When Phil Mickelson won the Masters back in April, beating rival Tiger Woods by five strokes, the temptation to turn the victory into the story of a family man defeating a sleazy philanderer proved too much for some. As Mickelson celebrated with his wife and mom, both of whom are fighting breast cancer, CBS's Jim Nantz declared it "a win for the family," a treacly spin on his designation of Woods' 1997 Masters title as "a win for the ages."
ESPN's Rick Reilly was a bit less subtle, writing that "Mickelson, in case you forgot, is the guy who stayed true to his wife." Sure about that, Rick? It's quite a proclamation, considering it came not six months after we learned Woods' family life wasn't what it had been portrayed in the media.
Perhaps more than with any other sport, the media can't help themselves from framing golfers in an ideal portrait of country-club living. Network cameras seek out players' impeccably dressed wives in the gallery, especially those toting toddlers, and announcers whisper family stories as players read putts, particularly when the saccharine Nantz is calling the action.
Of course, both Tiger and Phil are in Kohler, Wis., for this weekend's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and Nantz will preside over CBS's coverage. What will happen if, on Sunday afternoon, Woods drops in a cold-blooded 30-foot putt for birdie on 18 to beat Mickelson by a stroke? What will be our morality lesson then?