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Phil Mickelson ponders a question at a press conference, Monday, June 13, 2022, at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., ahead of the U.S. Open golf tournament. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Phil it up

So Phil Mickelson met with the media on Monday. It was as difficult a set of questions as I can recall any public figure — politician, sports star, celeb, you name it — getting in a news conference in quite a while.

Watch the video, if you'd like. It's about 25 minutes and at times it's difficult to watch a guy forever known for his confidence and his willingness to embrace all things about being at the center of the golf universe appear to be this shadow of his former self.  

I will get to Mickelson's responses in a moment. But the only two things I believe can be universally agreeable in this entire situation is that the Saudis are scary (even Phil acknowledged that) and each side is awash in hypocrisy.

Because where was this same media intensity regarding the NBA superstars for their complicity in China or playing exhibitions in UAE, which just banned the Buzz Lightyear movie from being played there because there is a same-sex kiss. Are we going to grill the U.S. soccer folks participating in the World Cup in Qatar?

This is low-hanging fruit and the media masses can get preachy and hop on a pedestal because it's getting to opine and finger-point on a topic that is pretty universally one-sided. There is very little blowback to point at the human rights violations committed by the Saudis and the efforts to 'sports wash' those sins.

Plus, this is not fighting a league or risking access to LeBron (or worse, being called a racist) for pointing out LeBron's fallacies. Tiger, too, back in the day had a similar power.

And while we're here, the universal berating Brandel Chambliss and the rest of The Golf Channel analysts gave Phil was merciless and must be mentioned with TGC's interests, connection and certainly what looked like possible protection of the PGA Tour.

Plus, don't know about you but the folks sitting up there talking about "doing what you love" and "selling out" and "playing the game for the right reasons" rings as hollow as celebs and famous folks saying inflation is not that bad and the economy being this terrible is OK because Biden's a good guy.

C'mon. Of course, you can do what you love when you already have a net worth with multiple commas. And to make matters worse, calling out Phil's prior transgressions and questionable behavior — like his Ryder Cup blasting of Tom Watson in 2014 — now is convenient and gutless since you were happy to ride the "We love old guy, thumbs-up Phil" for the last half decade.

(Side note: I hope all the regulars around these parts will remember the times I cautioned everyone that Mickelson was not as good a dude as he was being portrayed in the media. Conversely, I don't think he's the anti-Christ that he's being depicted as these days either.)

And that's on one side. Because Mickelson is truly hard to defend in this, especially after Monday.

Because no matter how hard he tried to stand there and answer those questions, it's almost impossible to justify and explain this level of selling out. And yes, I think part of Phil was drawn — especially in the beginning — to reshaping the structure of professional golf in some ways and maybe even wanted the PGA Tour to react initially.

But now, it's this. And man it really feels like there's no going back. Because the PGA Tour is threatened now. That money seems endless.

And without Phil, I'm not sure this ever gets off the ground, and that all started with the hundreds of millions promised upfront. Because this is not about setting your schedule — think the Saudis may be a little more demanding of their stars with nine-figure contracts showing up for every tournament — or working conditions or media rights or any of that anymore.

Mickelson looked tired — and old for one of the first times I can remember — Monday, and really no matter how much he tried to stay on topic and answer as many questions as he could, the truth in the room was clear.

Even to Phil.

He sold his legacy for a quarter of a billion bucks.

Braves at their best (ah crud)

So, the Braves have won 12 in a row. Want to see the anatomy of a win streak like this.

And gang, the folks saying the Braves are beating the dregs of baseball, well, they are. But baseball is a funny game. Ask UT. And for years, the Braves infuriatingly played down to their competition. This team is kicking the weaklings in the gut and handling its business.

But here's how you start June perfectly.

So far in June, Ronald Acuña is hitting .349 with four homers. Adam Duvall is hitting .290 with five homers. Michael Harris II is hitting .333 with his first career homer last night. Dansby Swanson is hitting .390 with two homers. Austin Riley is hitting .260 with four homers. Travis D'Arnaud is hitting .261 with three homers. William Contreras hitting .323 with two homers.

Only Matt Olson has struggled (.200 in the month but has 10 RBIs in 12 June games).

That's going to score a ton of runs and win a lot of games. Like 12 in a row.

That's the good. Now for the bad.

Ozzie Albies broke his foot Monday night in the 9-6 win over Washington. The more and more you watch this team, the more you realize that Albies looks like the dude who has filled the Freeman leadership void among the everyday players.

Yes, Riley has a presence. But Albies connects with the flamboyance of Acuña and Marcel Ozuna as well as the everyday traits of Swanson, Olson and Harris.

Plus, his switching skill set offered another left-handed bat to offset a very right-handed lineup other than Olson.

