The Aftermath: Final Observations On The Papelbon-Harper Incident

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight...

Jonathan Papelbon in another career highlight…

More on the aftermath of the incident that has the baseball world talking and the sports ethics world cogitating…

1) The Nationals punished the right player, suspending reliever Papelbon for four games, which combined with the three games the league suspended him for intentionally throwing at a player in an earlier game, ends his season in embarrassing fashion. The four lost games will cost the closer about $280,000 in salary, and his total loss, with the additional three games, will be close to a half-million dollars.

2) The word out of the Nationals clubhouse is that many players agree that Harper was dogging it to first base (the impetus for the criticism that started the fight) and that Papelbon was within his rights to call Harper on his lack of hustle. This indicates that Papelbon was reacting to a perceived lack of leadership on the team. In fact, the team does lack leadership, as manager Matt Williams is neither respected nor listened to, and this was one of the reasons the heavily favored Nats collapsed down the pennant stretch. Thus it seems that Papelbon, a recent acquisition who was new to the Nats culture, may have been trying to fill a leadership vacuum and botched it. Still, he engaged in his unethical conduct for an ethical reason; that only places him in “the ends justify the means” territory, however.

Moreover, any team whose leader is Jonathan Papelbon is in big, big trouble.

3) Incredibly, manager Matt Williams, who left Papelbon in the game after the fight to pitch the ninth and get clobbered, claimed that he wouldn’t have done so if he was aware of what happened. Williams said that he was at the other end of the dugout, and didn’t understand the import of the commotion that had players shouting and separating two combatants, including his best player and his current pitcher. Wow.  The Nats dugout isn’t that long. He wasn’t curious? Didn’t he feel, as the man in charge, a need to investigate? Worse still, none of his coaches felt that he needed to be informed, even considering that this was happening in full view of the fans and TV cameras.  Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Lou Gehrig, July 4, 1939

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

—-Baseball great Lou Gehrig, beginning his farewell speech to Yankee fans on July 4, 1939, as they filled Yankee stadium to say farewell to “the Iron Horse,” who was retiring from the game after being diagnosed with the incurable disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known forever after as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

Lous Farewell

Lou Gehrig was only 36 years old when he learned that he was dying. ALS is a terrible wasting disease that has no cure, and in 1939 there was little treatment or assistance that could be offered to a victim as his body slowly ceased to function. It is an especially cruel disease for a professional athlete to face, and even more so one, like Gehrig, who was renowned for his endurance and seemingly indestructible body. When the progress of the illness, still then undiagnosed, caused Gehrig to remove himself from the New York Yankees line-up on May 1, 1939, it ended his amazing streak of 2,130 consecutive games, a baseball record that stood until broken by Cal Ripken, 56 years later.

Gehrig’s speech was from his heart. He was an educated and articulate man, but he had not planned on speaking at the moving ceremony to bid him farewell, as current former team mates, some of the greatest players ever to take the field, gathered to pay their respects. But the Yankee Stadium crowd of more than 60,000 began chanting his name, and after initially refusing, Gehrig moved to the microphone. Continue reading

Pat Summitt, Failing a Great Leader’s Toughest Test

Be like Lou, Pat...so the next diminished leader can be like you.

Pat Summitt, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who has won more games than any other college coach ever, men’s or women’s, received test results from the Mayo Clinic at the end of May that confirmed early-onset Alzheimer’s type dementia.  The irreversible brain disease is now at work destroying the 59-year-old Summitt’s abilities of recall and cognition, and as it is for the other estimated 5 million Americans with the disabling disease, the prognosis is grim.

Everyone in the Tennessee and sports community as well as the media and all of us who have seen loved ones suffer with the disease are rallying behind Summitt, who is one of the toughest, smartest, most determined figures in sports. But Coach Summitt has decided that her symptoms are not yet severe enough to force her into retirement, and she intends to stay at the helm of the Tennessee women’s basketball team at least three more years.

It is the wrong decision. It is a selfish and unethical decision. The question is whether anyone will have the courage to try to convince Summitt that she has a duty to the team, the school, her own legacy and basic principles of ethics to change course and do the right thing. Quit. Continue reading