The gamebook for those with lots to be sorry for

October 26, 2006|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

If you're a Hollywood celebrity, famous politician or big-name athlete who gets caught saying or doing something stupid, here's the game plan for dealing with the whole mess.

OK, first order of business: Start back-pedaling.

I never said that. The media took it out of context. We just had a few drinks - is that a crime? These are a few of the phrases you should practice.

Here's another one: She works in my office. So do lots of other women. Next question.

But sometimes things will continue to snowball.

Sometimes you get pulled over for drunken driving at 3 in the morning and launch into a wild-eyed anti-Semitic rant, and people won't give it a rest.

If so, get with your publicist ASAP.

Then issue a public apology. Don't stress if it doesn't sound sincere - they never do.

Do you remember what Janet Jackson said after her famous Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" (otherwise known as the breast-flashing incident)?

"If I offended anybody, that was truly not my intention," she said.

OK, that's the prototype.

That's the kind of vague-sounding semi-contrition you're aiming for here.

Or if you want to go smarmy, think about the apology Rush Limbaugh gave after accusing Michael J. Fox of exaggerating the effects of Parkinson's disease in a campaign commercial.

"All right then, I stand corrected," Limbaugh said after being informed that Fox always shakes and jerks his head because of - duh - his condition. "... So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox."

If you don't like either of those apologies, just look up the ones issued by Mel Gibson, former Rep. Mark Foley, Virginia Sen. George Allen Jr., Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the University of Miami football team, etc.

(On a personal note, my favorite public apology came from one of the Miami players involved in that infamous bench-clearing brawl during a game against Florida International two weeks ago. Apologizing in a written statement for stomping an opposing player when he was down, the Miami player concluded: "I did not use my better judgment." Is that beautiful, or what? That guy will be running for mayor in a few years.)

OK, let's move on.

After issuing a public apology for whatever dumb thing you said or did, immediately qualify it with an excuse that essentially takes you off the hook.

The booze made me do it, you might say.

Or drugs made me do it.

Or a sex-addiction made me do it.

Or a troubled upbringing made me do it.

Of course, once you go on record as saying your inner demons drove you to do whatever it was that got you in trouble, the next step is logical.

Right, check yourself into rehab.

A nice 60-day stay at a posh treatment center can be just the ticket until things blow over.

Look at all the pluses: You're away from the media glare, the food's great, there's peace and quiet, you can doze off during group therapy, you've got 24-hour access to the pool, gym, spa, etc.

Two months later, looking tanned and fit, you step up to a bank of microphones at your first press conference and announce that you're back, feeling great, ready to put your problems behind you and get on with life, etc.

(Honestly, I see these people come out of rehab looking so fabulous and my first thought is: Man, I gotta check into one of those places! Look, if it helps you drop 20 pounds and get some rest, who wouldn't invent a phony substance-abuse problem?)

OK, this next part is important.

Just because you publicly apologized and sought help for whatever made you say or do something stupid, don't think your work is over.

Oh, no, you don't get off that easy.

Now you have to write a book about your "ordeal."

Call it, I don't know, Trial By Fire or My Descent Into Hell or some other pretentious title.

Dedicate it to your family: the long-suffering wife, the estranged kids, the mom and dad you shamed and isolated by your actions.

In the prologue, make sure to note that if the book helps even one human being out there avoid making the same mistakes you made, it'll all be worth it.

Here's a nice touch: Mention that part of the proceeds from book sales will go to charity. The rest, of course, will go to your lawyers.

But there's probably no sense getting into that right now.

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