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The Lesson from Pete Roses Confession

Like a tune you cant get out of your head, I keep imagining Pete Rose and Bobby Jones meeting on the club car of a train. Jones plays the convivial host, chats up Rose about the game (Jones loved baseball as a boy), and buys drinks. And then Rose snatches Jones change from the bar.
Of course, Jones would protest politely in his deep, relaxing Atlanta drawl. And Rose would demur at the idea of returning the loot, saying, I guess Im supposed to feel all sorry, Bob. But Im just not built that way.
Many people who love golf also love baseball, so it must be grating to acknowledge that the greatest golfer who ever lived was a paragon of honesty while arguably the greatest baseball player is a lying, remorseless jerk. Fans of both games tend to want heroes of the Roy Hobbs mold, which magnifies the disappointment when they realize that only Jones truly approached that standard.
The Rose issue has to do with more than the Hall of Fame, which will forever be the center of an irresolvable debate as to which qualities it should reward and which ignore. Roses anything-but-contrite confession in his new book of gambling on baseball during his career gives baseball a chance to say, yes, we admit that a number of rogues populate our corridors of glory. But from now on, the once-and-future pastime will take a stand and demand reasonable citizenship of its greatest hitters, fielders, pitchers and managers. Of course, baseball wont do that. No ROI on that one.
But the Rose matter ' and the Bryant case, and the Rae Carruth episode, and a dozen others ' gives golf an indirect opportunity to capitalize on one of its greatest assets.
Yes, I have often noted golfs squeaky-clean image in this space. And Im not suggesting some sort of organized gloating. But maybe just resurrect an old tag line: These guys are good. No, I mean really good.
To be fair, the PGA and other tours have at times highlighted good works by their players. But in an age when there seems to be a deep hunger for sports heroes, there may be a vacuum the major tours should rush in and fill in a big way. While baseball continues to shoot itself in whats left of its foot, golf can solidify its foothold as the sport with athletes you want your kids to look up to.
There may never be a better time. Even baseballs nice guys, such as Sammy Sosa, cant handle the straight, narrow and uncorked. And throughout the pro game, the steroids thing lingers, at best in the form of doubt, and at worse as truth.
On the other hand, golf haswell, throw a dart at the PGA Tour Media Guide and open to the last page it pierces. Davis Love III? Rocco Mediate? Solid family men. Mike Weir? Charles Howell III? Fierce competitors and perfect gentlemen. Nick Price? Known more for his consistent affability than his consistent ball flight. The other tours are filled with good people as well, from Annika Sorenstam to Juli Inkster to Tom Watson to D.A. Points.
In a way, this approach could be called chicken-soup marketing. Explained by my mom, that would be, It couldnt hurt. Its not unreasonable to think that if other sports completely abdicate integrity to golf, then participation, fan interest and revenues could follow in years to come. Indeed, the PGA Tour has marketed sponsorships on the strength of its players character for years. Why not expand from a solely business-to-business methodology?
Maybe capitalizing on this opportunity wont immediately catapult golf to the No.1 sport in the world. But its a step in the right direction ' and for sports, in the direction of right.
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