One of the the hottest Google searches today* is for "Amy Mickelson Michael Jordan affair." The results lead to unsourced nonsense about Phil Mickelson's illegitimate love child and his wife banging a basketball star. How the heck did that happen?
The answer, as usual, is that nothing ever dies on the internet. As best we can tell, the rumor begins with this 2006 post on a low-rent fantasy football message board. It probably predates the post, actually, but this is the oldest mention of it we could find online and the first that comes up when you attempt the above search. The story goes like this:
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon Apr 10 2006, 09:31 AM
Apparently Rick Reilly has an article ready to go to print on the personal life of Amy and Phil Mickelson. Here's the story according to a buddy of mine that works for the PGA Tour. Reilly was waiting until after the Masters to publish it, so it'll be out soon.
#1) Mickelson doesn't play in golf tournaments in Ohio (ie The Memorial) because he has an illegitimate child with a black woman that lives there. He pays her hush money. Not sure about the legal reasons of entering the state and all. Not sure if the kid came pre-Amy or not.
#2) Apparently Phil walked in on Amy and Michael Jordan doing the nasty. It should be remembered that Amy was a Pheonix Suns cheerleader, and considered quite the money hunter. We all know MJ pretty much does whatever he wants, so his name being there doesn't suprise me. Maybe she did it to get back at him - dunno. I have no idea if this is pre marriage, pre kids, etc either.
Now I know you all will rip me since I'm certainly not giving my source and I can't find anything on the web about it yet. So do with the rumor whatever you want.
Ahh, yes. The soon to be published bombshell first revealed by the buddy of an anonymous insider to the lucky readers of an obscure, lightly trafficked message board! Always a reliable staple of internet gossip. As is the hint of sexual vengeance and the subtle racism underlying the claim. Note that the illegitimate child is black, as is the perpetrator of Phil's cuckolding. (Catching them in the act only adds to the humilation.) If you're going to make up a scandal, why not go all in?
Then there's the fine details that attempt to lend credence to the story, but are really just poorly played obfuscation. Mickelson does play in Ohio. All the time. (He's entered the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron every year since 1999.) Even if the rest of the story were true, this non-fact would be completely irrelevant. How would paying illegal hush money to the mother of your love child bar you from interstate travel? Also, Amy was indeed once a Phoenix Suns cheerleader, but what does that have to do with Michael Jordan? Was he the only philandering NBA player available? Why couldn't she sleep with Dan Majerle or Kevin Johnson? At least that would be somewhat plausible. But you had to get greedy and go with Jordan, didn't you?
And obviously, even if this were a locked-down, triple-verified, hole-in-one scoop, Rick Reilly wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot dental mirror. "Apu" is the most solid source anyone has on this to date and after three years of emailed gossip, not a shred of evidence or Baby Leftys have come forward to corroborate it.
So why the sudden resurgence and seeming legitimization by Google? Well, anyone looking to do a background story on Amy Mickelson yesterday might have done some random searching and stumbled upon this original link or maybe a couple of other sites that have re-purposed it. A few more sites re-purpose those "internet rumors" themselves—without actually linking to a place on the internet that might have it—and then sit back and ride the search juice. (Search optimization is the only reason these sites would mention Amy Mickelson in the first place. They know the Masters will make her a trending topic and are eager to take advantage.) Proper English is not required—Just get it out there. Oh, and make sure to get the words "photo" or "video" or "breast cancer" in the headline, too, as that really helps the SEO.
Since a few those sites are inexplicably aggregated by Google News (bollywoodlatest.info?) a simple search for her name might call them up. After seeing that, you search for "amy mickelson michael jordan affair" to find out if there's any proof, those same sites get even more juice, then the story of the rumor becomes a story (see: here), related search algorithms pile on, and the circle continues.
You know what story doesn't come up at the top of that search? This Steve Elling column from last year, where Amy herself dismisses the rumor as a ridiculous joke. [Via Brooks.] That's how hard it is to kill internet gossip. A three-year-old message board post outweighs a mainstream media denial and that allows a rumor to remain "news." That will continue as long as the internet continues to save everything.
And in this case, the sheer improbability of the rumor makes it even more powerful. Three of the biggest names in sports, plus sex, drama and a breaking news hook. It definitely is too good to be true.
[*Ed. note: It was #15 on the "Hot Topics" page and rising as this post was being written, but it has since dropped off. (Or been scrubbed by Google?) It still comes up as a "related search" for anyone who Googles "Amy Mickelson."]