OPINION – Justice is a fickle mistress.
Just because something is legal doesn’t make it morally correct. Conversely, just because something is illegal does not make it morally incorrect.
It becomes a point of discussion today because of the wide-ranging opinions circulating about the status of baseball great Pete Rose, who has asked Major League Baseball to lift the lifetime ban placed upon him by the late Bart Giamatti,
The iron-fisted baseball commissioner who negotiated his release from Major League Baseball after investigators uncovered evidence that Rose had bet on baseball games.
He strong-armed Rose into agreeing to voluntarily remove himself from the game and imposed a lifetime ban, which includes exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rose really had no other option.
His offense was provable, his behavior a clear violation of MLB rules.
But, in all fairness, and considering the egregious violations that have clearly had more impact on the game than whether somebody laid down bets on sports – the steroid-enhanced musclemen, the cokeheads, and the owners and executives who have sullied the game, from Marge Schott and her vile, contemptuous slurs against African-Americans, Jews, Asians, and homosexuals to George Steinbrenner’s illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and felony obstruction of justice charge.
I saw Pete Rose play baseball as a rookie, I saw him play as a veteran. Long ago when I was a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, I was around him in the clubhouse on several occasions. He’s not a nice guy. But, if we only had nice people in professional sports, well, there would be no professional sports.
However, I would be hard-pressed to find somebody who played the game with more desire than Pete Rose, a stumpy little guy who out-hustled everybody on the field and shared the Vince Lombardi mentality of “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Pete bet on baseball.
He placed bets through bookies, not your most desirable folks.
There is no evidence, though, that he ever bet against his team. All he did was place bets.
He didn’t inject dangerous drugs into his body to beef up and start knocking baseballs out of the yard like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and the other cheating ‘roid freaks. There’s the instance of Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankee who returns to the diamond this year after sitting out a one-year suspension for bulking up on performance-enhancing drugs. But, A-Fraud has done his time, served his sentence, and is back in uniform.
I’ll wager that his 654 career homeruns had a more significant impact on the outcome of major league baseball games than Pete Rose’s gambling addiction.
And, that’s the point.
If professional sports can forgive and forget when it comes to drunks, dopers, cheaters, and wife beaters, why continue to ban a guy who wagered on sports without harming anybody or influencing the outcome of any games? Rose has been separated from baseball since 1989. He is 73 years old. It is highly doubtful any Major League Baseball team would hire him as a manager at this point and although Charlie Hustle could still outrun you, me, and most of our buddies, I guarantee he can’t turn quickly enough on a big league fastball any more. But, he does deserve enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame where, last time I checked, a lot of other social miscreants have been honored.
He’s done his time.
I mean, the people of the United States eventually forgave Richard Nixon, why must it still hold a bratty pro athlete’s feet to the fire?
Rose has been out of the game for more than 25 years now. Some murderers get sprung in less time.
Our priorities, as a nation, are skewed when we place more significance on punishment handed down to a jock than the important things in our world.
In the department store of life, sports is the toy department. It doesn’t matter how big it becomes in viewership, revenue, or public appeal, sports is nothing more than a pastime, a dalliance of youth, a diversion.
It won’t feed the hungry, it won’t heal the sick.
The idealism that Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, had when he said “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well,” is long gone. The essential thing today is money. If you want purity in sports, go catch an AYSO soccer match or stop by the Little League field where it’s still a game.
I have heard the argument that sports heroes should be held to a higher standard, that kids look up to them, idolize them, follow their example.
If that’s the case, you’re failing as a parent.
Don’t blame Pete Rose for being a bad influence on your child. Instead, use him as an example that even the best hitter in the history of the game is subject to penalties for breaking the rules. But, also use that as an example of fairness, penitence, and forgiveness.
We’ve got enough vindictiveness in our society as it is without adding more. We have enough “gotchas” to trip people up. We have more than enough narrow-minded, judgmental people holding others forever in ever-tightening thumbscrews just because they can.
I mean, have we forgotten the wise adage of “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
If the Baseball Hall of Fame can make room for a violent, racist, drunk like Ty Cobb, it can surely find a slot for Pete Rose.
That is, of course, if there is any justice remaining in this crazy, upside-down world.
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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