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The media will just keep digging

By Staff | Dec 4, 2009

When the news reports first broke that the world’s most famous athlete, Tiger Woods, was seriously injured in a car accident everyone was understandably concerned for his well being.

But then the story got interesting – even mysterious.

Woods, who crashed his SUV at 2:25 a.m., has decided to stay mum about the story behind the story regarding the incident other than to say he messed up, let his family down and to beg the public to respect his privacy.

Woods is extremely private and, up until now, has had a remarkable squeaky-clean reputation. The public was left with all sorts of questions. Why was he driving at that hour? How did he hit a fire hydrant and tree at that speed? And most curiously, why was his wife use a golf club to smash out the back window in a supposed attempt to come to her husband’s aid? Was she really going to drag her 190 pound, muscular husband across two seats and out the back window? Sounds fishy if you ask me.

But the greater question might be how is any of it anybody’s business? Shouldn’t this be a private matter for Woods and his family?

In a perfect world not filled with celebrity-obsessed people – yes. In the real world today as it is – no.

So far, Woods’ initial comments were vague at best. The whole thing has become a circus with a cast of characters rather than simply an embarrassing situation. Rumors are rampant. Wouldn’t it be better to get the whole truth out now, rather than later?

Media experts have advised Tiger Woods to follow the lead of David Letterman who recently went public with his admission of adultery. He even cracked a few jokes at his own expense on his late-night show. After a few days, everyone moved on.

Fans are remarkably forgiving. All you have to think about are stars like Michael Jackson who are seen as strange and maybe a bit questionable in life. In death he’s called a hero and an idol to be worshiped.

There’s a long list of athletes who commit some sort of indiscretion whether it be drugs, crime, domestic abuse or adultery. Pete Rose, Roger Clemens and Kobe Bryant come to mind without even giving it much thought.

When Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003, he tearfully admitted to the world that he was guilty of adultery – and nothing else. Charges were later dropped and while his reputation took a brief hit, fans have obviously gotten over it. His jersey is the top seller in the United States, Europe and China.

Some athletes and stars are convicted of a crime while others simply commit some sort of moral discretion. Men and women throughout the ages are forgiven for misbehaving and all sorts of personal missteps. What the pubic doesn’t like is a cover up.

It’s a little late for Tiger to plead for privacy. In fact, evading the truth will only cause the media to dig deeper. They will leave no stone unturned. Sure there are far more worthy stories out there, but who can resist a scandal? The American public feeds off scandals, especially when it involves someone as high profile as Tiger Woods.

Pretty soon CNN will be talking to Tiger’s high school prom date to get her take on the issue. The number one rule in crisis communication is: Take control of the story, before it takes control of you.

I’m not saying it’s his moral obligation to tell the public everything about what’s going on, but sometimes silence is perceived in an even worse light. Even though he’s made a statement recently, he really didn’t say much.

Some people might be sympathetic toward the star athlete and wonder why we don’t just leave him alone. Sure that might sound like the neighborly thing to do, but I don’t think famous people should be let off the hook so easily for the simple fact that they want it both ways. They want media attention to promote themselves and their talent, but when the media comes knocking on private matters they cry foul.

They have to take the good with the bad just like everyone else. And if that means the media has to do a little digging to find out exactly why your wife was swinging a golf club instead of you at 2:25 a.m. then so be it.

Tiger can do damage control, but just be honest with us. Fans will forgive him. They always do.

Mullally is a Tribune writer.

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