While watching the replay of the Tiger apology with my husband, he explained to me that Tiger was essentially taking (or perhaps requesting) a mulligan. In golf terms as described by the PGA, a mulligan is a “do-over, or replay of the shot, without counting the shot as a stroke and without assessing any penalties that might apply. It is not allowed by the rules and not practiced in tournaments, but is common in casual rounds in some countries, especially the United States.” If we think of this in literal terms, I’m sure Tiger would love nothing more than to be able to request a ‘do over’, to ask for a second chance to make a better first impression, to be able to replay his actions and make smarter, wiser choices and to be able to do so without consequence. Tiger seemed sincerely ashamed of his behavior and vulnerably honest about the work he has ahead of him. We know he will return to the links sometime soon and I’m sure he is hoping that we will have forgiven him his transgressions.
I have to admit that Tiger’s apology was perfect fodder for those of us who teach manners. His speech was chock-full of references on the importance of maintaining integrity, having good character and being a good role-model, all subjects of which are addressed in our work on a daily basis. Let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights.
1. A return to fundamental values. Tiger made reference to his work in a therapeutic program to overcome his indiscretions and to a return to Buddhism and to the “fundamental values of his religion.” Our fundamental values are what save us from making mistakes and going down the wrong path. These are the core of our existence, they are what should inspire us to do great things. Once we lose them, we are in trouble.
2. Apology through behavior. I loved that Tiger made mention of apologizing to Elin not through his words, but through his “behavior AND over time.” Instead of making empty promises in the immediate, he is more realistic about the long road ahead and knows that his change must be made through his actions or non-actions as the case may be.3. Complimenting Elin. The fact that Tiger stood up for his wife and admonished the public for their scrutiny or doubts that she had any role in his behavior, was commendable. He then made a point of complimenting her on the “enormous grace and poise” she has been able to uphold “throughout this ordeal.” Her ability to maintain decorum for the sake of her family is something I’m sure he could never have fathomed.
4. Admittance of irresponsible behavior. Tiger’s admission that he felt “the normal rules didn’t apply” to him, was an illuminating statement to make. We have seen countless examples of this with our politicians, our sports figures as well as our celebrities. Fame and notoriety has somehow provided them with a false sense of power that they are above the rules and therefore have no responsibility attached to their behavior. He then describes his revelation that “the same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me” and that living a life of integrity is what is truly important.
5. Issue of entitlement. “I felt I was entitled.” Those were the exact words Tiger used to describe the impetus for his infidelities. Entitlement is a monster issue for people of all ages in today’s world. Perhaps it is because life is perceived to be such a struggle that the moment a person achieve’s even a small amount of success, they grab onto it with both hands and run, rather than take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge.
6. Setting an example. Finally, Tiger touched upon the most significant issue of all when he declared that “character and decency are what really count” and being a better “role model for their kids” is what will be his highest priority. He proclaimed that in order to do this, he will need to revisit the Buddhist principals to “stop following every impulse and learn restraint.”
Tiger’s last words were to return his behavior to one that was “more respectful of the game” in which he has devoted most of his life. I think the key word here is RESPECT. This is the number one cardinal rule of good manners. It always boils down to respect. Once Tiger restores respect in all aspects of his life, beginning with self-respect, he is sure to receive his mulligan (at least from me).P.S. Here’s a little piece I read in the NY Times Sunday edition with the media’s reaction to Tiger’s apology http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/business/media/22carr.html.