Phil, Tiger and more perils of groupthink

When Phil Mickelson is asked what to serve at the Champions Dinner at next year’s Masters, he should ask if everyone has had enough Tiger barbecue.

It takes a lot to make anyone feel sympathy for a serial adulterer, but the breathless Tiger coverage has done it. Over the weekend, Woods’ every word has been scrutinized as much as the Bill of Rights has in the last 220 1/2 years.

Indeed, the Masters weekend has shown us that media coverage tends to be consistent — within a finite period of time. Commentator A will usually agree with Commentator B, disagreeing only over to what degree they agree — in other words, who agrees the most.

But over a longer scope of time, media coverage is wildly inconsistent. Tom Hanks’ “Mr. Short-Term Memory” would’ve been a good pundit.

Consider Phil Mickelson, cast as “good” in this weekend’s “good vs. evil” morality play. That wasn’t always the case, of course. A couple of years ago, Mickelson was fair game for teasing such as this. And he hasn’t always been the friendliest guy with the media. Not sure anyone could blame him, given the way he was constantly criticized for being too aggressive on the golf course, always embracing a risk-reward shot no matter how great the risk.

It would take a brave or foolish pundit to go against the grain on Mickelson this weekend under any circumstances. His wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer within a few weeks of each other last year. And that swashbuckling form that many in the media hated had always earned him a cult following. (Disclosure: I always considered myself more aligned with the “cult following” than the “media,” though perhaps that’s because I almost always go against the mob mentality.)

This weekend, everyone’s applauding Phil’s daring shots and bemoaning Tiger’s intensity. Three years ago, you could’ve flipped that. Tiger’s profanity might get the same mild tut-tut that a wayward Mickelson shot would today.

That’s because Phil’s insane aggression and Tiger’s intense mindset are the same. And we like people doing whatever it takes to win … when they win.

Until, of course, you start winning too much, like Duke. Or Tiger. And then the underdogs get a free pass to hate.

Just like that musical about a guy who makes a deal with the devil to help his team beat some other team … what was it called? Oh yes …

Damn Yankees.

Better not repeat that show title out on the course, Tiger.

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