Role Models and Changing Times


“They say it isn’t about the money. (It is.)

  • Rick Reilly (b. 1958), Hall of Fame Sportswriter, 11-time Sportswriter of the Year and Best Selling Author of over a dozen books*

This Daily Diff is not about the money. It really isn’t. It started off as a post about meeting a role model and how that meeting has changed my feelings toward another one. It’s morphed into a public stand for what I believe is wrong acting on the part of another role model.

Rick Reilly is my favorite writer. Has been a role model to me for more than 30 years. When Rick writes something I read it. I got to meet him Sunday night, as he rolls out his new book So Help Me Golf. Phil Mickelson, whom I got to meet in 2003 at the US Open at Olympia Fields, has been my favorite golfer for almost 30 years. Make that had been, or, at best, “might still be…”

Reilly who’s written biographical books, great comedy and golf novels, and who’s been up close and personal with most of the great athletes (pick a sport, any sport) across almost three generations, has also been a “Phil Guy.” Make that “might still be…”

Spoiler alert: This may turn out to be a quite-a-bit-longer-than-usual post… I hope it’s worth it!

Sunday night, Reilly signed copies of his new book for me and one for The Eldest of The Three, with her newly minted Journalism degree. And, he told a roomful of fans some very, very funny stories. He also answered some of the usual questions you’d expect from a bunch of middle-class white guys in a Country Club ballroom.

When the Q & A shifted deeper, he also plunged in on a serious topic for golf fans, and for anyone remotely interested in human rights or matters of right versus wrong.

Reilly penned an OpEd in Sunday’s Washington Post (linked vs. recounted). I’ll take a stab at metaphorically summarizing it: professional golf is in the blender right now, and the ingredients are gonna make a crappy smoothie; bitter, tainted with blood, greed, cluelessness, desperation and a complete lack of give-a-damn about enabling a despotic regime to keep being, well, despotic.

The technical term is a “shit show.”

Essentially, the new Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Tour is paying a few dozen pro golfers a career’s worth of money (Mickelson reportedly is getting $200 million dollars right now, after earning “only” $93 million over 30+ years on the PGA Tour). The money is guaranteed. No cuts. No sponsors. Just a big, fat check in exchange for looking away from the killing of journalists, gay people and the overt oppression and mistreatment of women, in order to try to sportswash their heinous history of mistreating people who don’t align with their “way.” Remember, 75% of the terrorists that killed nearly 3,000 people, on 9/11 were Saudi nationals.

These are the guys buying these golfers, firing a shot across the bow of the PGA Tour that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer essentially started (or at least validated). Saudi / LIV allegedly offered Jack more than $100 million and Tiger more than $500 million to join them, but Mr, Nicklaus and Eldrick T. Woods took a stand — one that Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others wouldn’t or didn’t take. Sure, Tiger just became a billionaire and Jack is worth close to half that, but Phil and DJ aren’t living paycheck to paycheck, and they signed on board with the bad guys – claiming, boasting and pleading with people to believe that “it’s not about the money.”

As Reilly so clearly says in the Post editorial, make no mistake, it is all about the money.

But this post is not about money. And it’s not about golf.

This post is about impact and legacies — and, as every Daily Difference post should be, it’s about making a difference.

Rick Reilly has impacted me for more than three decades, and tonight I got to meet him and get a book signed and hear the man talk about things that are important to us. His legacy landed home for me, and it will be honored for its candor, humor and pointedness. For me, his impact became more impactful, more personal.

Phil Mickelson has impacted me for almost three decades, and I was thrilled to meet him at the 2003 US Open at Olympia Fields in Chicago. He was warm and gracious and thanked me when I said, “Every time you’re on TV, I bet your dad is really proud of you.” I wonder if Phil, Sr. is still proud, and I wonder if he or anyone can help me figure out what to feel when a hero unwinds before your eyes. For me, Lefty’s impact became less impactful, less personal.

Difference Makers stand firm for the greater good. I think my favorite golfer got it wrong and my favorite writer got it right.


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