Say it ain’t so, Greg…

Time was, when you disgraced the game of baseball, and were convicted of a felony, you were not invited back to coach children on how to play the game.

This was true during the infamous Black Sox scandal when one of the greatest players of his time, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson admitted to participating in the fixing of the 1919 World Series. (Jackson is portrayed in countless movie classics such as “Eight Men Out”, “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural” among others.) Legend has it that Jackson was leaving the courthouse in custody when a a young man stepped out of the crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of their hero and pleaded, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Jackson, functionally illiterate but generally an honest guy responded with a simple, “I’m afraid it is, kid”.

Keep in mind, this was no run of the mill baseball player. Still to this day, his career batting average (.356) is the third highest in history. He still ranks #35 on the list of all-time greatest baseball players, and he continues to hold team records on the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox (for most triples and highest career batting average) some 90 years after he played the game. Babe Ruth claimed to have modeled his hitting style after Jacksons and he was voted the 12th best outfielder in the history of the game. Shoeless Joe had some game.

Although there are varying accounts of his involvement in the fixing of the games, the Commissioner of Baseball ruled that he cheated. Jackson was banned from baseball for life and remains ineligible for the Hall of Fame to this day. He and his wife returned to his native South Carolina and opened a dry cleaners and then a liquor store, which he operated until his death in 1951.

What’s my point? There used to be consequences for people, even those connected to professional sports, when they broke the rules.

Used to be.

I read yesterday in the New York Times that Greg Anderson has a new job. If you don’t know the name, Greg Anderson served prison time for conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering (to which he pleaded guilty) as well as contempt of court for refusing to testify before a grand jury. The people to whom he was distributing steroids? Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, among others. You may recognize those names – they are star major league baseball players.

How is Mr. Anderson spending his days? He’s coaching baseball to 12 and 13 year olds in California. Let that sink in a little before we go on… Don’t believe me? Read this… [NY Times Article]

I’m sure you’re thinking, well now that the New York Times has outed him, parents must be outraged. They are not. In fact, one mom had this to say. “The kids like him, and he’s a real friendly guy, so my husband and I don’t question it. Really, it’s kind of fun to have a celebrity coaching the team.”

Another parent said this. “My son said it was ‘cool’ to see his coach on TV.” Of course he left out the minor detail that the the reason guy was “on TV” was because he had been convicted on a felony! And for disgracing the very game this parent was now allowing him to teach his child!

The next time you hear someone bemoan “kids these days…” I hope you will correct them. It really isn’t kids these days – it’s parents. It’s parents who think it’s “fun” to have convicted felons…er, I mean”celebrities” coach their children. It’s the parents who think it’s “cool” to see your coach on a perp walk… as long as it’s on TV. It’s the parents (noun) abdicating their responsibility to actually parent (verb), and I hope you’ll remind them.

I also hope that, if you’re ever in California and you run into Greg Anderson, you’ll ask him a question for me. “Aren’t you supposed to be running a dry cleaners somewhere in South Carolina?”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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