5-at-10: Acuña is the MAN, Mickelson’s mea culpa, 50 years since Billie Jean beat Riggs

Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. celebrates as he runs the bases after hitting a home run in the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Sign up for the daily newsletter, Jay's Plays of the Day, to get sports betting recommendations for the top games of the night and the week ahead.

That's a wrap

Ronald Acuña is a bona fide dude.

That's not breaking news. But how about this: He needs one homer and three steals to get into the never-been-done 40/70 club.

Yes, 40 homers and 70 steals in the same season.

Heck, there are only four other dudes in the 40/40 club, and Acuña is mixing a part-Ruth, part-Rickey into the equation.

So, before we get neck deep into some heavy stuff, can we just put to bed any and all conversation about who the NL MVP is?

Go away, Mookie. Beat feet, Freddie. Sorry, Matt Olson, but this is Acuña's trophy and anyone who says different should have their vote pulled.

Someone convince me I'm wrong.

Phil good story?

What do we make of Phil Mickelson?


He has made a billion bucks (truly) and has bet close to the same amount if I had to guess.

He's the second-best golfer of his generation. He's a bona fide Hall of Famer when halls of fame have become halls of really good.

He has some of the most iconic moments of his sport in my lifetime.

The 6-inch jump after the putt to win his first major on 18 at Augusta. The 6-iron on 13 to win his third Green Jacket. The driver on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot that led to double-bogey that will forever cost him the Grand Slam. Losing to the late Payne Stewart on Father's Day — with that forever embrace — the day before Amy gave birth to the Mickelson's first child.

He's an all-timer who has won at every level and in every manner.

But he also sold his legacy to LIV for mid-nine figures. A decision that many of us questioned. A decision, however, made more clear by the depths of Mickelson's gambling addiction.

Make no mistake, sports betting is only growing. It's legal in more than 60% of U.S. states, and if I had to bet (see what I did there?) by 2025, sports betting will be either available or soon-to-be in 48 of the 50 states. Utah and Idaho are safe bets (did it again, right?) not to come along.

Mickelson delivered a missive mea culpa on social media this week, detailing his gambling addiction. The passages are eye-popping.

"Most of you will enjoy this football season with moderation while having lots of fun and entertainment," Mickelson wrote on social media. "The fantasy leagues will provide banter amongst friends and money won or lost betting won't affect you. I (won't) be betting this year because I crossed the line of moderation and into addiction which isn't any fun at all. The money wasn't ever the issue since our financial security has never been threatened, but I was so distracted I wasn't able to be present with the ones I love and caused a lot of harm.

"This lack of presence has been so hurtful. 'You're here but you're not with us,' is something I've been told often throughout my addiction. It affected those I care about in ways I wasn't aware or could fully understand. It's like a hurricane is going on outside and I'm isolated in a shelter oblivious to what was happening. When I came out there was so much damage to clean up that I just wanted to go back inside and not deal with it.

"If you ever cross the line of moderation and enter into addiction, hopefully you won't confuse your enablers as friends like I did. Hopefully you won't have to deal with these difficult moments publicly so others can profit off you like I have," Mickelson wrote. "But hopefully you WILL have a strong and supportive partner who is willing to help you through being your worst self, and through your worst moments like I have in Amy. She has loved me and supported me through my darkest and most difficult times. I couldn't have gotten through this without her. I'm so grateful for her strength in helping us get through the many challenges I've created for us. Because of her love, support, and commitment, I'm back on track to being the person I want to be."

I hope Mickelson has found himself. That's great news and something I want for everyone, whether they are a world-famous athlete or the guy looking for change to buy a Natty Daddy at the Wal-Mart entrance.

We all need grace. I know I do.

But Mickelson's wounds, while hurtful to his family, are nothing where they could be.

Let's be honest about this: Mickelson is extremely lucky not to be in jail. The details of his insider trading are everywhere. Heck "60 Minutes" spent more than a dozen of its minutes on his story a few years ago.

I — like many of you — am blessed to have an angel by my side helping my backwards alpha male self through this journey called life. So kudos to Amy Mickelson, Lord knows the demons she has slayed, and Phil's kids because addiction is mother bleeper.

But that's all the sympathy I have, because Phil forever parlayed (yep, I went there again) the "man of the people" routine for years.

And now, years later and in a time when we should be discussing their greatest golf exploits, I can't help but wonder who is the more flawed human, Tiger or Phil?

But being honest

Phil is right, it's easy to get hooked.

And I had an issue with sports betting when I was at Auburn. I, like Phil — and Tiger — could have (should have?) been arrested for my transgressions.

I became a bookie (I think the statue of limitations has expired, hey regulars who are lawyers, help a brother out — otherwise, this is just fictional tale of possibility) and thought I was going to be a gangster when I grew up.

The depths and the details are an in-person story (allegedly) but I get from where Phil is coming from.

Heck, I write a gambling email every weekday. It's part of my day job.

But I almost never bet. I give my picks, sure, but my analysis is about helping you folks.

And that's the key. Sure I have money in the stock market, and that's the same thing in states in which sports betting is legal.

So I know where Phil is coming from — and make no mistake, it's not about the money or the payday, it's about the action — but his choices are way down the list on my sympathy scale to be honest.

He is talking about his exploits and actions mainly because Billy Walters — the Don Corleone of sports betting — wrote a book that includes a whole lot of Lefty's exploits.

OK. But as you denounce Walters' attempts to profit off your relationship, it's also fair to remind people that Walters went to jail for an insider-trading allegation that Mickelson was involved in.

Sometimes I wish we knew less about the sports figures we loved, you know?

This and that

— So for the first time in a month, we missed the "Dingers Tuesday" promo from FanDuel. Yes, we almost played Bryce Harper, who went deep against the Braves, but alas, we missed. Still we offered three MLB picks Tuesday and all hit. Hey, you think Phil is following me?

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the why the Vols were not operating at their normal pace in The Swamp.

— So Chattanooga is going forward with an equity study. Hmmmm, OK. Can someone study what the word equity means please? So do we need more equity in white collar jobs? OK cool. Do we need more equity in 2 guards at the professional level for men and women? OK, cool. Do we need more ... well I'm gonna stop talking now.

— Man, few things can get my attention like a Kraft cheese recall. Here's more because I know we're all on the same page.

Today's questions

It's a Which Way Wednesday, so we will go here:

Which team's fan base is more pleased at this moment, UT or UTC?

We'll also add this: Which word is the best to describe Phil Mickelson's life/career?

As for the rest, well, there are a lot of them. But I'm running out of time and space.

As for today, Sept. 20, let's review.

On this day 39 years ago, "The Cosby Show" debuted. That was a game-changer, friends.

On this day 50 years ago, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs. Was it rigged (sorry, Spy), who knows?

But if we had a Rushmore of all-time moments for women's sports, this is on there right?