No sports take bugs me quite like “Pete Rose sucks!” My colleague Patrick Redford gave us one of those last night.
Redford is funny as hell and smart as hell and someday he’ll run the world. But he’s still impressionable, as made obvious when he turned his otherwise wondrous and timely post about the great and undercovered Ichiro Suzuki into an excuse to piss on Pete Rose. His slams echoed the Deadspin Editorial Board’s lamest position, which is that Pete Rose Is Bad.
Whenever anything involving Rose comes up around these parts, the chorus sounds something like: “Oooh, he bet on baseball! Oooh, he was an asshole! Oooh, he bet on baseball! Oooh, his hits didn’t travel real far. Ooooh, he bet on baseball. Ooooh. Ooooh. Ooooh.”
Fuck oooh. Of course he bet on baseball. Of course he was an asshole! Of course he bet on baseball. Of course his hits didn’t go real far! Of course he bet on baseball.
And? Rose’s assholishness was his greatest selling point. For all his rings and singles, the biggest things he ever did on the field were knocking out a catcher in an All-Star game and beating up a scrawny Mets shortstop nicknamed “Twiggy” in the playoffs. He flaunted his jerk attributes in every interview. I rooted against Rose before I or anybody knew about the betting. But I loved watching him. He was the best heel baseball had in his day.
His enemies made me root for him. Siding with Bart Giamatti over Pete Rose now seems to me like siding with Ken Starr over Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky mess. The Dowd Report commissioned by Giamatti has aged about as well as the Starr Report, a whole lot of gobbledygook over something that—as the Tim Donaghy saga taught us—nobody truly, madly, deeply gives a shit about. And then Bud Selig? Who’s better for baseball, the guy known for halting an All Star Game in the 11th inning and calling it a tie or the guy known for running over a catcher to win an All-Star Game in the 12th inning?
Redford: Stick to Ichiro.