The well practiced art of the public apology

To suggest anyone was offended when earlier this year perennial good guy Rory McIllroy launched his 3 iron into the water after a hooked approach shot, underestimates the comedy value of the world champion cutting the figure of a frustrated schoolboy being made to play golf by his Dad because ‘the course is where business is done’. He said sorry afterwards for his ‘outburst’ and, as has been recently reported, saved the tidy sum of £13,000 for doing so. His ‘crime’ if we can even call it that doesn’t come close to making the list of ‘sins’ committed by professional sports stars, but when your life and work is played out in the public eye, even a forgivably human reaction in frustration has to be apologised for, after all, it’s bad for the brand.

The public apology has become something of an ever present, a ritualistic parading of the guilty party before the media, to apologise to ‘my family, my fans and everyone I let down.’ By their very nature the worst apologies are the most memorable from this pool we’ve compiled a list with all having gone on our list for being especially shambolic, cowardly or audacious.

  • The rather comical situation in which a fan is responsible for his team loosing the game. Cubs fan Steve Bartman’s interruption of a catch in the eight inning deflected the ball into the stands. Beginning the inning 3-0 up the Cubs finished 8-3 down. Bartman’s apology to other fans, asked them to direct any negative energy towards him into supporting their team probably rang hollow, particularly after they went onto loose the next game which ended their chance of going to the world series.
  • Lance Armstrong was for a very long time the king of cycling. He had in his own words a mythic story, coming back from cancer and winning the Tour de France a record 7 times. Ultimately however these victories were built on consistent banned substance abuse, something he bullishly denied throughout his career. When all was revealed Armstrong in a one on one no holds barred  interview with Oprah cut a forlorn figure, seeming more sorry that he got caught than what he’d actually done was wrong. The situation is of course very complicated, no one is denying that what Armstrong did was an achievement in itself, however his arrogant attitude towards his fall from grace has done nothing to deter the instinctive schadenfreude.
  • In June 2003 Kobe Bryant was regarded as one of the best prospects in basketball. The youngest player to win three championships in a row his contribution had seen his reputation enhance dramatically. What also happened that month will forever be a stain on his career. Kobe was accused of sexually assaulting a young girl in a hotel room. While the events of the evening remain unclear to the day the charges were ultimately dropped, one of the requirements of this however, was that a public apology be issued by Kobe addressed to the young girl. This unfolded into the unusual situation of the supposedly innocent party apologising for something he apparently didn’t do. Parallels with this case appear regularly, leaving a distasteful reminder that privacy for all involved parties ought be paramount while justice takes it’s course.
  • “When the sardines follow the trawler it’s because they think sardines will be chucked into the sea”. During a press conference after being acquitted for drop kicking a Crystal Palace fan; colliding with the man’s mum in what is now the most famous common assault case in english law, and facing an 8 month suspension from football, The king, Eric Cantona produced this cryptic statement. While lesser men would’ve simply bowed their heads in contrite apology Cantona remained defiant that his actions were provoked by a torrent of abuse that justified his subsequent reaction. With the irony completely lost on the media, his statement was analysed and dissected to the point that some channels going as far as to recruit philosophers to analyse his words.

Image courtesy of Gidzy

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