FROM THE CHEAP SEATS: Goodell, Mickelson and the Broncos bring positive news to the world of sports

Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

With apologies to the great Jimi Hendrix for stealing one of music’s great single lines, I’m in a good mood these days. It seems like a dose of reality has been shot back into the world of sports.
I’m talking golfer Phil Mickelson.
I’m talking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
I’m talking the Denver Broncos.

In just two short weeks, three rather significant incidents took place that make me feel there is indeed more to life than Tiger Woods’ sweet swing and Ben Roethlisberger’s great arm. It began at the Masters where Phil Mickelson stole the show from Tiger Woods and ran away with the spring classic.

Green jacket aside, the scene at the final hole where Mickelson engaged with his family was awesome. Both his wife and his mother are wrestling with breast cancer but at least for these few minutes, their battle against the nasty disease took the world’s stage and made us all remember what really is important in life. See ya, Tiger.

Then, Goodell turned against Roethlisberger, an immature punk, who, for the second time, wasn’t charged with sexual assault or worse, but it sure appeared as if he had been involved in something awful. Goodell wasted no time and threw a six-game suspension on Big Ben, who obviously realized he had done something wrong when he ─ or more importantly his agent ─ didn’t even bother appealing the punishment.

Finally, and perhaps most noteworthy, was the NFL Draft where the Denver Broncos made Tim Tebow their first-round pick, the 25th choice in the draft. Some may wonder why I’m going to make a big deal about the former Heisman Trophy winner ─ and maybe the greatest college football player ever ─ going in the first round? Well, not many NFL teams, if any, think Tebow has a chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, which might be the hardest position to play in all of sports. Maybe an H-back or tight end, but not a QB. But Denver looked beyond the scouts, they looked at the man instead. Tebow is a winner, both on and off the field. In his four years at Florida, where the Gators won two national championships, he did nothing but make the University proud.

And just minutes after being picked by the Broncos, Tebow pointed to one of the reasons why he was taken by Denver in the first round, “Because I’m not going to get in trouble.”
Interesting, but in a way, pretty cool. Instead of perhaps taking Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, who, despite teams thinking he is “too arrogant,” scouts feel he has a better chance of success as an NFL starter than Tebow. The Broncos made a statement: Why can’t Tebow be a solid NFL quarterback some day; he’s done nothing but work his butt off, be a leader both on and off the field and win football games.

I hope all this, from Mickelson to Goodell to Tebow, is the beginning of bringing morality back into sports again. Maybe I am being too idealist here, but aren’t you sick and tired of hearing stories like the ones we had to suffer through with Tiger for months? Maybe times are beginning to change and, while money and celebrity may always rule the roost, we will begin to see a move towards reason when it comes to athletes.

And Tiger ─ because of his great influence around the world ─ really has a chance not to right his wrongs, but to use his celebrity for the good of all. I felt though his behavior at the Masters was far from perfect, it was an attempt to begin to repair the damage he created. I was thrilled to see that he even came out and spoke highly of Mickelson, even broaching the breast cancer subject, saying, “…I want to congratulate Phil Mickelson on the win and for all it means to him, Amy [Mickelson's wife] and the entire Mickelson family. They have really gone through a lot this year, and I wish them good health from now on.”

Of course one writer, not surprisingly from the New York Daily News, found a way to rip the Broncos in a column entitled “The danger of playing the Tim Tebow ‘character’ card.”

Penned Dave Zirin, “Why then was Tebow picked so highly? It’s safe to say that he might be the big winner of the Ben Roethlisberger scandal – as rape allegations and a subsequent suspension levied against the Pittsburgh quarterback have mangled the Steelers’ season. The story goes, Tebow will be a savior behind center – a paragon of perfection in a Roethlisberger age.”

Earlier in the article, Zirin has written, “I hate to boil the holy water, but barring a dare-I-say miraculous transformation, the only handprints Tebow will have on him will be those of opposing defensive ends.”

Zirin, and his obvious problem with the fact that Tebow wears his religion on his sleeve aside, it’s interesting how quickly things can change, how some with Goodell’s influence can send such a strong message through sports with only one decision. Now only if baseball’s Bud Selig was listening …

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