“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Those are the rules for getting a player into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Choosing someone who violated this criterion means awarding the player a “participation trophy.”
We all know about participation trophies. Legions of pundits, psychologists and politicians have long decried the “participation trophy” as the sole rationale for the decline of Western Civilization. By giving a child an award for something he or she didn’t earn, the coach, team and parents give the kid a false sense of entitlement and accomplishment. Society will therefore demand all kinds of recognition for something they did not achieve.
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You’re probably thinking, “How can a kid’s participation trophy be the equivalent of a Hall of Fame induction?” Here’s how.
First of all, the use, or abuse, of steroids, allows players to hit home runs that would otherwise be fly outs; throw faster than a human being who isn’t taking performance-enhancing drugs; and do so for a much longer career span than many of us “mere mortals” who don’t inject ourselves with chemicals. This allows players to maintain records impossible to achieve by those who play by the rules.
Manipulating the outcome of games as a player and/or manager has a similar effect. Both provide inflated statistics earned by something other than “player ability,” the second criterion of all Hall of Fame players.
Second, the steroid abuser and the gambler forfeit any claim to integrity, sportsmanship, character and possibly a contribution to the team, all factors explicitly stated in the membership of the Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame. Therefore, admitting such players is giving a “participation trophy,” recognizing accomplishments that are not earned. These steroid abusers and gamblers lied to juries, Congress, baseball commissioners and fans.
As if to add insult to injury, during the same time baseball writers also passed over many players who were the very embodiment of playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the teams they played for. Guys like Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez and other classy players with impressive statistics that would be HoF worthy in other years were kicked to the curb because their numbers couldn’t approach what the steroid freaks could do — breaking the rules, of course. We are telling these baseball heroes who made a difference in their communities that they just didn’t have as much integrity, character and sportsmanship as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Pete Rose. Make that statement. I dare you.
Third, we have to ask why kids get participation trophies anyway. It comes from the mentality of feeling sorry for someone. The poor child won’t get any recognition any other way. Why not allow the kid an award for being a “winner” in a sport where you don’t keep score?
Given that steroids and gambling manipulated baseball game outcomes to render scores and records meaningless, there’s a strong analogy. And as for “feeling sorry” for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, and Palmeiro, remember that they got to keep the millions of dollars they didn’t earn, the MVPs and Cy Young Awards and Rookie of the Year awards they didn’t earn, and the records they didn’t earn.
Even with all that, these players and their fans demand a plaque in Cooperstown (a museum that they are already a part of) which says “Hall of Fame” next to the words integrity, character and sportsmanship.
Anyone making such a vote is simply giving these athletes a participation trophy, a cheap and meaningless accomplishment.
John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; firstname.lastname@example.org.