Answers the Fifth!

I know, I know…with all this editing work I’ve been doing, I’ve been ridiculously remiss in getting Ask Me Anything! August 2012 done, to the point that we’re closing in on October 2012. Oy…but herein I’ll take another whack at getting some of these queries answered!

From Roger:

Should Sally Ride come out as gay sooner, as in during her lifetime? It wasn’t a secret to her friends, but some have suggested that it may have been more inspirational.

It’s easy to say that, and I tend to agree that it would have been pretty inspirational to have Sally Ride go open with her homosexuality earlier in life. I think that every openly gay person who lives a normal, productive, and in Sally Ride’s case, exceptional life moves the needle toward ‘Gay Acceptance’ a little more, and that’s a good thing.

But…Sally Ride wasn’t just an inspirational figure, she was a person, and even though circumstances of her life made her an inspirational figure, I can’t hold her to account for choosing not to be such a figure in all aspects of her existence. I am in no way disappointed in her reluctance to come out, if indeed it was reluctance at all. If her line of thinking was “That part of my life is mine and it’s nobody’s business but mine”, I have a hard time taking her to task for that. So ultimately, no, I don’t think she should have come out sooner, unless she wanted to. Which it doesn’t seem that she did.

Do you think the punishment for Penn State in light of the Jerry Sandusky scandal was too strong, too lenient, or appropriate? What do you say to those who believe those who did nothing wrong (current students at Penn State, e.g.) are suffering the bulk of the punishment?

I think it was just about right. That program needed to get hit hard, because the ‘football is king, and coach is God’ mentality there led to a sickening coverup of a child molester. And I’m not interested in all the Oliver Stone-esque readings of the Freeh Report, or the red herring chases that people engage in who are still slavishly in thrall to the Ghost of Holy Joe. I have seen nothing compelling to make me think that things happened pretty much as they’re said to have happened, and I suspect that things may have actually been worse.

As for who I feel sorry for? Well, I feel sympathy here for two, and only two, groups of people. The first are Sandusky’s victims and their families, and the second is the current players who have to take the field wearing the scarlet A. They didn’t sign up for this, and I do feel sorry for them. In fact, I think there’s something admirable about players who opted to stay put and try to help make things there better again — but at the same time, I have zero problem with any player who looked at the carnage and said, “Yeah, I want no part of this shit” and took the transfer to someplace else. I can understand both viewpoints and I don’t see either as more moral than the other.

Who do I not feel sorry for? Penn State students and alumni and fans. Sorry, but you do not have a God-given right to root for a great football program, you do not have a God-given right to your mental picture of Doddering Old Joe Paterno as a figure of Christ-like reverence, and even more than that, there’s nothing super-special about Penn State and its students and “the experiences and the special bond they share” than there is at any other college. In general, I tend to find the whole college-nostalgia thing really odd. I loved my college years and it was a deeply formative time in my life (not just because I met The Wife there). But I graduated nearly twenty years ago, which means that as far as I can see, I have no more ‘special bond’ with someone going there now than I do with someone going to, say, the University of New Mexico. Hell, I’d be surprised if more than three or four professors I had classes with are even there anymore, so for me to start chanting “We are Wartburg!” just feels like a lot of lame clinging-to-a-past.

Everybody had wonderful college professors, everybody made friendships in college that will last their lives, everybody had experiences at college that they will carry with them all the rest of their days. Everybody. The Penn State notion that there’s something special! mystical! transcendent! about Happy Valley that other schools can’t touch is just so much mental self-boosterism. Ultimately, to me, Penn State is just the latest big institution to get caught doing Bad Acts.

In 2013, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens will be eligible for the baseball Hall of Fame. If you were voting, what you you do? Also your votes re: Mark McGwire, Raffy Palmiero, A-Rod and Manny Ramirez (eventually), and, what the heck, Pete Rose?

I’d vote them in, every one. Except for Pete Rose.

Baseball’s steroid era is an unfortunate time, but it was also a time when MLB really didn’t have any strong policies in place to deal with it — just a kind of “You’d better not do this!” kind of thing. If baseball was really serious, they’d have implemented testing with clear guidelines for punishments in the result of failed tests. Having someone get outed years after they played of having broken rules that weren’t really rules doesn’t seem strong enough a case to keep someone out of the Hall of Fame, especially if, in the case of a Bonds or a Clemens, they were awesome anyway. I’m not sure that steroids made Bonds such a baserunning threat or helped him in the field.

Here’s an analogy: a third-grade teacher addresses her class on the first day of school. “OK, Kids, here’s the rule. In each of your desks is a candy bar that I put there. You are NOT allowed to ever, ever, EVER, eat the candy bar. It is FORBIDDEN for you to eat the candy bar. Now, I will never check your desks to see if the candy bar is there. I will not watch what you eat at lunch time, and even though I will leave the room unattended for ten minutes each day, I will still NEVER look to see if your candy bar is there.” So the school year goes on, and ends, and the kids move on…until ten years later, when someone rats out Joey, and the school says, “Well, gee whiz, Joey, you don’t get a diploma then.” That make sense to anyone? Not me.

But Pete Rose? Well, baseball does have clear rules about gambling and betting, and he broke them, and he’s never shown any real remorse. If he wants to really apologize in a way that makes Bud Selig happy, that’s fine, but his grudging approach of “Fine, I’m sorry, you happy now? Gimme me plaque at Cooperstown now.” is just really off-putting.

Now, if they wanted to induct Rose into the Hall with an asterisk on his plaque explaining that he was banned and why, I don’t have much of a problem with that. But as it is now? He broke one of baseball’s most sacred rules, and he needs to pay the price.

More answers to come!

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One Response to Answers the Fifth!

  1. Anonymous says:

    The most compelling argument for Rose in the Hall is that the gambling took place during his managerial career and had nothing to do with his playing career. In that sense, his career and impressive numbers are at least as worthy of the Hall of Fame as the steroid guys. Those should have asterisks, in my opinion.

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