Before I get to the main topic of this post, I just want to give a shout out to Fox News for once again proving that, despite their feigned offense at the suggestion, they are nothing but a mouthpiece for the right. They hired a new political commentator. Seeing as how they call themselves "Fair and Balanced", they probably hired a Liberal to provide some balance to all of the Conservative commentators they have now, right ? Wrong ! They hired Sarah "I couldn't come up with the name of one magazine or newspaper I've ever read until months after I was asked the question" Palin. Of course, I'm sure that she was hired because she is a well-read (HA!), well-informed individual, supremely qualified to comment on the issues of the day on national TV, and not just because she's a GILF who leans so far to the right she makes Newt Gingrich look liberal. Seriously, I could have made the whole post about this , but both Palin and Fox News constantly provide fodder for commentary, so I'm sure I'll have a chance to get back to them.
No, today, we'll be talking about sports. Specifically, we'll be talking about our tendency to forgive (and, even worse, forget) anything our star athletes do, no matter what it is. If, by some chance, you haven't heard by now, I have big news for you : Mark McGwire admits he used steroids ! I'm sorry, I probably should have given you some warning. I know this news is almost as shocking as the news about Sarah Palin. Of course, even now, he isn't being completely honest. He claims that he took them for "health reasons". I can believe that, if by that he was referring to the healthy amount of money he got from playing baseball and any endorsement deals he got. He also claimed that he was coming clean now because of his hiring as the Cardinals hitting coach, but that happened in October, so why would he wait until now ? I think it's more likely that he's admitting it now because last week the Baseball Hall of Fame voted in their newest members and, once again, McGwire didn't come anywhere close to getting the necessary votes. I think he's hoping that if he admits what he did (even if it's not a complete admission) and apologizes that he'll get voted in.
He has good reason to think so. Athletes constantly commit crimes or do immoral things and get forgiven. Some get caught right away, put out an "apology" written by their agent and from that point on, when asked about it, say "I know I did something wrong, I apologized, now I just want to move on." and they're allowed to do so ! How many times have you been watching a sporting event and heard the announcer make a remark about a certain athlete's "recent troubles", never specifying what those "troubles" are, (e.g. getting caught with drugs or smacking his girlfriend around) and making this remark in a way that seems to suggest that these "troubles" HAPPENED to this athlete instead of the athlete being the cause of their own troubles. Sometimes, athletes don't get caught right away. They deny what they did over and over again until someone comes up with incontrovertible evidence or circumstances are such that admitting what they did has become a better option then continuing to lie (e.g. when they want to get into their particular sport's Hall of Fame).
Look at Pete Rose. Not only did he gamble on baseball, but he gambled on his own team. For this, as the rules state he should have been, he was banned from baseball. For years, he denied any wrongdoing, constantly badmouthing Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent, basically anyone involved with his being banned and anyone who dared suggest he might be engaging in less then total honesty about the matter. Then it started to sink in that nobody was buying it, so he admitted to betting on baseball, but not his own team. Which didn't do the trick, so it finally got through his thick skull that he'd have to be totally honest, so he admitted to betting on his own team. And despite what he had done, despite all the lying and all the trashing of those who said that he was lying, there are actually people out there who think that now that he's admitted what he did, he should be re-instated.
Look at Ray Lewis. Whether or not you believe he actually participated in the fight that led to the death of two men, the fact is he DID know about it and DID try to avoid helping police bring the killers to justice. And yet, Ravens fans still cheer for him and wear his jersey and sports announcers and pundits still sing his praises. I wonder if they would be doing that if it was one of their family members that had been killed that night ?
And , finally, look at Michael Vick. This one really hits close to home for me. I was an Eagles fan for almost 30 years until they signed Vick. Of course, after 30 years of being a fan, it was hard to stop being one, but any lingering doubts I had about my decision were erased when his teammates unanimously voted for him for the Ed Block Courage Award, an award usually given to a player who overcomes an injury or an off-field problem not of their own making. What was the reasoning there ? He tortured and killed dogs , served less then two years in jail, then went back to a job that provides fame and fortune, how courageous ! Of course, as usual, with this "forgive and forget" mentality that athletes get the benefit of, you hear people say "He did his time, he's apologized, everybody deserves a second chance." For those people, let me remind you of what he did. He trained dogs to fight each other, to basically chew each other to pieces. Dogs that didn't pass their "test" fights or started to have a decline in their "performance" were killed. Specifically they were shot, drowned, electrocuted, hanged, even held by their hind legs and slammed against the ground or a wall. This sick, sadistic behavior is what he engaged in, what you're willing to forgive him for. Apparently, you don't think that the kind of animal cruelty that when seen in children is an indicator that you may have a potential serial killer on your hands is any reason to stop this man from making millions of dollars and providing an example to kids that no matter what they do, they can get away with it and even thrive afterwards if they just say they're sorry.
Obviously, what McGwire did doesn't rise (or I guess I should really say, sink) to the level of what Vick did, but it's the mentality that allows people like him to be forgiven for what they've done because of the talents they have that leads to athletes being forgiven for worse things. Some people DON'T deserve a second chance and saying "I'm sorry" doesn't always make things right.