Since when has it become a crime to celebrate a heartwarming story in the world of sports?
Phil Mickelson has been married for 13 years.
He has three children and took a good deal of time off right smack in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career to be with his wife and mother who were both battling cancer.
He embraces the galleries as if they were life-long friends rather than lifeless scenery that exist during tournament play.
He spends hours upon hours signing autographs.
He respects the game enough not to throw clubs, curse or pout like a five-year-old.
And he accepts defeat as gracefully as he accepts green jackets.
Now here’s a news flash for you—it was Tiger Woods who crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant last November and unleashed tabloid hell upon to the entire golf world, not Mickelson.
It was Woods who scored more cocktail waitresses than birdies over the past few years.
It was Woods who went to sex rehab…if you believe such a place actually does exist.
And it was Woods who single handedly destroyed his family.
Maybe Mickelson is a decent family man, or maybe it's all just a hollow image created to boost his endorsement dollars.
But we shouldn't completely rule out the decent family man view just because Woods had the phone numbers of every cocktail waitress in Vegas on speed-dial.
Unfortunately for Mickelson, and every other potentially decent athlete for that matter, sports fans and journalists are cynical by nature.
Here’s an excerpt from a recent article written by Gregg Doyel of cbssports.com:
It's a great story, and so a sports writer as sharp as ESPN.com's Rick Reilly writes: "Mickelson, in case you forgot, is the guy who stayed true to his wife." John Garrity of Golf.com calls Woods the "bad boy" and refers to Mickelson as "the good guy." Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star calls Mickelson a "superhero ... an All-American husband/father."
And I'm calling all of them fools. Even Whitlock, whom I love and respect. I neither love nor respect Reilly. I don't know Garrity. But all of them, for one day anyway, are fools. And they're not alone. Lord, no. The sports blog TheBigLead.com devoted a great post Monday to the media outlets who have played Mickelson's win over Tiger as a morality play. Not good vs. evil, because that would be too harsh, but good vs. "sleaze," as Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called Woods.
Fools. All of them. And all of you, too, if you embrace Phil Mickelson as blindly as you once embraced Tiger Woods.
Ok, fair enough. It’s easy to see why someone might be skeptical of “good-guy” images in wake of the whole Tiger Woods scandal.
But the question is, where do we draw the line?
Due to the mistakes of a few, and most notably one man formerly known as Eldrick, are we to never again trust that a popular athlete can also be a decent family man?
Are ALL golfers like Tiger Woods off the course?
Do all basketball players gamble and womanize like Michael Jordan or carry guns around like Gilbert Arenas?
Do ALL baseball players take steroids like Mark McGwire or cheat on their wives like Alex Rodriguez?
Do all NFL quarterbacks binge drink and put themselves in sketchy situations like Ben Roethlisberger?
Where does it end?
Will there never again be a story of a good, decent man overcoming adversity in his life to achieve astounding feats on the athletic field?
Doyel goes on to say:
Too much cynicism can be ugly, and maybe I'm guilty of that. In fact, I know I am. I'm too cynical, and at times it can sap the fun out of things. But at the same time, I'll take cynicism over naiveté any day of the week, and any story that paints Mickelson as the faithful husband is naïve.”
Well I have to disagree.
We can celebrate good people doing good things without being naïve, and we can be intelligent without being cynical.
Because for every Tiger Woods there are 20 Steve Strickers and Phil Mickelsons.
For every Ben Roethlisberger there are 20 Drew Brees.
For every Alex Rodriguez there are 20 David Eckstein's and Albert Pujols'.
If one sports writer publishes lies, are all sports writers liars?
Of course not.
I for one am going to be cautious in how I view athletes and celebrities who put forth perfect public images, because as we all know, no one is perfect.
But I am also not going to be cynical of every accomplishment achieved by “good guys,” because how enjoyable would sports be if we never again see a heartwarming story of a man overcoming personal tribulations, and even tragedy, to achieve remarkable things on the athletic field?
Call me naive, simple or downright dumb, but I am not yet ready to close the book on every good story that comes along.
For more on Phil Mickelson, check out The Tour Report's Monday Backspin Blog .