Why do we tol­er­ate stars’ dis­hon­or­able be­hav­iour?

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The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MIKE SIELSKI PHILADEL­PHIA The Philadel­phia In­quirer

— This was a Sun­day morn­ing in March 2014, and the true be­liev­ers in the Church of Char­lie Hus­tle had come from far and wide to Roy­ers­ford to pay homage to a man they still re­garded as a hero. For an undis­closed sum of money, Pete Rose had agreed to speak at Christ’s Church of the Val­ley, os­ten­si­bly about sec­ond chances and redemp­tion; but Rose didn’t have the min­i­mal de­cency or so­cial graces even to feign hu­mil­ity or self-re­flec­tion. What the con­gre­gants got in­stead was the Pete Rose ev­ery­one should have ex­pected, the Pete Rose he has al­ways been. For­mer Reds owner Marge Schott? “She was the only one in the or­ga­ni­za­tion who had fa­cial hair,” Rose said. Wil­lie Mays? Rose told a story about an overex­cited fan who, upon en­coun­ter­ing Mays in a men’s room, uri­nated on the great ballplayer’s trousers. Bet­ting on base­ball? There was lit­tle recog­ni­tion of the cor­rup­tion in­her­ent in what Rose had done — and no re­morse over it. “I bet on my own team to win,” he said. “If you want to know the truth, I was wrong, but ev­ery man­ager should do that. You should do ev­ery­thing in your power to try to win the game.” And when he fin­ished speak­ing, he re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion. There was noth­ing sur­pris­ing about Rose’s be­hav­iour that day, just as there was noth­ing sur­pris­ing about the al­le­ga­tion, ex­posed Mon­day, that Rose had a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship in the 1970s with an un­der­age fe­male. Just as there was noth­ing sur­pris­ing about Allen Iver­son’s re­cent blow-off of a Big 3 basketball game at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter. In fact, on the same day that the Phillies an­nounced that they would not in­duct Rose into their Wall of Fame on Aug. 12, the Big 3 an­nounced that it was sus­pend­ing Iver­son af­ter he no-showed an­other game. Th­ese sorts of sto­ries arise, like canker sores, of­ten in sports, and they sting to vary­ing de­grees, de­pend­ing on the prin­ci­pals and their ac­tions. The con­cept that links them is dis­honor. The fa­mous ath­lete or celebrity breaks a prom­ise. He com­mits a sor­did act. He re­veals or reaf­firms that he is some­thing more than merely flawed, or maybe some­thing less. (A quick di­gres­sion: While it’s rea­son­able to sug­gest that Iver­son’s skip­ping th­ese games is rel­a­tively triv­ial and that the Big 3’s sus­pen­sion of him is silly, I’d ar­gue that, in one way, his bai­tand-switch at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter on July 16 was more egre­gious than some of his trans­gres­sions with the 76ers. If Iver­son blew off a Six­ers game, a fan who had paid good money for a ticket might still see his or her favourite team win and re­ceive at least some emo­tional sat­is­fac­tion. But Iver­son was the draw for that Big 3 game in Philadel­phia. He was the at­trac­tion, the pri­mary rea­son for at­tend­ing. ) In the case of Rose and Iver­son, their re­spec­tive his­to­ries and rep­u­ta­tions should have served as prece­dents — caveat emp­tor to the nth power. They have be­haved dis­hon­or­ably in the past, of­ten enough that it’s fair to say each had es­tab­lished a pat­tern of such be­hav­iour. So if you’re the Phillies or if you’re a par­ent who wanted to give your chil­dren a chance to see even an older and di­min­ished Iver­son in the flesh, didn’t you have to un­der­stand, ap­pre­ci­ate, and pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­ity that some­thing bad would ei­ther hap­pen or come to light? One would think. Yet thou­sands bought tick­ets to that half-baked half court game any­way, con­fi­dent (or at least hope­ful) that Iver­son would put on an­other show. And for all the back­lash that the Phillies ei­ther re­ceived or an­tic­i­pated in the wake of Mon­day’s dis­clo­sures about Rose, it’s worth not­ing how many peo­ple (based on the re­sponses to the ini­tial news story) were con­tent to look past Rose’s al­leged de­prav­ity. That wil­ful blind­ness and those in­no­cent-un­til­proven-guilty cries were es­pe­cially rich in this sit­u­a­tion, given that Rose did not deny his re­la­tion­ship with the woman — his de­fence was that he be­lieved her to be 16 years old — and that the re­la­tion­ship was re­vealed through pub­licly avail­able doc­u­ments in a law­suit that Rose him­self filed. The only per­son who wronged Rose here is Rose. Still, the loy­alty that a god­ded-up ath­lete in­spires can be strong stuff. Some of it is born of sports and civic trib­al­ism: He was my favourite player on my favourite team. He helped my team win a World Se­ries. He played ev­ery game like it was his last. So I’m stick­ing with him, and don’t you sug­gest I do oth­er­wise. Some of it is born of the kind of whataboutism that has be­come com­mon in our po­lit­i­cal dis­course: Yeah, he may be a bad guy, but what about Ty Cobb? He’s in the Hall of Fame. What about the steroid-users? There are prob­a­bly a few of them in the Hall. What about Kobe Bryant? Does any­one bring up those ac­cu­sa­tions any­more? The ra­tio­nal­iza­tions are al­ways handy, and they al­ways serve their pur­pose, which is to pre­vent us from hold­ing up mir­rors to our­selves. If we’re go­ing to keep ask­ing why our he­roes are so dis­hon­or­able, we should ask why they feel em­bold­ened and en­ti­tled to act that way in the first place. It’s only af­ter the ova­tion dies down and the next ugly story breaks, it seems, that we re­al­ize some­thing: When the col­lec­tion plate comes around or the church ser­vice ends, some­times the best thing to do is to sit on your hands.


Time for­fansto blow off self­ish play­ers like Allen Iver­son,says Mike Sielski.


Pete Rose re­mains true only toPete Rose, and unashamedly be­cause the­fans let him. Is he a role model wor­thy oftheHall ofFame?

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