Thoughts on OSU, Lance and the great Gary Carter …

June 8, 2011
By admin

Gee, I was only kinda half kidding a couple of weeks ago when I suggested that the world was upside down a bit with sports turning into really serious if not gloomy business and politics edging closer and closer to becoming little more than hysterical, if salacious entertainment. Now in the course of a week or so comes the Lance Armstrong debacle, Ohio State taking a beating in the public arena and Hall of Famer Gary Carter being diagnosed with brain cancer. I would be depressed if the sun hadn’t finally decided to come out for a brief wave and a blown kiss here in Central Wisconsin.

Gary Carter is one of the genuine nice guys in professional sports, and I had the good fortune of interviewing him a couple of times in my former position as editor of Sports Collectors Digest. Mead Chasky is Carter’s agent, and as a longtime veteran of the sports card and memorabilia hobby, he had a better-than-most understanding of the nuances of the collecting world and would typically make his clients available to hobby media whenever possible.

Carter is also one of the handful of guys who actually collects, in his case cards, though I don’t know if that’s still the case now that he’s retired. In any event, I had a ball in those conversations with him over the years and was of course deeply saddened to hear of his current health woes. While his greatest statistical seasons came as a Montreal Expo, fans will also fondly remember his vital role in the Mets great championship campaign in 1986. I never stopped rooting for him even after retirement, and now will only accelerate the process.

Just in the time that I started writing this, Ohio State’s woes went from bad to worse, with more doom and gloom on the horizon. With Jim Tressel’s resignation barely in the rearview mirror, now comes word that quarterback Terrelle Pryor will pass on his already truncated senior year (five-game suspension for the memorabilia-for-tattoos silliness). The similarities between Ohio State’s situation and that of one Lance Armstrong are nothing short of eerie.

Ohio State and Armstrong find themselves on the hot seat within the confines of institutions that are alternately corrupt or merely wobbly, but either way suffer from problems that go way beyond the travails of the individuals being flogged at the moment. Just as punishing Ohio State (or USC, for that matter) won’t clear up the underlying rot of big-time NCAA sports, Armstrongate, however its resolved will always say a lot more about the sport of cycling than it does about the human beings who adapted to a situation that virtually demanded malfeasance.

From Pete Rose and Bill Clinton to Marion Jones or Anthony Weiner, ultimate confessions are getting to be truly icky things to watch these days, and I don’t much care if I ever get to see versions from Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or even Armstrong. Hell, I don’t even know if they have anything to confess. But if Barry Bonds managed to defy all the conventional aspects of aging that plagued even the great ones like Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and his godfather, Willie Mays, and somehow posted the incomprehensible numbers in the last quarter of his sterling career without aid of performance-enhancing drugs, it would seem to be a miracle. Given the curious changes of his body shape, hat size or even the alleged shrinkage of the family jewels, it would truly seem difficult to believe that nothing was amiss.

Thus does Lance Armstrong have to contend with the continued allegations of former colleagues and competitors, to say nothing of the anomaly that in a sport where so many ended up admitting to cheating in various forms, he somehow managed to post the most extraordinary record of success that anyone has ever witnessed in cycling or anywhere else without succumbing to the same illicit temptations. It will be a sad day for millions of his fans if circumstances ever conspire to force him to some kind of admission. I hope the day never comes, but even if it doesn’t, the damage to the reputation will remain.

If, by some miracle, Armstrong is innocent, his public pummeling will represent the greatest individual injustice since the French barbequed Joan.

I think my next posting will be about politics. At least there are some chuckles to be had in that venue.
- T.S. O’Connell

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