Have you read and heard more than your share about Tiger Woods’ unfortunate meeting with a fire hydrant and a tree last Friday morning?
I think I have. But one last thing…and only because it’s the main, if not the biggest sports PR story this year, and is already leading Jay Leno’s monologue.
The quickie recap: World-famous professional golfer, Tiger Woods, decides to take a joy ride in his Cadillac Escalade at 2:30 Friday morning and upon leaving his driveway, tips a fire hydrant and makes contact with a neighbor’s tree. Upon hearing the ruckus, Woods’ wife Elin rushes out of the house and reportedly helps her husband. A neighbor calls 911 and tells the dispatcher that the victim is lying on the ground.
What occurs for the ensuing 72-plus hours is the making of a public relations case study that is still being written. Initial reports were that Woods was in serious condition after the accident. When his agent confirmed that Woods was treated and released, the public said “phew” … and then “huhhh?”
Gossip tattler, National Enquirer, earlier in the week, reported an alleged affair between Tiger and a New York nightclub hostess. Inquiring minds said, “we want to know what happened and why.” However, according to Florida law, Woods was in a traffic accident and he didn’t have to provide anything more than a driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. His attorney did that and Woods, via his website, said the rest would remain private.
The bottom line is this: In the early hours of the Tiger hunt, I, like many publicity and media professionals, said Woods was damaging his reputation by not talking to the public. If he didn’t want to speak with Florida Highway Patrol, that was his legal prerogative, but the public buys golf tournament tickets and Nike clothes emblazoned with his name….he owed the public and his sponsors an explanation to quell rumors of everything from domestic unrest to drugs and alcohol use.
All along I agreed that it was a double-edged sword. Woods, like all of us, deserves his privacy when he’s not playing golf or pitching a brand. However, His Privacy could be no longer unless he took charge of the message, which after 24 hours in the social mediasphere, not to mention mainstream media, was like a sand trap of rumors and innuendo.
I was in good company. Award-winning sportscaster, Len Berman said, “Finally, something the control freak couldn’t control. He should have pulled a ‘Letterman.’ Confront the issue publicly head-on and move along. (Ok…I said early that Woods should do a T.O. and do a presser in his front yard, but the essence is that we thought he should have spoken quickly and honestly.)
But my question to self is, today, what would Tiger say if he took to a podium now?
Fellow public relations professional, Amy Mengel, answered that question for me.
“At this point it’s been too long,” said Mengel who is @amymengel on Twitter. “[The] Public has made up its mind & judged him, regardless of what he says/does. Nothing to be gained.”
“I think he may have been able to quash things if he had come right out on Friday and said something, but that’s obviously not his style and would have contradicted his intensely private off-the-course lifestyle,” Mengel continued. “Saying anything now would just rekindle the fire. Fire can’t burn without oxygen, and so I think if he just keeps quiet, eventually this one will smolder out. There will always be questions, but if he just gets back to winning Majors, then people should quickly brush it under the rug.”
I tend to agree with Mengel, but only if things remain quiet for the next several days, weeks and months.
Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist, Mark Bradley, put the personal aspect of Woods’ situation in perspective in his blog entry:
“I say again: We are not naive. We have cause to believe something is indeed amiss in the Woods marriage. But that is not our business. Nobody has been arrested. No court documents have been filed. As much as we might hunger for the latest dollop of dope from TMZ, we have no inalienable right to satiation.”
So it’s come to this…nearly 100 hours after the incident. My biggest question now? Why did it take 10 minutes for an ambulance to get to Woods’ house in Windermere, Fla., that has a population of about 2,000, at 2:30 a.m?