A ‘Masterful’ Victory for Families

I am not a huge golf fan; however, I am a sports fan.  I do not watch the golf channel and I only play about 18-36 holes a year.  But every year I watch the Masters.  It’s just something about Augusta in the spring on my HDTV that keeps me entertained, and this year was no exception.  There could not have been more drama leading up to the 2010 Masters.  Tiger Woods was entering his first tournament since destroying his family with his numerous affairs, and Phil Mickelson was eager to win a 3rd green jacket.

Until November 2009, I had always cheered for Tiger.  My favorite teams are the Cowboys, Mavericks, Mets, and Arkansas Razorbacks so I get tired of being let down.  It was always a nice change to cheer for the player who I knew was most likely to win.  But this year was different.  For the first time I was giving serious consideration to the idea of cheering for “Lefty.”  The only athlete who can win a major competition while still needing a ‘man-bra.’

In one corner was Phil Mickelson.  A man who stood by his wife Amy while she courageously fought cancer (and to make things even worse, Mickelson’s mother was also battling cancer).  In the other corner was Tiger Woods.  Probably the most recognizable name in sports who recently wrecked his home life by having affairs with every woman that moved (or at least the ones that moved into his hotel rooms).  I had a choice, continue my dedicated cheering for Tiger or switch over and cheer for Phil.  The decision was simple, and I’ll explain why.

How could I not cheer for Phil?  The 2010 Masters was a battle: family vs. individual selfish gratification.  For months Tiger Woods had lied to his wife, disrespected his family, and engaged in a lifestyle that most people would find abhorrent.  Imagine if it wasn’t Tiger Woods.  What if you took everything Tiger Woods did and applied it to your spouse?  You would not clap and cheer for your wife or husband after he or she cheated on you with about 20 men or women.  But for some reason the gallery was cheering for Tiger, and I personally found it annoying.  I know we are supposed to forgive and hope he turns his life around, but that doesn’t mean I have to cheer and clap for him does it?  I didn’t think it did, so I cheered for Phil.  I just could not stand to see someone live a life like Tiger Woods has over the past few years and than accept a green jacket and trophy.  Not in my house!  (Like I actually have any control over the situation…)  Therefore, I cheered for Lefty.  I seriously felt that by cheering for Phil Mickelson I was cheering for the idea of family.  Like there was some magical event that would take place if Phil Mickelson won and the idea of “family” would be preserved despite Tiger Woods’ attempt to destroy it.  I know this may seem ridiculous but I wanted “family” to win over “strippers and hotel rendezvous.”

A family is one of the most important things in every person’s life.  They are the first people to greet you into this world and they are the people who hold your hand at your bedside when you leave it.  I think many of us tend to forget how much of an important part families play in our lives.  And I know for a fact Tiger Woods forgot the importance of a family.  When Tiger is old and hours away from dying there will not be a gallery of fans cheering and clapping for him.  There won’t be any green jackets or trophies.  All that he (and all of us) will have is family.  That is why I could not cheer for Tiger, because he not only forgot the importance of family, but he kicked it around and laughed at it until he got caught.

But like any good story, family and love won in the end.  For all 18 holes of Sunday at the Masters I had cheered for Phil and laughed at Tiger when he played poorly.  After Phil made his final putt on 18, his wife and 3 children greeted him as they hugged and enjoyed a special moment together as a family.  On the other hand, Tiger Woods was interviewed (alone) by some CBS reporter, and than quietly left Augusta (again, alone).  The distinction between Mickelson and Tiger shows the importance of family and why we should do everything we can to preserve our own.  Who would you rather be?  The man hugging his wife and children or the guy quietly leaving alone because no one is there for you after the game is over?

American fans tend to overlook and forgive athletes who display terrible behavior in their personal lives as long as they succeed.  The gallery at the Masters cheered for Tiger Woods, and Kobe Bryant led the NBA in 2010 in jersey sales.  And I’ll admit it, I’m not ashamed, I do the same thing.  Other than Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant is probably my favorite basketball player.  If Kobe is playing I will watch every time, and that is despite having an affair on his wife and most likely causing a lot of stress and heart-ache for his 2 little girls.  In fact, I made sure that I made it to the Mavericks-Lakers game just so I could see Kobe in person.  But our sense of forgiveness is partially what makes our country special.  I think in some way we do understand what is important, and we hope that “athlete X” can somehow figure it out and get on back on course.  I do hope that this entire ordeal has changed Tiger and forced him to realize that what he had with his wife and children was more special than any major championship trophy.  But on that Sunday, I did enjoy Phil and family having a victory over Tiger and selfishness.