Category Archives: Sports

Ethics Hero: American League Batting Champion Jose Altuve

Altuve

There was another baseball Ethics Hero who emerged on the last day of the regular season yesterday. File it under “Sportsmanship.”

Houston Astros secondbaseman  Jose Altuve (at less than 5′ 5″, the shortest athlete in a major professional sport) began the day hitting .340, three points ahead of the Tigers’ Victor Martinez, who was at .337. Even with all the new stats and metrics showing that batting average alone is not the best measure of a baseball player’s offensive value, a league batting championship remains the most prestigious of individual titles, putting a player in the record books with the likes of Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, George Brett, Ichiro Suzuki and Tony Gwynn. It’s still a big deal. If Altuve didn’t play in Houston’s meaningless last game, Martinez would have to go 3-for-3 to pass him, giving the DH a narrow .3407 average compared with Altuve’s .3399. By playing, Altuve would risk lowering his average, providing Martinez with a better chance of passing him.

Many players in the past have sat out their final game or games to “back in” to the batting championship, rather than give the fans a chance to watch a head to head battle injecting some much-needed drama to the expiring season. ESPN blogger David Schoenfield recounts some of those episodes here.

Altuve, however, gave Martinez his shot. He played the whole game, had two hits in his four at-bats, and won the American League batting title the right way—on the field, not on the bench.  (Martinez was hitless in three at bats.)

The conduct, simple as it was, embodied fairness, integrity, courage, respect for an opponent, and most of all, respect for the game.

Sportsmanship lives.

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Ethics Hero: Minnesota Twins Pitcher Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

This is the final day of the regular baseball season, and an appropriate time to salute a major league player who placed principle over cash….even if I disagree with him

Phil Hughes was a bargain pick-up during the off-season for the Twins, a failed pitching phenom for the Yankees widely viewed to be on a fast slope to oblivion. He surprised everyone with a wonderful season for the otherwise woeful Minnesota team this season, potentially setting the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio record, and began his final start of the campaign needing to throw eight and a third innings to reach 210 and trigger a $500,000 bonus in his contract.He would have made it, too, pitching eight dominant innings against the Diamondbacks and allowing just one run.  Then there was a downpour, with Hughes needing one more out to get the  extra $500,000.

After more than an hour’s rain delay, the game was resumed, but as is the practice in baseball, Hughes did not return to pitch: too long a delay, his arm too cold, too much risk of injury, especially after throwing so many pitches.  Hughes accepted the bad luck without complaint or rancor, saying that “some things aren’t meant to be.” Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Derek Jeter

Jeter Farewell

Once upon a time, there were three young shortstops.

They arrived in the majors nearly at the same time, completely different in style and skills, but each carrying the promise of greatness. Nomar Garciaparra, with the Red Sox, was the flashy and charismatic one. Alex Rodriquez was the youngest, and held the most potential. Derek Jeter, of the New York Yankees, was a finished player from the moment he stepped on a major league field: poised, purposeful, and a winner.

While once it seemed certain that all three would meet at the Hall of Fame, it was not to be. Garciaparra won two batting titles, but his aggressive moves and spidery form made him injury prone. His reign as an elite shortstop ended prematurely, and so did his career. Rodriquez, as he matured, went from The Kid to A-Rod to A-Fraud, his reputation and life scarred by controversies, illegal steroids, lies and the habits of a sociopath. He sat out this season, at a time in his career when he had been expected (and paid) to be chasing the all-time home run record, with a humiliating suspension. He is the most unpopular player in baseball, and one of the most reviled of all time.

So then there was one shortstop, Jeter, and his life on and off the baseball field has been extraordinary enough to make up for the disappointments left us by his former shortstop colleagues. Last night, at the age of 40, he played his final home game at the position for the Yankees. His career statistics show no batting or home run titles, it is true, but shine brilliantly nonetheless: a .309 lifetime average, 3461 hits (3000 makes a player a lock for the Hall of Fame even if he doesn’t play the most difficult position on the field, as Jeter has ), just short of 2000 runs scored (10th all-time), twelve All-Star games, five Golden Gloves (as the American League’s best fielding shortstop), five Silver Sluggers (as the best hitter at his position), and most of all, seven World Series, five of them on World Champions.

Apart from the stats, awards and titles, Jeter was just as exemplary. He played in an era when it is impossible to hide as a celebrity: if you are a jerk, everyone will know it. He wasn’t a jerk. He was, in fact, the personification of the perfect sports hero. Jeter has been a leader and teacher by example to his team mates and his admirers, though his one-time friend, Rodriguez, would not absorb the lessons. He has had no personal drama, no tawdry sexual episodes, no bastard children. He was never arrested or suspected of using drugs, performance-enhancing or recreational. There were no DUI charges or petulant interviews. Derek Jeter never had to ask “Do you know who I am?” because he never acted as if he was special, because he made himself special by never acting that way, and because everyone did know who he was. In every way imaginable, from his public comportment to his ability to rise to the occasion under the pressure of a national audience, a rich contract and the hopes of millions, Derek Jeter has embodied the ideal of the athletic hero. Continue reading

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Slate’s Amanda Hess’s Very, Very Embarrassing Essay About Why It’s “Very, Very Stupid To Compare Hope Solo To Ray Rice”

