I enjoy good debate as much as the next person. Well, no, I don’t. Not anymore. Good debate has become a thing of the past, a relic of days gone when men acted with class and chivalry. As a culture, we held ourselves to a higher standard. Sure, money was objectified and deified as it is today, but the moral high ground actually meant something. Those of the “have-nots” had a goal to rise up the social ladder toward being a “have” and the way to do that was putting on their boots and climb that moral high ground.
People who lacked class or dignity or couth were appropriately shunned by society. Kids were made responsible for their actions, and taught what it meant to respect their elders. It wasn’t uncommon even a few years ago to see minors hard at work in the family business or at the family farm or a local mom and pop, where they could earn the experience necessary to be a positive, contributing member of society and where they could earn a little money as well. Those that worked hard and showed integrity went somewhere. Those that didn’t, didn’t. Certain people were shunned by society, and for good reason.
Society didn’t want to end up like those people.
In the passing years of our great country, it seems the tide has turned. We make excuses for why kids are they way they are (poor upbringing, abused, attention deficit disorder, etc). We excuse adults for the way they are (he/she is just different, they’re not hurting anyone, they mean well). Sometimes the excuses and explanations go to ridiculous and outrageous extremes, nowhere more so than in professional sports.
How about a little background on me, so you know where I’m coming from? Though I was born in Wisconsin, lived in Illinois and have resided in California for the past thirty four years, there was a brief time I lived in Ohio. Cincinnati to be exact. Mid-to-late Seventies. A part of the country fanatical for baseball, and for good reason. Not only are the Cincinnati Reds the oldest team in Major League Baseball, during the Sixties and Seventies they were also among the best. From 1963 to 1978, a huge part of their success could be attributed in part to one man – Pete Rose.
Look at the statistics for the man they call Charlie Hustle and you’ll find amazing accomplishments all the way down the sheet. He was respected on the field, but not always liked. Not that it matters if other ballplayers like you, as baseball is about winning. Of course, some would say the manner in which you win is important as well. I, too, would be one of those people. But I digress. For all of his personality traits, Pete Rose was a helluva player. A gamer. One of the best ever. His accomplishments are worthy of immortal recognition in the annals of history, are they not?
They are worthy, and in every respect (especially with the advent of the internet) the name Pete Rose and the accomplishments he achieved will forever be immortal. Not necessarily in the way that Charlie Hustle would have wanted, although he has nobody but himself to blame.
You see, Pete Rose participated in illegal gambling activities while still actively involved with the game. Following an investigation by the commissioner of baseball, Rose ultimately accepted a permanent lifetime ban from the game for his acts. Though his accomplishments are widely discussed, most people now debate his exclusion from the Hall of Fame.
The PRO-Hall people for Charlie Hustle debate that his work on the field should be recognized and not punished for his indiscretions off the field. And I say those people are FLAT OUT WRONG.
Pete Rose began is career in Cincinnati in 1963, a full 42 years after the 1921 decision by the first commissioner of baseball to ban for life anyone who gambles on the game. It is one of the most historic and oft debated storylines in all of baseball, a result of the 1919 Black Sox World Series Scandal. Forty two years is enough time to pass that the rule of no gambling in baseball is pretty set in stone. It wasn’t a new rule. It wasn’t a vague rule.
You gamble, you get kicked out.
And there is no way Pete Rose didn’t know this was the rule. None whatsoever. Which is why he ultimately accepted his ban in 1989. He knew he was caught. He knew he was wrong. And somewhere deep inside, he knew it had cost him the Hall.
Too. Freakin. Bad.
You don’t like that he got banned?
Too. Freakin. Bad.
You don’t like that he’s not in the Hall of Fame?
Too. Freakin. Bad.
You think he’s being treated unfairly by MLB?
Too. Freakin. Bad.
I don’t like that he broke the rules. And you shouldn’t either.
We can’t go back and pretend it doesn’t matter, because it does. To accept him back into the game, and possibly then into the Hall of Fame, is to bestow upon the man and his career a certain presitge and class and honor, none of which he deserves. He may be a good man, I don’t know. But I don’t care, either. He broke the rules of the game. Had a journeyman player with a spotty record been caught gambling on baseball would we be having a discussion about it? No. He would be banned and nobody would care if he ever got reinstated. Why is it different for Rose? Because he was good at playing a game?
What kind of lesson does that teach society? If you’re good, the rules don’t apply to you? You can have a measure of honor bestowed upon you and that it will most likely allow you to financially benefit from it? If the PRO-Hall people are willing to look the other way for Pete Rose, who else are they willing to look away for? What does that do to us as a society? Does this approach bring us up to a higher moral ground?
No. It weakens us as a country. It teaches our society that numbers on the back of a playing card have more merit than integrity, because a percentage of people in this country think what he did on the field should matter more than what he did off of it.
I’m not buying it, and I never will. And it breaks my heart to no end, because at one time in my life I rooted for the hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds. I saw my parents cheer in front of the TV during the games. I looked up to these men on the field as examples of strength and dedication to their craft.
In today’s world, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to do that. I’m even more saddened that my children have become as guarded as I have about the game. Are we going to put our trust in a player who will betray us? That is a valid risk in any relationship. But the risk becomes even more damaging when those that betray the integrity of the game still become rich and powerful and lauded for their accomplishments regardless of their transgressions. Or at least, that becomes the debate.
A debate I will no longer entertain.