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Posts Tagged ‘gambling’


Year ago Charles Barkley made all kinds of waves with his “I am not a role model” commercial. It makes a pertinent point. Athletic ability is not to be confused with character. Although this commercial is over 20 years old, we still struggle with this concept.

Some athletes appear to be teflon. Their indiscretions and/or alleged crimes are quickly forgotten, or never earnestly discussed. Others face a lifetime of disdain from the public for their indiscretions and/or alleged crimes.

I used both terms because some people do some things that are morally evil but which are not crimes. For instance, when Tiger Woods crashed his car that day we learned that the man who is possibly the greatest golfer in history is also a sex addict and deviant. As far as we know he didn’t break any laws. His actions, however reprehensible, were between consenting adults.

And then there are the allegations against Kobe Bryant. Only God, Kobe and the hotel worker know what actually took place that night in Colorado. He managed to avoid criminal charges but it ended up costing him quite a bit of money, including that huge diamond to make atonement to his wife.

Neither Tiger nor Kobe are reviled today. At his last All-Star game this weekend, Kobe was applauded and honored. He was a great basketball player, and should be honored for that. Yet it also seems that we’ve somehow forgotten about that night in Colorado (and I’m sure he’s glad about that). Mike Tyson has some how become viewed as popular and desirable again even though he was convicted of rape (the actors in The Hangover were reported to be excited to work with him, but despised Mel Gibson). Director Truman Capote remains in Europe an admired artist with a statuary rape charge hanging over him. Bill Clinton survived numerous allegations and impeachment to remain a celebrity President.

Other athletes don’t have it so easily. Pete Rose is a divisive figure. There is a small group that wants to move on from his gambling on baseball, but most people seem to want his role as pariah to continue. Barry Bonds is still not liked by most baseball fans. John Edwards became politician non grata.

Why is it that we give some people a pass, and make others pay the rest of their lives?

It isn’t about how nice the celebrity or star appears. Tiger was never known for being congenial. Kobe doesn’t have a reputation for being an all-around great guy.

It isn’t about talent alone. Bonds was the greatest player of his generation but remains a largely hated figure.

This is quite the confusing conundrum. Why do we disremember (choose to forget) the indiscretions and crimes of some celebrities and public figures, but not others? We somehow omit these events when we talk about them. This is not just compartmentalization- separating their personal and professional lives. We don’t say x is a great athlete/politician/actor but a horrible person. We extend their greatness to include their character, even if it is not warranted.

Another interesting conundrum is the tipping point for particular celebrities and public figures. For years the rumors regarding Bill Cosby were ignored. Suddenly they began to matter. The man behind many beloved figures- Fat Albert, Dr. Huxtable and more- was suddenly one of our most hated men. Why do we suddenly re-remember, making those events a part of that person’s history again?

Some of that is shifts in public perceptions regarding the alleged offense. Sexual assault is now taken more seriously. But this doesn’t explain everything. The example would be Kobe. So perhaps it was the overwhelming number of allegations that sunk Cosby.

Another factor is the advent of social media. Stories that died rather quickly in the past can take on a life of their own now as people share information (whether fact or rumor) on Facebook, Twitter or blogs. This can impede our attempts to disremember. Or, in some cases, aid them thru mass disremembering as people reject the allegations.

We all have actions we regret; parts of our personal history that we want to omit. Some of us are haunted by them. Some of us are able to deceive ourselves into thinking those events never happened. For instance, in 2003 Val Kilmer played adult movie star John Hughes in Wonderland, which was about the murders in Hollywood connected with Hughes. The premise of the movie was that Hughes played a role in leading the killers to the house, and actually participated in the robbery and murders. He dis-remembered, telling himself it didn’t happen until he actually believed it. Some of us have mastered it in our personal lives.

As a Christian I have to deal with those parts of my story that are unpleasant. I can’t be haunted by them, but I can’t pretend they never happened either. Confessed to God, they are pardoned because of the work of Christ. When I remember them I have to also remember His pardoning work precisely so they don’t haunt me and control me. But I don’t pretend they don’t exist. I acknowledge them as a part of my story, the ugly part which displays the mercy and patience of God with me in Christ. I incorporate not only my sin but Christ into my story.

Public figures who are Christians can be honest about their pasts. They speak with regret, not gladness. But they have no need to hide it. They don’t need, nor do they need us, to disremember it.

We need to change our relationship with our heroes, and celebrities. Rather than compartamentalize or disremember, we can integrate their stories. We can see their virtues, and their foibles. We don’t have to expect them to be perfect, and we don’t have to deny their wrong-doing. But we can evaluate their wrong-doing. It is okay to get rid of your Aaron Hernandez shirt. There can be points beyond which you can’t go, so to speak. Our desire should be to know, and act upon, the truth. It should not be to deny the truth. We don’t need to “shut down” allegations, but rather evaluate available evidence as best we can.

The issue for us isn’t the avalanche of noise created by social media, or the media. The issue should not be the shifting sands of public morality. We don’t have to follow the crowd like a pack animal. We can be principled, wise and gracious. Being gracious is not ignoring the offense, but acknowledging it while determining this isn’t the sum total of the person. This also means that we treat others fairly, not favoring particular people and castigating others who’ve been alleged (or have actually done) far worse. This means we don’t ignore the allegations against Christians who are famous. In all cases we let the evidence speak, and then evaluate how we will respond to them. This is because no one is “all good” nor “all bad”.

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I’ve enjoyed sports and history as long as I can remember.  As a kid I would read lots of sports biographies- including some of the dreaded Yankees.  My dislike for the Yankees didn’t keep me from appreciating the skill of some of their players.  Of course most of the ones I appreciated were from eras when the Red Sox were essentially uncompetitive.

Sometimes books come along that allow me to revisit sports and history.  Sean Deveney’s The Original Curse is one of those books.  Deveney puts the 1918 World Series into its historical context, and that context is vital to his main thesis.  His thesis, which he admits cannot prove, is that the Cubs threw the 1918 World Series.  This is particularly intriguing as a result of the futility that plagued both teams since that World Series.  The Red Sox’ futility has only recently ended, but the Cubs’ continues.  Such utter inability to win championships is astounding to say the least- particularly since they were both so successful before that time.  This was the 5th World Series victory for the Red Sox.

“Prosperity tends to provide a pretty big blind spot.”

Deveney focuses on a few things outside of baseball.  World War I wrecked havoc on the world economy.  While ball players were well paid, inflation in the few years leading up to the 1918 World Series was about 55%.  Their good paychecks did not go as far as they used to go.

World War I put pressure on the players themselves as well as the game.  Some of the players were drafted during the season.  There was controversy as to whether or not to end the season.  Players were viewed as slackers because they were not directly assisting the war effort.  The War Department had underestimated what it would take to get fully involved in the conflict.  They put off requests from baseball for clarification repeatedly.  Some players left the pros to work in the shipyards which often had ball teams.  Many of these guys didn’t work but just played ball.

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