It's a tough blow, but injuries are part of it. Keep paddling and pushing and pounding baseballs into the dark skies of June nights Braves.

This is fun to watch.  

Point of the Spears

So Jack Del Rio was fined $100K for his comments that came across with the "What's the big deal" message about the Jan. 6 protests.

I am glad they are investigating the Jan. 6 riots and attacks. As well they should, and because it came as an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power that has been a hallmark of the democracy of our great nation, it deserves a grand scale and process.

And Del Rio short-sightedly extremely underplayed that tragic day.

Here's a look at what the Washington defensive coordinator actually said, according to USA Today:

After tweeting that he believed the rioters after the George Floyd murder should also be investigated, Del Rio said: "Let's get right down to it, what did I ask? A simple question: Why are we not looking into those things? Because it's kind of hard for me to say I can realistically look at it, I see the images on TV, people's livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down—no problem. And then we have a dustup at the Capitol, nothing burned down and we're gonna make that a major deal. I just think it's kind of two standards."Yes, dustup is what caught everyone's eye and attention and likely what cost Del Rio $100,000 and made him the target for such national scorn. (Again, the sports media's game of pin the tail on the donkey is played only when there's a clear, universally approved donkey. And Del Rio earned his turn.)

His apology though should also be shared: "I made comments earlier today in referencing the attack that took place on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Referencing that situation as a dustup was irresponsible and negligent and I am sorry. I stand by my comments condemning violence in communities across the country. I say that while also expressing my support as an American citizen for peaceful protest in our country. I have fully supported all peaceful protests in America. I love, respect, and support all my fellow coaches, payers, and staff that I work with and respect their views and opinions."

So there's that.

Again, the 'dustup' launched the ships and fired up the Stephen A missiles. And Jack's words are his and he's paying for them dearly.  

But I will share what I believed to be the best take on the matter — and listen to the end — from an ESPN rising star in my mind, one Marcus Spears.

In a moment of grace and elegance discussing this on ESPN, here's Spears' take on the awfulness of Jan. 6 and the context around different protests, and how he ended by commenting that all violent protesters should be punished.

Amen Marcus. Amen.

This and that

— War Dang Eagle. Auburn wiggles out of the Corvallis Super Regional with a 4-3 Game 3 win to punch its ticket to Omaha. Good times. And yes, Auburn has the Chuck Barkley of college baseball hitters in Sonny DiChiara, who was second-team all-SoCon at Samford in 2021 before transferring to Auburn and becoming the SEC co-player of the year. Sonny D homered last night and was sensational all season.

— NBA Finals Game 5: Warriors 104, Celtics 94. Did I overstate the place in this game of Jayson Tatum? Because when his team has needed him most, he has been relatively absent in the second halves of the last two games.

— Be very wary of the 'easy money bets. For instance, DraftKings had minus-10000 (bet $10K to win $100) that Steph Curry would make at least one 3. Easy money right? Yeah, about that. Steph went 0-for-9 from distance last night and ended a run of 132 consecutive playoff games with at least one 3.

— All these celebs telling us not to worry about inflation? Uh, gas jumped 16 cents in the last week and is up 65% this time last year. My family is starting to wonder about the trips we have planned. So yeah, Biden, thanks. Excellent work on the economy Joe.

— Weeds at his apex with a Nolan Ryan-in-his-prime fastball right here friends. Prayers up for former UTC hoops coach Henry Dickerson.
 

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday.

True or false, you felt sorry for Mickelson a bit Monday.

True or false, the Braves slide back in the standings without Ozzie Albies. True or false, Andrew Wiggins for DeAngelo Russell will be on the short list of all-time bad NBA trades.True or false, you are somewhat surprised Jack Del Rio did not lose his job over this.

True or false, gas prices are forcing you to review your summer travel decisions.

Little spin on the true or false, if I had told you in early May these two statements — that the SEC would have had the Omaha field but Tennessee would not be there or the Warriors would a Finals game by double digits with Steph not making a 3 — which one would you have said was more false.

You know the drill. Answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today's 'Dad bracket' — best TV single dad, and we'll offer semifinals today: Old school Sheriff Andy Taylor vs Stephen Douglas of "My Three Sons" in one semi with Danny Tanner of "Full House" and Ben Cartwright of "Bonanza" in the other.

As for today, June 14, let's review.

Wow, "The Bourne Identity" is 20 years old today. Crazy.

Want to feel old? Eric Heiden, the speed skating superman is 64 today. Donald Trump is 76. Boy George is 61.

Enough seriousness. In honor of this week, let's do a Rushmore of the most memorable U.S. Open golf moments.

Deal? Deal. And yes, Tiger's putt on the 72nd hole at the 2008 Open should be included.

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