SELF-SERVING CITY, America | TIGER WOODS CAME out of hiding Friday and addressed the world from TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. That was a mistake. He should have done it from the East Room or maybe the Rose Garden.
His first public appearance in months had all the trappings of a highly anticipated presidential address. The solitary podium. The intimate, hand-picked and fully frisked crowd in attendance. The clicking cacophony of the cameras. The captive, judgmental international audience watching at home. It even came complete with a hyper-serious, hushed lead-in from ESPN anchor Hannah Storm: "Here now ... Tiger Woods."
If a Congressional escort had materialized out of nowhere and boomed "Madam Speaker, the Disappointment of the United States," it would have surprised no one.
Clad in his country club best - dark blazer, baby blue shirt, no tie - Tiger started by addressing the people in the room, many of whom, he said, know him and have cheered for him. He hit all the expected talking points: what he did was "wrong" and it ran counter to his "morals."
It was a lot of "sorry" this and "Elin" that, the kind of heavily vetted choreography most expected. But one line, almost certainly unbeknownst to Woods and his PR handlers, was unlike the other homogenous cliches. It carried real meaning and summarized the entire, sordid ordeal.
"Every one of you has good reason to be critical of me," Tiger said.
Well, maybe not "good reason." But since he asked, the public was all too happy and willing to comply.
That's really what Friday was about. That's what this whole affair has become - an excuse for people to speak out and get some attention for themselves.
Forget Tiger's long-awaited "mea culpa." That was nothing more than a necessary warm-up act to what so many obviously hoped would become their own well-observed and very public show. What started as tittering global voyeurism and shameless Schadenfreude quite clearly devolved into a reason for everyone with a thought (or half of one) to weigh in on Woods' infidelity. The news conference and the circumstances that precipitated it were a convenient pretense for blogs, newspapers, magazines, web sites, radio shows, TV programs, athletes, actors, late night comics and the Twitterati to pop off, try out new material, moralize and, above all else, grab some of the spotlight for themselves while it burned white hot.
Before Woods even uttered a word, "experts" of all stripes lobbied to be heard and offered their unsolicited services. Among the many altruistic proposals: one from a well-trafficked Web site representative, another from a "nationally recognized trial attorney" and countless others from various "crisis counselors."
The reaction to Tiger's news conference was equally nauseating as everyone you can imagine jockeyed for a little camera time. Nick Faldo thought Tiger offered a "complete apology" while Ernie Els scoffed and called it "self-serving."
NBC Sports analyst Jimmy Roberts worried about the "integrity of the game" because "golf is the only sport where you call penalties on yourself. ... There are many who feel, and I'm talking about the players, that golf has taken a hit because of this."
ESPN.com scribe Rick Reilly implored Tiger to fire his support team, his caddy and repent to America's one true and all-powerful deity: Oprah. Then Reilly served the golfer some free advice about when to return to the links. "He should take six months off if he wants to fix his marriage," Reilly said. "If there's no chance to fix his marriage, then go play golf."
Reilly doesn't just make observations or write columns, folks. He mends broken hearts. Putting the gross hypocrisy aside - Tiger is flawed, but his many critics are pious and walk with God and know "exactly" how Woods should proceed - the look-at-me responses to the Woods news conference were so egregious and personal (as though Tiger had wronged the entire world instead of just his wife) that it felt like a sketch comedy scripted by Tina Fey and the "30 Rock" writers.
The Golf Writers Association - in a move the Soviets would have loved - chose to officially boycott the event. And some random studio commentator on the Golf Channel actually started crying when talking about Woods, his tarnished image and how the golfer had nobly and finally stepped forward. Sniffle.
But none of the posturing, pontificating or weeping compared to the jaw-dropping hyperbole employed by Frank Nobilo of the Golf Channel. On a day of brazen, bizarre, ridiculous statements, Nobilo stood apart, proudly putting the Woods apology into historical context for anyone who was unsure of its place among other momentous events of the last century.
"What did they say when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon?" Nobilo asked rhetorically. "One step for mankind."
Yeah, it probably was - but not in the direction Nobilo meant.