Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Expurgation, Chris Benoit, O. J. Simpson, and the Holiness of God

You recall this:

C[ustomer]: I saw it over there: "Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds".
P[roprietor]: (pause; trying to stay calm) "Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds"?
C: Yes...
P: O-L-S-E-N?
C: Yes....
P: B-I-R-D-S??
C: Yes.....
P: (beat) Yes, well, we do have that, as a matter of fact....
C: The expurgated version....
P: (pause; politely) I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that...?
C: The expurgated version.
P: (exploding) The EXPURGATED version of "Olsen's Standard Book of British
C: (desperately) The one without the gannet!
P: The one without the gannet-!!! They've ALL got the gannet!! It's a
Standard British Bird, the gannet, it's in all the books!!!
C: (insistent) Well, I don't like them...they wet their nests.
P: (furious) All right! I'll remove it!! (rrrip!) Any other birds you don't
C: I don't like the robin...
P: (screaming) The robin! Right! The robin! (rrrip!) There you are, any
others you don't like, any others?
C: The nuthatch?
P: Right! (flipping through the book) The nuthatch, the nuthatch, the
nuthatch, 'ere we are! (rrriiip!) There you are! NO gannets, NO robins,
NO nuthatches, THERE's your book!
C: (indignant) I can't buy that! It's torn!

One of the male hosts of Roggin and Simers Squared - I think it was T.J. Simers, but it could have been Fred Roggin - was talking about the Chris Benoit episode over the weekend. The host stated that when a Chris Benoit or an O.J. Simpson commits murder, then any of that person's prior accomplishments cannot even be considered any more.

I disagree.

When looking at a person's life, you need to look at the whole life. Regardless of what he did to his wife and child, the fact remains that Chris Benoit did whatever it is he did for the WWE, and no amount of Stalinist information purging can abolish that fact. O. J. Simpson was still a good rusher, and Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson were danged good baseball players.

Perhaps the reason that I feel this way is because of my belief in the innate sinfulness of all of us. Yes, it is a bad thing that O. J. Simpson killed two people. But it is also a bad thing that Steve Garvey cheated on his wife, and at a minimum we know that Kobe Bryant cheated on his, and it's a bad thing that Tommy Lasorda cusses up a storm, and for all I know Orel Hershiser exceeded the speed limit while driving to work one day. Where do you draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior? In God's eyes, all sin is sin, deserving of death. So I can't necessarily condemn some sins and excuse others.

I'm not necessarily saying that sports figures who commit crimes shouldn't be banned from their respective Halls of Fame. One may choose to exclude Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson for whatever reason, on or off the field.

However, I do feel that sports records should not be removed just because someone commits a crime - unless the crime was involved with the sports record itself (can you say Barry Bonds?). O. J. Simpson's rushing statistics should stand.

After writing the words above, I ran across the following from David Deeble:

The fact is that to lay a finger on O.J. [Simpson]'s records because he deliberately snuffed out the lives of two innocent people is a non-sequitir: the second part of the sentence does not follow the first. [Barry] Bonds is an entirely different scenario: he will likely knock The Babe and The Hammer down a notch on the all-time list precisely because of steroids.

The moral case for removing O.J. Simpson from the football Hall of Fame is more persuasive. Induction to any hall of fame confers a tremendous honor - an honor which should not be conferred by merely crunching numbers with sufficient disinterest. Would removing O.J.'s bronze bust from Canton create immense controversy? You bet it would - a controversy which this country desperately needs: over the sanctity of innocent human beings.


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