Golf

Be careful casting Phil as anti-Tiger

Phil Mickelson with halo atop his head (FOXSports.com illustration)
Phil Mickelson and Tiger woods
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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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As we, the sports media, move forward in our demonization and vilification of Tiger’s Wood, I ask those of you observing from the comfort of your office or home to remember that Phil and Amy Mickelson were not looking to be used in the latest sports-media witch hunt.

Phil just wants to win a few golf tournaments and help his wife and mother recover from breast cancer.



As far as I know, Lefty has no interest in being cast as the anti-Tiger Would.

Phil, being a man of nearly 40 years, certainly recognizes the risks of serving as a convenient tool of the hypocritical wing of the sports media.

One day you could be the savior of your sport, the honest, God-fearing man capable of single-handedly restoring integrity to the game, and the next day you could be Alex Rodriguez, the home-run messiah who tasted the same forbidden fruit as Barry Bonds.

If Mickelson is half as smart as I think he is, he’ll tell the sports-writing, moralizing assclowns -- Rick Reilly, Jay Mariotti, etc. -- to find another prop to beat over Tiger Woody’s head.

And Mickelson will pray that SportsCenter anchors save their righteous indignation for something more important than on-air whining about polls that show more American sports fans would rather see Woods win the next major championship than Mickelson.

There are no morality plays in professional $ports.

No doubt, the surface-level differences between Phil’s and Tiger’s personal lives and approach to golf are impossible to ignore and worthy of analysis, especially in how they may impact golf’s relevance, each players’ corporate sponsorship dollars and their performance.

I touched on some of this in my Monday column examining how the 2010 Masters will be remembered.

But all of us, including yours truly, need to be very careful about unintentionally or intentionally creating the impression that Mickelson represents good and Tiger evil based on what little we know about their marriages.

The level of disingenuous naivete expressed in Reilly’s post-Masters column was offensive. In a column that was supposed to be a celebration of Phil and Amy’s devotion, Reilly took several vicious swipes at Tiger, including quite possibly the most childish line ever published in a sports column:

“Mickelson, in case you forgot, is the guy who stayed true to his wife.”

Wow. You’d think the balding, 50-something, divorced scribe knew absolutely nothing about the roller coaster of marriage and that most long-term American relationships survive infidelity.

Reilly isn’t that stupid or forgetful. Like a segment of our sports media, he’s determined to make Woods pay for his non-cooperation with the media (and probably angling for a Mickelson book deal). Woods is the new Barry Bonds.

Let’s not make Mickelson the new A-Rod. By placing Phil and his marriage on a pedestal, we’re setting the Mickelsons up for a dramatic fall. We’re baiting TMZ and the National Enquirer to go after Phil and Amy.

They don’t deserve that. They have not cast themselves as the perfect couple. In our lame attempt to self-righteously take revenge on Woods for misleading us about the depth of his lust for blondes, we’re creating the narrative that karma led to Mickelson’s victory at the Masters.

“Finally, we have some justice in the world. The right man won,” blubbered Mariotti.

Is there really a “right man” winner at a golf course with the exclusionary history of Augusta National? Does Lee Westwood not have a wife and kids?

I honestly do not know (or care about) Westwood’s family situation. And I’m going to assume that my sports-writing peers know as little about Mickelson’s personal life as we did about Tiger’s before Thanksgiving.

What we do know is that Mickelson, like Tiger, has/had an appetite for gambling and a friendship with Charles Barkley.
 

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Beyond that, we know marriage is a grueling marathon that the majority of its American runners never complete.

Rather than turn Tiger into a symbol of evil in the naive hope that young people will learn a lesson from Tiger’s mistake, why not use Woods as a legitimate excuse to have a mature discussion with kids about relationships?

It seems obvious he made the same mistake as other young adults -- he married long before he was ready for the responsibility of marriage and he did so to create a pleasing perception of himself.

How many girls marry the last guy they dated in college (or high school) because that’s the thing to do? How many guys get married primarily because they think the woman will be a good mother and then become disappointed because she’s a far better mother than wife?

Marriage should be illegal for men until age 35 and women until age 27. You could solve the majority of the world’s problems if we stopped (or even slowed) young people from marrying and reproducing.

I’m not excusing Tiger’s reprehensible behavior. But there’s no reason for grownups to pretend they don’t understand it just because it makes for a good column, TV show or radio interview.

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