Within 24 hours recently, two public figures had outbursts that created strong tremors. When Serena Williams threatened a line referee at the U.S. Open and Kanye West stole the microphone from Taylor Swift at MTV's Video Music Awards, people were left with very bitter tastes in their mouths. Ms. Williams had never displayed such a strong reaction to a call, and while Mr. West is known for his antics, his behavior towards Ms. Swift was exceptionally absurd. America could clearly see what was wrong in both of these situations, but Ms. Williams and Mr. West could not, waiting several days before offering apologies. Once both parties made their apologies, people were still unsatisfied and thought neither party had been sincere.
When public figures misstep, people want to see emotion and awareness about the situation, which rarely come across in public apologies. With the 24-hour news cycle, bloggers, and commenters, society is at a point where apologies do not matter anymore. There is always someone to judge and offer boisterous opinions long after the matter at hand.
What Ms. Williams did is part of any game. One only has to go to YouTube to see a vast collection of John McEnroe's outbursts and expletive-laden remarks to umpires. Look at baseball: when managers verbally attack umpires' faces or when players leave the dugout for a pitcher's mound brawl, fines are issued, players are suspended, but rare is the apology. Sports are full of aggression towards officials, we just don't see it frequently in tennis. While Ms. Williams' actions may not have been right, the thought behind them was, as she had been robbed by an incredibly rare call on match point.
Ms. Williams did what a lot of other athletes would do: express anger. While she avoided the subject with reporters, more and more people clamored for an apology and received a publicist-spun response. Hearing from a public figure who seems to have no comprehension about his or her actions is a greater insult to fans than no apology at all. Mr. McEnroe made a career of his bad-boy behavior and continues to live off his notoriety with appearances on 30 Rock and in Nike campaigns. Until a person can reflect upon the issue at hand and understand his or her faults, there is no need for an apology because it is only words at that point, with no true sense of remorse. At times, then, it is sometimes better to do nothing at all, except pay your fine and call up Tina Fey.