A story that's earth shattering on Friday is forgotten by Monday. The next great player in a sport is a has-been months later. The scandal of today is the redemption of tomorrow. Millions of dollars here, billions of dollars there. Sexual assault, performance enhancing drugs, substance abuse, social networking, exploitation, etc., etc., etc. What's more important, on the field performance or off the field behavior? And how much should off the field issues influence the legacy of a great player or performer? I think it's a lot about perspective: getting it and maintaining it.
Pete Rose: There has been endless debate about Pete Rose's Hall of Fame worthiness. According to Wikipedia, Rose, "a switch hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and also made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, & 1B)." In 1989, he admitted to gambling on baseball when he was a player and manager for the Cincinnati Reds. Two years later, he was permanently banned from baseball and induction into the Hall of Fame. Really? I've been a proponent of Rose's Hall of Fame inclusion based on his play on the field. Here's a guy who went all out, all of the time, including a famous home plate play where he knocked over catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star Game. I believe the solution is simple: allow him to be voted into the Hall of Fame as a player, but continue the lifetime ban from involvement in baseball, including Hall of Fame activities. How legitimate is the Hall of Fame if one of the greatest hitters and players isn't there? Perspective.
Tiger Woods: Okay, so the greatest golfer I've ever seen cheated on his wife. I'm old enough to have seen Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy play competitively, not just on television, but in person. It's really not even close. For those Jack Nicklaus fans holding on to one stat that confirms his greatness, his eighteen major titles are what they believe to be the trump card. I can't argue with the number. Of course, at the time Jack was accumulating those major victories, he was just about the only one counting. But how about these? Tiger Woods won six consecutive United States Golf Association titles, the USGA Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur, all of them in match play, which is the golfing equivalent to Russian roulette. He is an eleven time PGA Tour player of the year (Nicklaus 5), ten time money winner (8), nine time Vardon Trophy winner awarded for the lowest stroke average (8), fourteen time major winner (18) and has seventy-nine PGA tour victories (73). In addition, Woods played in an era of global golf, with deeper fields and far more interest in the game, for which Tiger himself is mostly responsible. I won't argue that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the two greatest individuals and golfers, but come on now. For anyone to argue that Tiger's accomplishments on the course should be diminished because of his personal indiscretions hasn't really been paying attention. Perspective.
LeBron James: Here is a guy who went to his home team out of high school, played through not one, but two contracts while his owner failed to surround him with any real NBA talent. Despite that, he still managed to carry the Cavaliers to a conference championship. James has probably been treated as unfairly as any athlete I can think of. He has no off the court issues. His play on the court is fantastic. Taking less money than he was entitled to, he went to Miami and was instrumental in taking the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and winning two titles. After his run in Miami, he went back to Cleveland in a great gesture of loyalty to his home state. Exactly what is the issue with this guy? Exactly why can anyone who is watching train wrecks on and off the court getting paid millions in a number of sports have a problem with this guy?
Sometimes it's just time to take a deep breath and a step back. Perspective. Let's try harder to get it and keep it.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK
Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel",
available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.