(This is a solo column by Joe, the senior citizen writer for the Gab Four. Visit their official Web site and read more about Joe and the other members of the Gab Four at www.MyBriefs.com.)
A rose bush summons to mind the beauty of one of nature’s preeminent flowers. So too do the names, Rose and Bush, summon to mind the prowess of two of the greatest athletes in sports history. Just as a rose bush’s beauty can be choked by an invading vine, so too will the athletes Rose and Bush be forever choked by the tentacles of the word “ineligible.”
Pete Rose, one of the greatest baseball players to ever don the uniform, came right out of high school to join the Cincinnati Reds in 1963. Arguably, 1968 and 1969 were his zenith years, where he won back-to-back batting titles, hitting a hefty .348 in the latter year. Always the hustler on the base paths, he earned the nickname, “Charlie Hustle.” But, his greatest accomplishment is that he is one of two men, (Ty Cobb), to surpass 4,000 hits in a career that spanned 23 years.
Reggie Bush, the USC running back, set the freshman record in 2003 for all-purpose yards of 1,331 yards. After three years at a position where he started only 13 of 39 games, he accumulated 6,890 total all-purpose yards and earned numerous awards, including the Heisman Trophy in 2005 with a whopping 705 first place vote margin and a total 933 margin over the second place finisher (Vince Young).
All of their athletic milestones were achieved with pure athleticism; unaided performances, and their only enhancements were natural ability. Nevertheless, the powers that be in any sport have used their powers and stepped in to prohibit in one instance, and threaten to remove in the other, a justified award. Induction to the Hall of Fame for Rose and the possible revocation of the Heisman for Bush are the sanctions that loom. The triggering mechanism for this outcome is one simple word, “ineligible.”
Ineligible, by definition, means, “not legally entitled.” Who is ever legally entitled to an award or a position of honor? These accolades are bestowed by reason of the excellence of the performances that they acknowledge-nothing more, nothing less. How then are the gambling incidents by Rose and the gratuities acceptances by Bush sufficient indiscretions to amount to a legal entitlement to banish and remove?
Their performances will always stand as great athletic accomplishments worthy of the awards and recognitions that accompany them. Our memories of a rose bush in full bloom cannot be tarnished by an ugly vine that seeks to choke out such beauty.