Dozens of broadcast networks, cable news outlets and online streams carried his scripted statement live on Friday, allowing a global audience to see and hear from Woods for the first time since his public image went into free fall nearly three months ago.
Viewers by the millions paused to watch and listen as the golf great spoke from the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass, home of the PGA Tour, in Ponte Vedra, Fla. Meanwhile, news anchors, TV pundits and morning show hosts sat ready to pounce with their reviews.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos called the speech “one of the most remarkable public apologies ever by a public figure.”
But Rick Cerrone, a public relations executive, disagreed. “What I expected to see today was some humility. What I saw today was arrogance. What I saw was anger. … It was basically an infomercial,” he said on CNN.
“I think he was very genuine in his responses and his statement,” Debert Cook, publisher of African American Golfer’s Digest, said on BBC News 24 television in London. “I think we are entering a whole new era spiritually and emotionally for Tiger Woods.”
While concluding that Woods was sincere, NBC Sports’ Jimmy Roberts said he “looked like a deer in the headlights — the kind of expression people have when they’re playing with him on the golf course.”
CBS’ David Feherty, who has covered Woods on the circuit, said, “I have never seen him appear so vulnerable. … I was very impressed with what he said.”
“The vast number of people just want their Tiger Woods back,” Feherty said.
Covering Woods’ appearance were networks as far-flung as the Golf Channel and business-focused CNBC, which beforehand had a digital countdown clock on the screen and dubbed Woods’ remarks his “Media Culpa.”
It was unusual for such a broad swath of TV outlets to hand several minutes of precious live airtime, no questions asked, to any prominent figure, even an A-lister such as Tiger Woods.
On the other hand, Woods’ message was overdue, much-sought-after and sure to take a cue from one of TV’s favorite themes: a celebrity atoning.
Whether you bought his display of remorse or not, it was gripping when Woods said things such as, “I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated. What I did is not acceptable.”
For many of the networks — especially cable news and sports-oriented ESPN — his confessional was a welcome rallying point, rich grist for the mill for talk-dominated TV. It promised to fuel hours of fresh debate on All Things Tiger, a favorite sport since Woods ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree outside his Florida home on Nov. 27. The resulting scandal has imperiled Woods’ lofty status as an athlete, hero and commercial brand.
As a media event seen around the world, Woods’ appearance was a notably low-tech production. He stood at a spindly lectern in front of a velvety blue curtain that seemed borrowed from a high school auditorium. There were two cameras, one of which failed several minutes before he finished speaking. (It “lost power,” according to spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade at CBS Sports, which provided the pool video coverage.)
But viewers weren’t distracted by the stagecraft — or lack of it.
Troy McDonald, 64, took a break from hitting golf balls at an outdoor driving range in Madison, Wis., to watch. He said he had tears in his eyes as Woods apologized for letting down children who looked up to him. His own son, Erin McDonald, is a 34-year-old amateur golfer who gets lessons at a Texas school run by Woods’ golf coach, Hank Haney.
“I had lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had for him, but he’s regained a lot of that with this statement,” McDonald said. “I was very impressed.”
At the Golf Range Santa Fe in Mexico City, teaching pro Andres Arias said he found Woods’ apology genuine. “I think all he wants to do is get back to playing golf,” Arias said.
In South Africa, 33-year-old Mlungisi Mlogehwa was forgiving as he watched Woods on a big-screen TV in the popular Cape Town bar Lapeng. “Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “He deserves a second chance.”
But at The Brasserie Des Artistes in Whistler Village, British Columbia, patrons jilted Woods for the winter games nearby.
“We’re like, well, the Olympics are on so we’ll watch that,” said bartender Aaron Peart.
At the New York Stock Exchange, the market slowed at 11 a.m. as traders watched Woods’ remarks. Volume leveled off, then picked up momentum once he fell silent.
Because Woods’ remarks were scheduled on a workday, many U.S. viewers were following from their office computer screens. Live streaming online has become more commonplace for big, daytime events since President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Though of considerably less historical importance, nearly as many Web sites offered up live streaming of Woods’ apology on Friday, including CBS News in partnership with UStream, Hulu.com (which is co-owned by NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment and ABC Inc.), YouTube’s Citizen Tube, CNN.com and many others. The Associated Press streamed it by way of Livestream.com.
ESPN had the most robust multimedia coverage. The Walt Disney Co.-owned cable network had the broadcast not only on ESPN, ESPNEWS and ESPN2, but also on ESPN.com, ESPN radio and ESPN Mobile. The network’s last notable foray into video news was when it quickly streamed its interview with Alex Rodriguez — another megastar making a mea culpa — on ESPN.com just as it was airing on its flagship network.
Though Woods’ apology was carefully orchestrated, online chatter was dramatically messier. A popular thread on Twitter was what “tigershouldve” said. The suggestions were overwhelmingly sarcastic and full of vulgar puns.
In the middle of Woods’ apology, the Onion promptly posted a story headlined: “Tiger Woods Announces Return to Sex.” Bill Simmons, a popular sports columnist for ESPN.com, tweeted: “I can’t believe Nike killed Tiger and replaced him with a robot.”
American Alpine skier Julia Mancuso, who has won two silver medals at the Olympics this week, posted on Twitter: “do we think this is coming from the heart or the paper! come on Tiger! give us some reality here.”
Woods was the most popular topic charted by Google Trends. The majority of the most popular topics on Twitter were Woods-related, including “Buddhist,” as users reacted to Woods’ remark that Buddhism was helping him through his troubles.
Many sites, such as the blog Deadspin, encouraged viewer feedback. The Huffington Post gave viewers the chance to vote on how Woods handled himself: hole in one, par for the course or a double bogey. The results were mixed.