Fa11 _WT_Hope AL Portrait_RGB.JPG

A Forbes  columnist wrote a clumsy essay that managed to make it sound like all incidents of campus sexual abuse were the fault of co-eds who can’t hold their liquor. It was almost instantly taken down, and he was sacked in disgrace, for some opinions are just not fit for open debate in politically correct America, it seems. Self-censorship is the order of the day, or fear the wrath of the War on Women Warriors. You can read the piece here: in my view, there was enough that was thought-provoking in it to allow the dumb and offensive parts to be taken care of by astute commenters, critics and bloggers. But women are the new unassailable icons right now (oh my God, I nearly wrote “sacred cows”! My career just flashed before my eyes…). It will be fascinating to see how long this delicate and fanciful balance can be maintained in the culture without someone breaking out in uncontrollable giggles: women are equal in every way to men, but are too pristine and delicate to accept or endure criticism of any kind, and if you dare offend them, you are toast.

Around the same time Forbes was declaring Bill Frezza’s essay a blight on humanity, Slate’s Amanda Hess was posting a column of at least equivalent nonsense content, and I would argue, more embarrassing. It is a desperate plea for a distaff double standard regarding domestic violence, responding to articles like mine, pointing out that soccer star Hope Solo is garnering faint condemnation for the pending charges against her, while the same sports writers and social commentators ignoring her are attacking the  National Football League and its several abusers, alleged abusers, and charged abusers with gusto. Hess calls her opus “No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem, Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice. If this didn’t guarantee a ticket to spend a lonely weekend with Frezza lamenting the end of their gigs, nothing will. Slate disgraced itself by publishing it, because it adds nothing to the public debate regarding domestic abuse except rationalizations, excuses, and of course, the exalted double standard that women can do no wrong, or at least no wrong anyone should get upset about.

Before I expose the utter dishonesty and incompetence of Hess’s essay, let me just state for the record why I and anyone else who is objective and paying attention compares Solo to Rice (and the other NFL players recently disciplined), or to be more precise, compares the obligation of U.S. Soccer to treat its accused abusers exactly like the NFL is doing now: Continue reading

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Stupid Conservative Talk Radio Host Tricks ( Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck Division)

rushs-foot-in-mouth-problem

Believe it or not, many conservative radio talk show hosts can be insightful, erudite, analytical and fair. Unfortunately, even the smartest of them have an unfortunate tendency to let their deep-seated ideology lead them to undermine their credibility when an objective analysis might force them to agree that in a particular matter, their most reviled progressive foes are right. The repulsive recent effort by the conservative talkers to paint the NFL and its various woman and/or child-beating players as victims of a political correctness campaign is a  vivid example.

This kind of thing is why so many people hate you who have never listened to your show, Rush. You have nobody to blame but yourself.

I’m going to ignore Sean Hannity, who actually took off his belt and smacked it on his desk to show how he was raised to be the virtuous, patriotic, narrow-minded, low-brow pundit he is today. Both Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, however, who are capable of making coherent arguments, cannot similarly plead intellectual dysfunction like Hannity: they are capable of better. Yet they spent time on their programs defending the NFL from the “liberal media smear” that the NFL is “full of criminals … wife beaters, sexual abusers, murderers, rapists.” It’s not true! In fact, studies show that the rate of violent crime in the NFL is less than that of the general population! Continue reading

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Ray Rice Ethics Train Wreck Update: Now The NFL Is Validating Gender Bigots

Men vs Women: Come on--who would YOU trust?

Men vs Women: Come on–who would YOU trust?

When Roger Goodell and the NFL do  something right in the metastasizing Ray Rice-Adrian Peterson-Who Else Will It Be Tomorrow?-We Don’t Care About Domestic Violence Or Child-Beating But Our Sponsors Think We Should So We’ll Pretend To fiasco, do let me know.

Among the more sinister botches was the league’s cynical PR move of appointing four women to explain to him and the other suits that it’s really bad for a sport that sells role models and heroes to have those key products smacking around small children and women. Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, was given an expanded role as vice president of social responsibility. Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office; NO MORE co-founder Jane Randel; and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, were also hired to address the problem, which, as everybody should know, only that kinder, more generous, more nurturing, rational and generally more civilized gender even recognizes as a problem.

This is female superiority fantasy, of course, but the media and, naturally, women themselves are grabbing it and running for the goal line. On this morning’s Sunday talking head blab-fests, I must have heard six or seven pundits, most of them women but not all, take a breather from their non-stop condemnation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to express relief that women were finally on the scene to straighten things out for their poor, idiot brothers.

There is no indication, anywhere, that men are less capable of comprehending what is wrong with domestic violence, more rational in dealing with it than women, or more competent to analyze the issue: Continue reading

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The Daily Show’s Redskins Ambush

Washington-Redskins

Here’s the theory behind this episode: if you disagree with the virtuous, unassailable position of the proudly politically correct, you don’t deserve to be treated with honesty, fairness, or respect. This is essentially the same attitude displayed by partisan hit-blogs, conservative talk radio, and Debby Wasserman Schultz. In the case at hand, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” decided that anyone who hadn’t caved to the victim-mongering over the Washington Redskins name should be embarrassed and mistreated on TV, and that their smug, young , knee-jerk progressive audience would enjoy the spectacle.

And yes, this is among the reasons why I, despite appreciating Stewart and Colbert’s skills from a technical viewpoint, don’t watch Comedy Central any more. (The other reason is this.)

The Washington Post tells the tale: Continue reading

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