MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

For several years I have referred to the National Football League as #NFLTheTVShow, having recently added AndSportsBook to the hashtag. I have begun to reconsider that addition and will likely lose it and just stick with TheTVShow, because that is what the NFL is first and foremost.

While it is true the NFL is the pioneer of North American professional sports leagues in promoting sports gambling (point spreads, injury reports, Super Bowl III) and then embracing it corporately, neither Major League Baseball nor any of the other pro leagues are better suited to ride the moral high horse when it comes to gambling.

All of them have sold out to sports betting services and casinos because all of the sports leagues are paid too much money by the gambling entities not to. In fact, MLB leads the parade of hypocrisy in this regard as it pertains to the matter of one Pete Rose.

First of all, Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time hit king, Charlie Hustle (in more ways than one) and one of the greatest ballplayers in the history of the game deserved the punishment of a lifetime ban from baseball for betting on his team’s games while he was a player and manager based on the way things in baseball used to be.

The 1919 Black Sox nearly brought Major League Baseball to ruination because of gamblers; and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the owners’ first-appointed commissioner, though a miserable and bigoted man, not to mention an inept judge, did make the right call on lifetime banishment for any baseball personnel who are proven to have consorted with gamblers.

Thus, as Rose is prohibited from ever holding a position in MLB, he is ineligible to be named on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, not by MLB’s doing, but by the Hall of Fame’s doing. The Hall of Fame is not affiliated with MLB in any way. It is a museum, and while all of the things Pete Rose did in baseball, both good and bad, are in there, he’s not and has no one to blame for that but himself.

Pete Rose lived a lie for his entire life. He was not baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Norman Rockwell. He was a great baseball player who stretched, worked around and broke the rules anytime it could pay off for him. As the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell, who wrote brilliant prose about Rose for much of his career, said, “He completely fooled me.”

Pete Rose does not belong in the Hall of Fame because he is not eligible to even be considered. Now, as a player, of course Pete Rose is a Hall of Fame player. And in the minds of many others as well, he is considered a Hall of Fame player, but without the ceremony. He is not and should not be a Hall of Famer, though, unless they change the eligibility requirements in Cooperstown.

Though players are still prohibited from betting on baseball and consorting with gamblers, it just seems hypocritical to me that MLB takes in millions and millions of dollars by being in bed with corporate gambling.

Certainly, a counter can be made that legal gambling is not illegal gambling; and a legal corporation would never do anything illegal (wink, wink).

Sorry, gang. Legal or illegal, if you can bet on it, you can fix it. That’s just fact.

But at times such as these when I find myself pondering and possibly reconsidering my standing on the matter of Pete Rose, Pete Rose, the vile, lying, narcissistic man turns around and does something to totally redeem my original thinking.

With permission from the Commissioner’s Office, Rose, now 81, attended a celebration of the 1980 world champion Phillies prior to Sunday’s game with the Nationals. He dismissed questions about his first appearance on the field in Philadelphia since the franchise scrapped plans in 2017 to honor him because of a woman’s allegation that he had had sex with her when she was a minor.

Rose has always claimed the girl was legal Ohio age of 16, while he was a married father in his mid-30s.

“It was 55 years ago, babe,” Rose told the female baseball writer who asked the question.

He then declined to answer any other questions in the dugout moments after a team photo in the outfield.

The reporter tweeted later Sunday that, after the ceremony, Rose asked her if he had offended her and offered to “sign 1,000 baseballs” for forgiveness before ultimately saying he was “sorry.”

Rose also blew off another question after the ceremony about the allegation and his comment earlier in the day.

“Who cares what happened 50 years ago?” Rose said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You weren’t even born. So you shouldn’t be talking about it, because you weren’t born. If you don’t know a damn thing about it, don’t talk about it.”

He also told reporters, “I’m going to tell you one more time: I’m here for the Philly fans, I’m here for my teammates, OK. I’m here for the Philly organization, and who cares what happened 50 years ago?”

For his pièce de résistance, Rose then went on the TV broadcast and cursed several times and used crude, locker room terms, including when talking about announcer and fellow former Phillies first baseman John Kruk, a testicular cancer survivor.

But it doesn’t matter. Like another man who is in the news a lot these days, his blind followers believe Pete Rose is above the law of the land (illegal gambling, tax evasion) and the laws of decency. And when he’s not? In their view, he’s entitled not to be.

He’s Pete Rose, after all. He’s the hit king. He’s Charlie hustle.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT