The big news before I even walked out the door this morning was Tiger Woods' public apology, in fact the first public appearance he had made since that cataclysmic collapse on Thanksgiving weekend. This was no press conference, and everything Woods said this morning felt painfully processed. It was also already common knowledge thanks to the reporting that took place during his two-and-a-half-month Houdini act. The question everyone seems to want to answer is whether he meant what he said. Was he sincere? You can watch the above video and judge for yourself. Or you can read Bill Simmons and let him doing the thinking for you:
I thought it was a borderline train wreck. It amazes me that Tiger learned little to nothing from the past two months. The control freak whose life slipped out of control dipped right back into control-freak mode, reading a prepared speech in front of a hand-selected audience of people, taking no questions, talking in cliches and only occasionally seeming human. Everything about it seemed staged. Everything. When the main camera broke down at the nine-minute mark and Tiger had to be shown from the side, I half-expected to see that he was plugged in to the wall.
Whatever. I was going to leave it alone. After all, that had to have been a humiliating experience for the guy. But listening to talking heads praise that ludicrous speech pushed me over the edge. Someone actually said, "It came from the heart." It did? Was it C3PO's heart? I thought it seemed like an automated response from Microsoft's new "Cheater's Confession" program.
Preach it, Brother! I can't help but agree, which is why I also can't reconcile what I saw this morning -- stale, stilted -- with what Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes was "Woods' courageous confession." Courageous how? Because he acknowledged that he couldn't return to golf and all the money it's brought him if he didn't go through this cultural formality? Was it really any more than that?
Maybe, maybe not. That requires much deeper insight into Woods' soul than he's willing to offer and, dare I say, than we really deserve. Woods said he's on the road to recovery; his stint at a retreat for those battling sex addiction was reported. And Woods said his Buddhist tradition is helping:
I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught.
But sadly, though not surprisingly, this portion of Woods' speech (the entire text is here) has been missing from much of the major coverage. And, at least in this Politico blog post, it was just seen as a veiled, or mailed indirect, response to Brit Hume, who said what he quickly learned a TV pundit can't say.
Upon doing a quick search, the only major outlet I could find to talk specifically about the role of Woods' religious beliefs in all of this was CBS News, who got its story from the Associated Press, which means this content is out there on the wire for everybody to pick up on. CBS News reported:
"I believe in Buddhism. Not every aspect, but most of it," Woods told Sports Illustrated in 1996. "So I take bits and pieces. I don't believe that human beings can achieve ultimate enlightenment, because humans have flaws."
The foundation of Buddhist philosophy is ethics, James Shaheen, editor and publisher of the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, told the Associated Press: "An ethical life leads to a life of less suffering."
Buddhists are taught that redemption for unethical actions is sought not through an omnipotent figure but through oneself.
I would have liked more, but this is certainly a good primer, especially when considering that covering Buddhism is tough even for Godbeat veterans. It's not among the major American religions and there is such a diversity of practices.
Cathy Lynn Grossman, on her religion blog for USA Today, was the first religion reporter who I saw give attention to Woods' Buddhism comments. And later in the day, RNA blasted a Buddhist tip sheet to reporters in need of deeper insights. (I lived off these ReligionLink resources when I was starting out.) We'll have to see who tunes in.