It’s Hard to Tell What They’re All So Sorry About

By now, we’re all experts on the public apology, having witnessed so many in sports over the years

By Shaun Powell
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 1:54 PM CDT
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It’s Hard to Tell What They’re All So Sorry About

Oh, come on Mark. By now, we’re all experts on the public apology, having witnessed so many in sports over the years

Are you sorry for what you did, or just sorry you got caught? Will someone ever admit to that?

No, I don’t think so. It goes against the First Rule of Apologizing: Never be completely truthful or honest for what you’re apologizing for. We live in a forgiving society, you see, when it comes to sports stars and their “transgressions” (in the words of apologist Tiger Woods), and playing to that forgiveness is their main goal. Even if it runs the risk of trying to play us all for suckers.

And then there’s Rule No. 2: Act sincere and contrite, even if you’re really not. Remember, the cameras are rolling and the audience is looking for blood, humility, quivering lips, whimpering words, gushing tears or a total emotional breakdown if possible. They want to see your perfect world collapse and for you to seem human and ordinary, even though in some cases as soon as the press conference is over, a limo awaits outside, ready to whisk you back to the mansion.

By now, we’re all experts on the public apology, having witnessed so many in sports over the years. Heck, over the past month. Aren’t we up to one apology a week at this point? After a while, they all seem to run together; only the names and faces change. Last time, Tiger. This time, Mark McGwire. Next time, who knows. And do you really care?

As we know, a good many of these apologies are scripted and orchestrated by public relations flacks and driven by financial or career concerns. Gilbert Arenas apologized for the gun incident, saying “there is no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns,” and then what does he do when he returns to the court? Jokes around about guns.

Anyway, here’s homage to the almighty my-bad and the various methods used by our beloved sports people to make things right again:

The Begging For Understanding Apology: Michael Phelps. When the Olympic swimmer was caught on film sucking on a bong, his apology came with this disclaimer: “I am 23 years old and I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me.”

Uh, because you’re 23, that’s exactly what people expect from you. By mentioning his age, he basically asked for sympathy and said: “This is what young guys do, even though I can’t act like one, just because I have more bling around my neck than Mr. T.” Phelps coyly suggested his celebrity status was keeping him from being a regular frat boy. Poor guy.

The Show Some Love For Family Apology: Tiger Woods. “I have let my family down and I regret these transgressions with all my heart.” Oh, now he thinks about his family. In a bid for compassion, the apologist often cites family and privacy, which is odd, because had he never did anything wrong to begin with, his family would have privacy instead of embarrassment. Even stranger: Plenty of folks, for some strange reason, feel the need to give a shout-out to their family in public. “I’d like to apologize to my mother, father, son, daughter, wife, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle,” etc. Isn’t that something best done in private?

The I’m Not Really Sorry Apology: Vince Young. When pictures of him shirtless at a party circulated on the internet, pictures that were rather tame in this day and age, Young felt compelled to apologize. To a degree. “I was just trying to have fun. It is not going to stop me from having fun.” So there.

The Devil In Me Apology: Serena Williams. Her mea culpa for berating and threatening a line judge at last year’s U.S. Open was rather weak and lacked sincerity, mainly because she didn’t come clean right after the match. The next day, she offered a half-hearted apology. Three full days after promising to ram a tennis ball down an old woman’s throat, she finally came full blast, which many believe was sponsor-driven. Phony, in other words.

Anyway, Serena blamed it all on her competitive spirit: “I’m a very prideful person and I’m a very intense person and a very emotional person.” Hey, it happens. Athletes snap in the heat of the moment. Serena snapped. She just didn’t own up to it right away. That was her mistake.

The Clarification Apology: John Rocker. “I am not a racist.” Okay. If you say so.

The Apology That Most Heterosexual Males Did Not Feel Was Necessary Apology: Janet Jackson. Super Bowl. Wardrobe Malfunction. Nudity. YouTube hits. “It was not my intent that it go as far as it did and I apologize to anyone offended.”

The I’m Not Sure What I’m Apologizing For Apology: Jason Giambi. This is a Hall of Fame-worthy apology, if only because the Yankee slugger went on and on without mentioning the words “BALCO” or “steroids” or really anything to do with why he was actually apologizing. He just kept apologizing for … something. Well, we think we know what. “There’s been a lot of distractions over the last year and I’m sorry for that.” That apology was a distraction in itself. 

The Perfect Explanation Apology: Alex Rodriguez. “I was young. I was stupid.” Yes, just blame it all on being an idiot, rather than being greedy and willing to do whatever it takes to get rich and famous, even it means taking steroids. 

The Take This Apology And Shove It Apology: Randy Moss. Now, did anyone really think Moss, smug and unrepentant in public, would ever give a “my bad?” When he had that dust-up with a Minneapolis traffic cop a while back, taking her for an unwanted ride on the hood of his car, Moss was intent on being Moss to the very end. “I’m apologizing for what happened and how it happened. But to her? I didn’t do nothing to apologizing for, you know what I’m sayin’?" Yeah, we know.

The I’m A Victim Too Apology: Tim Hardaway. He caught lots of deserved heat for his anti-gay rant on the radio, and offered this comeback: “As an African American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause.” Someone who wanted to distance himself from homosexuals all of a sudden wanted to join them? Kum-ba-ya indeed.

The I’ll Apologize For This One But Not The Others Apology: Don Imus. In his show’s constant attempt at pushing the envelope, all in the name of comedy, “we went way too far,” he said, with regard to the Rutgers women’s basketball players. As for those times when he merely went too far, instead of way too far, that was OK, right?

Finally, there’s The Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting For An Apology From Me Apology: Bob Knight, Bill Belichick, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Leach. To those who might have been offended by them, well, deal with it. Sorry.

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