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What Championship Baseball Teaches Us About Paul Martin

This Magazine Staff

In the 8th inning of last night’s American League championship game 6, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees found himself staring at an inevitable tag-out on his way to first base. His solution—reach over and swat the ball out of the glove of the Boston pitcher. Initially, Rodriguez was called safe at first on a missed tag, the runners already on base advanced and the Yankees tied the game. But, when the Boston manager complained, the umpires had a confab and reversed their decision. One of the umps had seen what was clearly revealed by video replays, and Rodriguez was called out by interference. Boston remained in the lead, and that is how the game eventually ended. An exciting Game 7 tonight.

What’s even more interesting about this event (IS there something more interesting than baseball?), is the response of a) the New York crowd, and b) the Fox network commentators calling the game. The fans booed the reversed (and clearly correct) decision, screamed undoubtedly horrible things at the officials and littered the field with debris and souvenir baseballs, endangering all of the players and delaying the game. Eventually, riot police were called to line the field and play resumed under an eerie, enforced calm.

The commentators were disturbed by the near riot, but strangely tolerant toward the man who had caused it. Commenting on the obvious cheat, one announcer said something like “You can’t fault Rodriguez on this. I mean if it’s your only chance, and you think you might get away with it, you might as well give it a shot.” To which the other replied along the lines “Oh, absolutely, I mean it’s a sure out, so you have to do what you have to do, right?”

Well… wrong. In fact, cheating is wrong whether you have a compelling reason to do it or not. Yet these announcers very casually dismissed the idea that fair play is an admirable thing, that rightness exists.

I wouldn’t normally comment on something like this, except it struck me that this New York crowd and these announcers hadn’t invented this attitude; they were merely reflecting what has become the norm in the way we all interact with each other, especially on the level of public discourse. Cheating has become a question of interpretation, or spin. If it benefits you, and you feel you should have that benefit, how can it be wrong?

Elections are important, and winning them even more important, so lying, cheating, defaming, maligning, and distorting, while regrettable, are necessary in a way. Karl Rove isn’t evil to manipulate the American electoral process the way he does, he’s a skilled strategist, the best there is. He’s the Alex Rodriguez of politics. He’s K-Rov.

And so it is with Paul Martin these days. His hand and the sponsorship cookie jar look to be pretty much inseparable right now, but will he act on his pledge to step down if caught in the act? Doubtful. After all, if he thinks he might be able to get away with not stepping down, he’s got to take that shot, doesn’t he? I mean, you can’t fault the guy for trying, can you?

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