rambling on rose
McGraw was a rare sports legends who defied the hate-by-association that follows so many good players. Hate the Mets? Then you must hate all their players. So it is written, so it is done. Tug gets the asterik there.
"He was flamboyant, excitable extroverted, he would do anything for a laugh. I'm going to miss him. He was full of life." -- former Mets teammate Ed Kranepool.
If McGraw was the smile on the face of baseball, Pete Rose was the scowl.
I always feared Rose; when I was a young, starry eyed baseball fan (back before cynicism set in), Rose was probably last on the list of baseball players I wanted to meet. For me, at least, he has this air of duplicity about him. Even when he's smiling, he looks mean or devious. If one could see his aura, I'm sure it would not consist of colors, but of tiny little daggers. Call it a gut feeling.
It was the way Rose ruined Ray Fosse's career - I was eight at the time it happened and didn't give it much thought until years later - and the way in which he always seemed to want what was best for Pete Rose, even during a game, that turned me against him.
In the Fosse incident, Rose pretty much ran down Fosse, a catcher, during the 1970 All-Star Game. Playing for the kill is not something you do in an exhibition, which the All-Star game essentially is. When asked about it by a reporter, Rose said, I play to win. Fosse suffered a separated shoulder and was never the same player after that. Rose felt so bad about the incident (insert sarcasm symbol here) that he autographed photos of the play.
Yesterday, I mentioned that I had no tolerance for Rose, the gambler. This prompted a long email from a reader chastising me for not understanding that gambling is a disease.
If there is one thing I do understand, it's the life of a compulsive gamble. And let's face it, Rose had to be a gambler of the compulsive sort if he went so far as to bet on his own team. And all these years later, what does Rose have to say about his behavior?
Asked why he finally decide to admit he bet on baseball, Rose said, "It's time to clean the slate, it's time to take responsibility … I'm 14 years late." Rose told Gibson he took so long to make his admission because he "never had the opportunity to tell anybody that was going to help me."
Never had the opportunity? Lamest. Excuse. Ever. What was stopping him from taking aside a trusted friend or family member and telling them? Most likely, it was the compulsion to win that stopped him. One last bet, and then he would tell them. One last win. One big win. That's all he needed.
Oh, I know all about it. I know how betting makes you scowl all the time. I know how it makes you do things you might have never dreamed of doing. You think Rose cheated on his taxes on a whim? I know how betting can ruin lives. And I know, better than a lot of you and especially the writer of that email, that being offered help and accepting help are two totally different animals. Apples and oranges, as it were.
Betting on sports isn't a ten-second deal. You don't just make a choice, call your bookie and be done with it. No, you pore over statistics. You battle back and forth with yourself over the point spread or odds. You read, you gather information and then you place the bet, maybe hours after you started your research. That's for one game. And then begins the agonizing. The pacing. The wondering if you made the right choice or not.
Let me tell you something. Even if Pete Rose bet on his team to win, that doesn't make it any better. There's no way his mind was fully on managing a game he placed a bet on. Maybe he bet the over/under. Maybe his bookie was using a run spread instead of odds. He probably paced, sweat it out, maybe kicked a few water coolers or punched a few holes in the wall.
Compulsive gambling makes you a bitter, angry person most of the time. Big win days are few and far between. Even if you do get those big wins, you end up dumping it all back in the bookie's lap because you are sure you can parlay that lump of money into a heap of money. Then you surround yourself with people of questionable character. You dream up other schemes to make money. You get involved in things you shouldn't be involved in. All to pay the bookie and have enough money leftover to make the next bet. Most likely, you end up divorced. A bookie is a harsh mistress. Eventually your wife or husband will feel as if you've left them for the man with the betting sheet. That vig you pay may as well be diamonds and fur coats given to another woman.
Yes, I do know all about gambling. It's not a disease, it's a choice. Help in battling bad choices is anywhere you want to find it. But you have to want it. You have to want the help more than you want the next win.
I've got no sympathy for Rose, just like I had no sympathy for my ex-husband when he chose gambling as a way of life. He didn't want the help, either. Maybe years from now he, like Rose, will ask for forgiveness. And just like Rose, there will be a self-serving reason for it.
Well, that's not what I meant to write. But I did, so there it is.