Mickelson Helps Former Card

Doc Cardinal

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Nice story on Phil helping the family of Conrad Dobler....we need more stories like this:

http://www.dispatch.com/dispatch/content/sports/index.html

Mickelson manages goodwill ace
Act of kindness to Dobler family undercuts critics' cynicism
Sunday, May 27, 2007 3:56 AM
By Rob Oller


The Columbus Dispatch

Phil Mickelson wants to do what?
Considering that both men often feel misunderstood, it would not have surprised Conrad Dobler if the offer was some kind of mix-up.
Dobler, a former NFL offensive lineman, had never met Mickelson. Yet here was Mickelson's attorney, Glenn Cohen, calling to say the PGA Tour player wanted to pay for the college education of Dobler's daughter, Holli.
That was almost two years ago. Holli Dobler just completed her sophomore year with a 3.6 grade-point average at Miami University, where tuition/room and board costs $31,103 a year for out-of-state students.
To date, the Doblers and Mickelson still have never spoken. It is an act of kindness that mostly has gone unsaid. Until now.
Mickelson will fly the Doblers -- Conrad, his wife Joy, and Holli -- to the Memorial Tournament this week where they will finally meet the golfer at a private get-together Thursday.
Mickelson declined to discuss the details of his generosity, as he has done ever since the story broke in February. What he does with his money is no one else's business, and he's not interested in the publicity, Mickelson spokesman T.R. Reinman said last week.
When Dobler asked Cohen why Mickelson would do such a wonderful thing, the attorney answered, "Because he can."
This much we do know, that Dobler has struggled financially since that fateful 4th of July in 2001 when Joy went to climb into a hammock but flipped and landed wrong, suffering two fractured two vertebrae and damage to her spinal cord, resulting in near total paralysis.
"I probably couldn't do it again if I tried a million times," she said from her home in Leawood, Kan. "I obviously should not have any function from the neck down, but I do have use of my arms and some trunk and movement in my feet."
The monthly medical bills initially topped $20,000 and Joy estimates the overall expenses have been more than $1 million -- and will continue. She expects to travel outside the U.S. for stem cell surgery next year.
"I have no intention of remaining in this wheelchair the rest of my life. It doesn't match my attire," she said.
It also doesn't match the money required for college, which is where Mickelson enters the picture. The golfer, who gives to several other charitable causes that focus on families, first heard of the Doblers' plight through an HBO special in which the former guard expressed his frustration with the NFL for the way it discards former players. Dobler cited Joy's accident and resulting medical care as an example of the league's inadequate pension and disability programs.
Dobler's TV interview moved Mickelson to act, which in turn moved the Doblers to tears. When your life too often tastes like spoiled milk and your luck is a layer of bad upon worse, it's hard to imagine an out-of-the-blue act of charity.
"It's nice to know there are still good people out there," Dobler said. "It does change your life when you see someone pay it forward. And you know what? It works. I believe I'm a better person just because of his generosity."
Those who followed the NFL in the mid-to-late 1970s might say Dobler couldn't have been a worse person. In 1977, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, "Pro Football's Dirtiest Player."
Although Dobler doesn't dispute that he had some muddy, if not dirty moments on the field, he said that more often than not he was misunderstood, pointing out that he enjoyed visiting children in hospitals more than he liked laying out opponents.
"Mr. Dobler -- the misunderstood. That was a word used consistently during my 10-year career, and I think I was," he said, adding that maybe Mickelson can relate to the labeling.
Mickelson is a favorite among golf fans, but the world's No. 2-ranked player often takes his licks in the press. The sense among some media members is that Lefty is a phony whose "aw shucks" attitude is staged.
Dobler scoffs at such criticism, saying Mickelson's actions speak for themselves. The golfer contributes $100 per birdie and $500 per eagle to Birdies for the Brave, which helps support Homes for Our Troops and Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Both organizations support wounded soldiers and families that have lost loved ones in combat.
"The sad thing about celebrities -- it even happened with my reputation in the NFL; they either loved me or hated me -- is that there's no in-between," Dobler said, adding that those who get pegged as media hounds seldom get credit for their good works. "No good deed goes unpunished. They think we're always looking for publicity."
The bottom line for the Doblers is that the only angle Mickelson has been working is to make their lives easier. Dobler can only dream about the lucrative contracts signed by today's NFL players. At his peak, he made $130,000 playing for the Buffalo Bills.
The couple is moving into a more affordable home and has had to downsize their financially stable health-care business to pay medical bills, which include seven knee surgeries for Conrad. He has had two left knee replacements, the last one leading to a staph infection that led to nine months of recovery, and is about to have a third. His right knee has been replaced once.
The financial strain, however, does not begin to match the strain of having raised six kids, Holli being the youngest, and serving a wife who has made progress but whose chances of full recovery remain unknown.
"It changes you in the sense that it's overwhelming," he said. "I get up at 4:30, get to work at 5:45, get home and cook dinner, throw in a load of laundry, get the dishes done, get my wife to bed and sit down about 9 o'clock. I usually fall asleep in the chair about 9:45. It's been that way seven days a week for five years."
No wonder that Mickelson's show of mercy means the world to the Doblers, who can't wait to shake the hand of their newest hero.
"I'm looking forward to meeting him and his wife and kids," Dobler said. "I can't wait to watch him interact with his kids. I won't need to tell them what a wonderful dad he is."
He's more than that to Joy, who wouldn't be surprised if Mickelson floated down the fairways of Muirfield Village Golf Club this week.
"Someone asked me awhile ago, 'If you get the chance, what would you say to him? I would say 'Thank you,' but more than anything I want him to know that he's a man who appears to have everything, but he doesn't," she said. "He's missing wings, because he truly is an angel."
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