Once, not so long ago, a famous golfer was unfaithful to the public image that sportswriters had helped construct for him, and the sportswriters were sad. But then along came Phil Mickelson, and the sportswriters turned him into a Lifetime movie.
Rick Reilly®, for instance, last seen having his precious illusions shattered because Tiger Woods turned out to be something less than a combination of Bobby Jones and St. Francis of Assisi, devotes his Masters column to whipping up all sorts of new illusions, this time about Phil Mickelson:
Actually, Phil Mickelson won, but for millions of women around the country, it must feel like a lipstick-sized victory. Mickelson, in case you forgot, is the guy who stayed true to his wife. He's the guy who's been missing tournaments the last 11 months while he flies her back and forth to a breast cancer specialist in Houston. He's the guy who didn't need reminding that women are not disposable.
Mani-pedis for everybody!
Are we sure that Mickelson stayed true? Are we any more certain of this than we once were of Tiger Woods's halo? Haven't the past six months been an object lesson in the total folly of divining someone's true nature from a couple magazine spreads and a shaving commercial?
Reilly goes on to yammer about Amy Mickelson and "walking rainbows" and some other assorted psychedelia (he also makes a great deal of Mickelson's heroic unpreparedness — how he had played "only" seven tournaments this year entering the Masters, which, incidentally, is one more than Anthony Kim had played). And then Reilly closes with a line that I'm fairly certain was swiped from a Judith Krantz novel:
But for this one Sunday in a flower-stuffed pocket of Georgia, the good husband, the good son, the good man actually got rewarded.
For the sake of comparison, here's Mike Lupica:
And sometimes the story is still one of the best and oldest in sports:
Good guy wins.
And here's the inevitable Jay Mariotti, who, shortly after declaring that the Tiger Woods scandal had "demoralized the American spirit" (I'm not kidding), writes:
Finally, we have some justice in the world. The right man won.
And it was morning again in America. Mani-pedis for everybody!
OK, so Jay Mariotti is very clearly a crazy person who differs from a guy in a sandwich board yelling on top of an overturned milk crate only in that one of them writes his prose in crayon and the other is a guy in a sandwich board yelling on top of an overturned milk crate. But on this, at least, he's not unlike a lot of his sportswriting brethren who are busily fashioning heroes out of cardboard. We'd all love for Mickelson to be the good man, the right man. We'd all love for him to be both Bobby Jones and St. Francis of Assisi. But I'm not sure Reilly or Lupica or Mariotti or Thomas Boswell possesses any more special insight into Mickelson and the quality of his domestic life than any of them did into Tiger Woods and the contents of his Blackberry, and I'm not sure they're doing anything here except swapping one unicorn for another and setting themselves up to look like suckers all over again.
Mickelson's win a victory for women [ESPN]
At Masters, champion Phil Mickelson shows that good guys can finish first [New York Daily News]
The Ending We Needed: Phil and Amy, Hugging [FanHouse]
With another Masters title and a warm embrace, Phil Mickelson is a man in full [Washington Post]