The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

July 26, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Hall of Shame could be filled with athletes

MORGANTOWN — I do not in any way lay claim of originality to this, although it is my intention to take it to a higher level than my friend and one-time work colleague Bob Ibach, a former public relations director of the Chicago Cubs, did when he put the idea on Facebook.

This is how he formulated it:

New idea for a Hall of Shame. It could be a museum to showcase all of our athletes who have gone wrong ... think of the names. Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Tyson, Jose Canseco, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Tonya Harding, Ray Lewis, Aaron Hernandez, Rae Carruth, Reggie Bush, O.J. Simpson, Plaxico Burress, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Pete Rose, Rafael Palmeiro, Ben Johnson, Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Gilbert Arenas, Tiki Barber, John Rocker, Dave Parker, Jane Blaylock, Steve Howe ... the list is endless.

As I thought about this, I figured that Bob was simply making a point with his Hall of Shame, rather than proposing an actual structure to be built, open to the public, but it certainly isn’t a bad idea.

This is especially true as our Halls of Fame are now beginning to exclude many of the names of the players involved in such acts – Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson leading the way, but with the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Parker and how many others going to borderline status with voters, not on their performances but on such matters of gambling or performance-enhancing drug use or association with even the most vile of crimes as in the case of O.J. Simpson and Aaron Hernandez.

It is obvious by looking at that list that even though it seems at present we are being overwhelmed with Hall of Shame candidates in Hernandez, Ryan Braun, A-Rod and others, that sin is hardly a modern-day athletic phenomena.

No sport has been immune, be it Tonya Harding’s figure skating assault, Lance Armstrong’s cycling doping or Michael Vick’s journey into the inhumane world of dog fighting.

That you are a world-class athlete says nothing about your character. In truth, it may even open up avenues to actions that are not available to the common people … building up one’s ego, being put in positions where people cover up his wrongdoings in order to keep him eligible.

An athlete is normally driven to win and to be the best, and if he will bite off the ear of an opponent in the ring or cut him dangerously at the knees on a football field or throw a 97-mph fastball at his ear, he surely will have a difficult time separating similar behavior from his life on the streets.

Add to it so many athletes coming from impoverished families without proper guidance or education growing up, and you have seeds planted for trouble.

This not something for the rich and famous alone, as we have seen over and over here in West Virginia. Just this past week a WVU defensive player named Korey Harris was arrested for an armed break-in, incredibly identified by a witness by his team-issued sweat pants that bore his number, 96.

It is something that cannot be ignored. Adam “Pac Man” Jones, who had the world at his feet, wound up clubbing another student with a pool cue at the end of his first summer camp, even before taking a class at WVU.

He went on to become a solid professional player, but was involved in a night club shooting incident and only recently now seems to have turned the corner in his personal life.

There are, of course, far too many others to mention, so much so that while you realize the great majority of athletes are clean, law-abiding citizens, there is a sizeable segment of that population that writes its own history.

So why not a Hall of Shame somewhere?

One of the newest and most interesting attractions in Washington, D.C., is the Crime Museum, which covers the history of crime and punishment and offers all you want to know about CSI. In Niagara Falls, N.Y., of all places, there is a Criminals Hall of Fame Wax Museum, dubbed in 2002 by Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as “a cheesy little monument to brutality.”

The idea of an athletic Hall of Shame would not be to glorify them, but to point out how they went wrong, why they went wrong, what they cost themselves and how they hurt and disappointed the millions of fans who worshipped them.

What better display could there be than one signifying the federal courthouse in Chicago? It’s where the Black Sox were tried with Joe Jackson coming out and being approached on the steps leading to the building by a ragged newsboy, offering only one comment.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe,” he said.

And that would be what this Hall of Shame would really be about …

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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