Derek Jeter took one for the team, and Reggie Bush took too much in the eyes of many.
Neither deserves to be cast as a villain.
Unfortunately, they are both victims of the technological revolution that has swept the planet since the Internet exploded and spawned a new set of media police.
It has created a breed of Wyatt Earp journalists, who see every playing field and basketball court as their own Gunfight At The O.K. Corral.
To slam Jeter for his action last week in faking that he got hit by a pitch goes against the grain of common sense.
The New York Yankees shortstop did what is commonplace in every sport.
In the NBA, some of the best defensive players have perfected the art of flopping so they can get a charge call. They are applauded for their actions, which if good and consistent enough might earn them a spot on the league’s all-defensive team.
In football, punters who can get a “roughing the kicker” call are lauded with the same respect due an Oscar winner, though they often are only brushed by an onrushing defender.
Baseball players trap fly balls and come up with their gloves raised, which is the international sign for making the catch. Middle infielders routinely miss the bag at second to complete a double play and avoid a collision and umpires play along.
Pitchers have thrown spitters and scuffed up baseballs since before Ty Cobb ever picked up a bat, and they are labeled geniuses. Runners on second base steal the catcher’s signs.
Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world has never lost its luster, though it’s been revealed he would have never gotten the opportunity if the Giants weren’t stealing signs from their center field clubhouse that enabled them to end the season 37-7 and force a playoff.
There was George Brett’s pine tar incident in 1983 that first cost him a game-winning homer but was later given back. He was turned in by Yankees skipper Billy Martin, who led life by his own set of rules.
What Jeter did against the Tampa Bay Rays was mild, a little headache in a sea of migraines.
The solution to all of this fakery is simple: Get instant replay.
But Major League Baseball commissioner/car salesman Bud Selig doesn’t think it’s needed, even though Little League adopted it for its World Series, where it proved to be invaluable.
Leave it to Selig to be outsmarted by a bunch of 11- and 12-year-olds.
The Bush situation is a little more complicated, but there is a common thread of uncommon sense.
College football is the only workplace in America where those most responsible for generating millions of dollars don’t get paid.
Here’s the rub. The rules Bush allegedly broke were made by the people who benefit from this system of monetary injustice.
Some have claimed that Bush took about $300,000 when he won the Heisman at USC in 2005. If true, that is a mere pittance to the $4.4 million salary his coach, Pete Carroll, earned and much less than the millions of greenbacks that poured into his school’s coffers.
A Forbes Magazine report said in 2006 corporate sponsors doled out $209 million for the 32 major college bowl games.
In ’07 Forbes said the USC football program was worth $53 million, the most of any Pac-10 school, and in ’09 its value jumped to $68 million. It lists Texas at No. 1 ($119 million) and has 20 college football programs valued at $47 million or more.
Major college football programs are attempting to increase their revenues in ways similar to the NFL, but unlike the NFL, college players are not compensated.
Universities make money off jersey sales, and the players get nothing. Their names are not on the jerseys, but fans who buy them know the connection.
It’s more than about not getting a salary. College athletes are not allowed to endorse products, can’t get paid for speaking engagements, can’t get compensated for jerseys or video games that are sold because of them and are limited on how much money they can earn from a school-related, part-time job.
So if Bush did get paid $300,000, that represents a minute percentage of the money generated by college football, so small it couldn’t even be detected under a microscope.
That doesn’t sound like a villainous act.