods says when he does sit behind the microphones again. He is slated to have a news conference Tuesday in advance of his tournament in California, the Chevron World Challenge. Assuming he does show up — a big if —what should his strategy be?

Chicago native Kevin Sullivan knows a thing or two about sticky situations after serving as the communications director in the George Bush White House. He also worked public relations for NBC and the Dallas Mavericks.

Now operating his own strategic PR firm, Mr. Sullivan’s advice would be for Mr. Woods to address the situation in a “general way.”

“I admire him for wanting to protect his family,” Mr. Sullivan said. “However, there’s such a public frenzy about this, I think he would have an easier time if he said something about it in a general way. There’s not much evidence that when you say, ‘It’s a private matter,’ that it goes away. Instead, it usually fuels more of a frenzy.”

Mr. Sullivan said it is difficult for him to completely assess the situation because he doesn’t know all the facts. For now, he is going on the basis of Mr. Woods’ statement that the accident was his fault, and there’s nothing more to it.

I asked Mr. Sullivan, what if there was more to it, as seems likely? Would he advise Mr. Woods to lie here?

“No, he can’t do that,” Mr. Sullivan said. “However, we live in an era where TMZ isn’t going to let go of this. If he could find some middle ground, it might help his cause. He’s such a strong-minded person. He might say, ‘It’s private, that’s it.’ "

I imagine that will be Mr. Woods’ strategy. While that might disappoint some people, I’m fine with that. I don’t need to know.

Mr. Woods’ best move probably is to hope this situation eventually blows over. If history is a judge, as evidenced by difficulties faced by other athletes, it probably will.

“The American public is a forgiving lot,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He has so much goodwill built up, there’s no doubt he can overcome this.”

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