News & Opinion

More TV networks should line up to land Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson at 2021 Saudi International
A broadcasting career could be the right call for Phil Mickelson.

If Mickelson truly wants a broadcasting career, networks – and not just sports networks – ought to clamor for Lefty and his theatrics

An email arrived the other day, announcing “Phil Mickelson is in exploratory talks for a TV broadcasting position.” The sender posted betting odds on which microphone Mickelson might embrace. CBS, NBC, ESPN and Golf Channel were on the list, with CBS being the clear favorite. 

A quick aside, but isn’t it funny how life works? Some people struggle to make ends meet, and some people can’t help but make them meet, with a loud bang. It’s not enough for some to be blessed with the ability to play professional sports, and be rewarded with wealth and entitlement. When they are ready, when the athletic ability or opportunities wane, broadcast television steps in to offer copious sums of money and entitlement.

It might not be enough for Jim Nantz to swallow Tony Romo dust; he may be caddying for Phil Mickelson. Kidding, of course, but there is a paradoxical point. People pay tuition, earn degrees and grind for years with faint hope of such a career opportunity. Former players jump those sharks and reach the top of the profession for the asking. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a broadcaster. These aren’t sour grapes, just an observation on the incongruous nature of our world. In television, perception always tops reality; recognition always trumps resume. You might be a wonderful broadcaster, but you can’t be Troy Aikman, or John Smoltz, or Mickelson. 

In that context, given the horrific nature of his auto crash and injuries, the future seems uncertain for Tiger Woods. The fact that he survived early Tuesday is truly the important consideration. But if he is unable or unwilling to continue competitive golf, he might be able to explore a broadcasting position, and he would break the bank. No one wishes otherwise. Celebrity has its cake and eats it, too, then washes it down with a triple-thick shake. As it is, we are not of that world.

But, all that said, this is where Mickelson’s broadcast-exploration news rings a little disconcerting. That is, it’s disappointing that more networks aren’t in on the bidding. Mickelson has had a particularly diverse career, one that might translate in color and commentary covering a number of areas. He’s selling short.

For instance, why isn’t the History Channel involved in these discussions? Think of how much fun it would be to go back to 2006 and have Mickelson unpack the final moments of that frustrating U.S. Open at Winged Foot. What was he thinking; what were his emotions; what the hell happened?

To that end, producers could shoot a special on the 1999 British Open. Put Mickelson on the 18th tee at Carnoustie, sitting down and comparing notes with Jean van de Velde. Think of the theater – like Harry Houdini interviewing Evel Knievel. And what about the triumphant tale of the 2004 Masters? Seventeen years later, a teary-eyed Phil takes us back, reliving the closing birdie at Augusta, getting his first major title. What was it like, and who taught him to jump like that – Clyde Lovellette?

Netflix had a huge hit with the series about the “Tiger King.” Why isn't the company talking with Mickelson about a similar series, entitled “Lefty,” based on the rantings and ravings of Phil Exotic? He doesn’t know much about raising tigers, but he can tell you what it’s like to play with a Tiger.

Maybe MLB Network should be after Mickelson. After all, he gave pitching a whirl a few years back. Remember, he was warming up in the parking lot at Atlanta Athletic Club before the 2001 PGA. He was throwing loose and pain free at that point. Two years later, he tossed some batting practice to the Toledo Mud Hens. The gun had him at 68 mph, an excellent score in golf, a death wish on a major-league mound. So, who can speak more authoritatively on how scary it is to face Mike Trout?  

Then there was the time in 2019 when Mickelson took some cuts in the cage at Target Field in Minneapolis, and went yard. Shohei Ohtani and Rick Ankiel got nuthin’ on Mick the Stick.

And c’mon, we haven’t even talked about “Phil Kwon Do Calves,” Mickelson’s series of fitness videos which have done so little to revolutionize the body-building industry. Pingpong is another activity in which Mickelson has distinguished himself, even hiring a coach to keep him paddle-polished during the 2013 Presidents Cup. 

What about Food Network? Not sure if Mickelson can talk you through a turkey, bean and quinoa chili, but he did invest big in Dean Foods a while back and … oops! Never mind. He had to give that back. 

The point is, there’s so much more to Mickelson. The golf part, sure. His five majors among 44 PGA Tour victories speak for themselves, and he will be pursuing a third consecutive Champions Tour title this weekend in Tucson, Ariz. We kid about the rest, the eccentricities, adversities and imperfections, because we can. That’s what is special about Mickelson, what has made him invaluable to the golf landscape these many years. 

He can be among the GOATs, but he also can be capricious and vulnerable. He can make you laugh, make you cry and do both along with you. Chances are, he’ll bring similar ingredients to golf broadcasting.

A quick aside, but isn't it hard to believe that Phil Mickelson is 50 years old and that his PGA Tour abilities or opportunities are waning? And let’s face it: It’s hard to think of Phil Mickelson with a microphone in his hand instead of a wedge.

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