By Jason Menard
So the legendary Pete Rose has finally come forth and admitted what most of us already suspected – that he bet on baseball. And now it’s expected that all will be forgiven and let’s roll out the welcome mat to the Hall of Fame for Charlie Hustle.
I’m sorry if I don’t buy it. Charlie Hustle he may have been, but now he’s more Charlie Hustler.
Perhaps I’m just a cynic, but this confession of guilt and the pleading mea culpa would have rang far more true if it didn’t coincide – and feature prominently in – his latest autobiography. Perhaps I’d be more charitable if this ending of this 14-year farce didn’t come as Rose was running out of eligibility for Hall of Fame voting. Oh sure, he would have been voted in by the Veteran’s Committee, but I can’t believe that Rose’s ego would allow him – a sure first-ballot entrant – to enter through the back door.
No matter what he says now. No matter how hard he tries to play the victim, now — more than ever — I firmly believe Pete Rose should not be reinstated and eligible for the Hall of Fame.
Many people will argue that people who have committed far worse transgressions against humanity find themselves enshrined in Cooperstown, to which I’ll wholeheartedly agree. But I also firmly believe that what a person does outside of the game should not be a factor in judging their worthiness for enshrinement.
Despite what many try to make athletes out to be, they are not role models and should not be judged as such. They are humans, subject to the same weaknesses and foibles as the rest of us.
The problem with Rose, ironically, is not so much his gambling but the way he’s chosen to make a mockery of the game he professes to love so much. Gambling on baseball, while a mindnumbingly stupid thing to do would probably have been a forgivable transgression given time. However, telling bold-faced lies and attempting to tarnish the credibility of those who lobbied the initial accusations against him is unforgivable. This farce has done more damage to the game than place a few bets ever would have.
I don’t deny that Rose had – or may still have – a serious gambling problem. And yes, it is an addiction. But Rose has yet to take the biggest step in beating his demons – accepting full responsibility for his actions. As he has for much of the past decade and a half, he’s looking for scapegoats upon which to pin the blame for his current troubles.
He says things like gambling was a way to replace the high that he missed from competition. And while that may be true, thousands of players, all of whom shared a competitive drive, found other outlets to satisfy their thirst for “the rush.”
Had Rose admitted he made a mistake at the time, it’s true he probably would have been suspended for life. But had he fessed up, accepted his punishment, and got on with his life, he would have eventually become a sympathetic character is this sad drama. Our society is very forgiving when it comes to its idols, and it only would have been a matter of time before fan pressures would have built up to the point where the baseball establishment wouldn’t have had any choice to let him back in.
As it stands now, his 14-year history of lying has made a mockery of the game and should be the factor that stands between continued exile and reinstatement.
There are those who will say that baseball commissioner Bud Selig insinuating that all will be forgiven should Rose simply fess up obligates him to reinstating Rose are wrong. All Selig has to do is turn around and say, “Sorry Pete, I lied.”
After 14 years, that’s a concept that Rose is sure to understand.
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