Just Call It Life, With a Twist

Baseball players cheat. So, what else is new?

Bill Zack, in an article for Morris News Service, recently detailed a long list of baseball players and managers who deliberately flaunted the rules in order to win. Correctness, honesty, fair play were all discarded for the singular goal of winning.

The belief persists far and wide, that, as a legendary coach in another sport, Vince Lombardi, is reported to have said, “Winning is the only thing.”

Or in the words of baseball's Leo Durocher, “Nice guys finish last.”

Zack detailed the feats of such cheaters as Gaylord Perry, Norm Charlton, Whitey Ford, Mike Scott, and Don Sutton who threw spit balls, Vaseline balls, or otherwise altered the surface of the balls.

Sammy Sosa was suspended for using a corked bat. Others, like Norm Cash who batted .361 in 1961 with a corked bat, were never caught (and Cash, using an honest bat, never came close to that figure again).

Jack McKeon, who manages the Florida Marlins, was once managing in the Pacific Coast League. In a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers top farm team, McKeon said his opponents beat every “bang-bang play” at first. The next time the Dodgers were in town, McKeon instructed his grounds keepers to move first base back one foot. Now the speedy Dodgers had to run 91 feet and lost every close call at first base.

“You have to maneuver things around so your club has an advantage,” McKeon said with a twinkle in his eye.

Pat Corrales, a former big leaguer and a current coach with the Atlanta Braves, said it's only cheating if you get caught.

Zack accepts all of the cheating with the closing line, “Just call it baseball, with a twist.”

Baseball players and coaches are, of course, not alone in their desire to bend and/or break the rules.

Few drivers — including your humble scribe — always drive at the posted speed limit.

Many take tax deductions to which they are not entitled. I once lunched with a man who, when I started to throw my cash register receipt away, told me to give it to him, and he would add it to his deductions. He was very unhappy with me when I wadded it up and tossed it away.

How about the aggravating people who take 20 items into the “10 items only ” check out lines?

Let's not debate big cheats and little cheats. Cheating is cheating. It is like being a little bit pregnant. You either are or you are not.

But the ideas expressed by Messrs. McKeon, Corrales, and Zack — you have to arrange things to your own advantage, it's only cheating if you get caught, it's just a different twist — fill our world. Because we excuse the little ones, the boundary between big and little, between innocent and egregious, between stupid and downright criminal gets smaller with each cheat.

For instance:

The American public believes that the major news outlets are slanting the coverage of the war in Iraq for purposes of their own agendas. CBS News found that 61 percent of us think they have spent too much time on the Iraqi prisoner abuse story. Fox News found that only 11 percent of us say the media focuses on the positive stories from the war.

As reported by Cliff Kincaid, Rod Dreher of The Dallas Morning News conducted his own research into this problem. Dreher wrote a column revealing that “We decided to search photo wire service archives for the past month [June 2004], looking for images of U.S. soldiers engaged in helping Iraqis instead of shooting at them.” They discovered only one. It showed Marine Sgt. William Perry of Texarkana, Texas, passing out school supplies at an elementary school in Iraq.

Kincaid, in his column “Rising Disgust with the Press,” said, “A medic serving in Iraq recently sent an e-mail to his family and friends, providing them a list of accomplishments in Iraq: school attendance is up 80% from levels before the war; over 1,500 schools have been renovated; over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first time ever in Iraq; 100% of the hospitals are open and fully staffed, compared to 35% before the war; elections are taking place in every major city, and city councils are in place; over 60,000 police are patrolling the streets; over 100,000 Iraqi civil defense police are securing the country; over 80,000 Iraqi soldiers are patrolling the streets side by side with U.S. soldiers; an interim constitution has been signed; and textbooks that don't mention Saddam are in the schools for the first time in 30 years. This is just some of the good news you may have missed.”

That is quite a different twist.

Another for instance of twisting things to your own advantage:

Democrats in the U.S. Senate have been ripping up sections of the Constitution throughout the time of the Bush administration in order to stop the president from getting his nominees voted on. A rare vote on July 6 ended 17 months of filibustering against Judge Leon Holmes, nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

Senator Ted Kennedy, that champion of marital fidelity, said Judge Holmes was unfit to be a judge because Holmes sided with the Apostle Paul. Holmes had written an article for a Catholic publication, based on Ephesians 5 in which Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it, and for wives to place themselves under their own husband's authority.

Kennedy said, “Judges appointed to lifetime positions on the federal court must have a clear commitment to the principles of equality in our basic civil rights laws. Mr. Holmes' view that a woman must 'place herself under the authority of the man' does not demonstrate such a commitment.”

So anyone who believes the Bible is disqualified from holding judicial office. According, that is, to the senator from Massachusetts who walked away from a submerged vehicle, a vehicle he drove off of a bridge, leaving a young woman — not his wife — with whom he had been at a party, to drown. Kennedy, who did not report the incident until the next day, pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and had his driver's license revoked for one year.

But as long as you didn't get caught — or, as in Kennedy's case, are not held accountable — everything is okay.

As Jack McKeon said, “You have to maneuver things around to your advantage.”

If the little cheats like spit balls and speeding don't matter, why should the big cheats, like media dishonesty and the total disregard for God's Word matter? Just call it life with a twist. Right, Mr. Zack?

(David Sisler's newspaper column, Not For Sunday Only, is in its 14th year of weekly publication. Not for Sunday only is based on news events, sports, popular songs, motion pictures and personal glimpses. The message is: the Christian faith is an everyday happening – it is not for Sunday only. The columns are thoroughly researched, and never indicate denominational bias. For reprint permission, or to subscribe to Not For Sunday Only, contact Mr. Sisler at david@mirkids.com.)

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