Strike three

By Timothy Rollins
web posted March 6, 2000

For the unfamiliar, Darryl Strawberry got suspended from baseball yet again for violating the league's aftercare treatment program for drug abuse. Given that this is his third violation of baseball's anti-drug policy, the ban from the game should have been permanent. However, to put it bluntly, Commissioner Bud Selig lacks the guts to stand up to the player's union, and the union is misguided in their protection of drug abusers within their ranks.

Athletes, and in particular, baseball players, are held to as role models by millions of children around the world - for whatever reason, I will never quite really fathom. I did not really use ball players as role models when I was a kid, but then again, I was unlike most kids – not better or smarter, just different, that's all.

Take into consideration Darryl Strawberry and his long and lengthy record of off the field troubles, to include spousal abuse and tax evasion as well as his three suspensions for cocaine usage and his soliciting an undercover officer. I swear this guy has more lives than Morris the Cat of 9-Lives fame. Like pitcher Steve Howe before him, also of Yankees fame, these guys cannot stay away from the so-called allure of cocaine and sticking portions of their paychecks up their nose.

Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life for reportedly gambling on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds. An outstanding player and National League Manager of the Year one year, he was not given a second chance nor was he allowed forgiveness for his transgression. Ask just about any athlete, and with few exceptions, all the rest will tell you they have bet on sports events at one time or another. For Rose to be singled out for a single occurrence is grossly unfair, just as it is also unfair to keep giving people like Darryl Strawberry another chance, particularly when that chance is not deserved and is repeatedly squandered. Squandered much like Washington State schoolteacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, who blew the second chance given her and is now doing 7½ years for child rape in the state prison.

Charles Barkley had it right years ago when he said that parents should be a child's role models and not athletes. But children continue to look to others as their role models for a host of reasons that we as parents may not be fully aware of.

The National Hockey League had it right when they recently suspended for the season Boston Bruins player Marty McSorley for knocking another player out cold during a recent game. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is doing what Bud Selig lacks the courage to do, and that is reign in rogue players without cowing to the player's union over the issue. Yet commentaries that have been coming in the past few days have been coming down on Bettman for not coming down hard enough on McSorley.

It seems that the last baseball commissioners we had with any integrity were Bart Giamatti and Peter Ueberroth. I met Ueberroth in California one morning at breakfast and took the time to thank him for what he had done for the game, and that was putting the fan first while keeping the owners and players in check. I am certain that Ueberroth would not have allowed the Darryl Strawberry situation to have gotten as far out of hand as it has, and that Strawberry would have been banned for life for putting his own needs above that of his family, friends, fans and employer.

An individual with Strawberry's record of off the field troubles would be unemployable in the private sector. Yet football continues to look the other way for the most part as does basketball. Look no farther than Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys to see what I mean.

Strawberry's potential will be missed, but this is a classic case of opportunities and second chances given, only to see them foolishly squandered. His departure from the game should be permanent and the ban should be for his lifetime.

Such action will send a message that is clearly long overdue.

Timothy Rollins is a contributing columnist with Ether Zone Magazine. © 2000 Timothy Rollins.

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