Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ethics are for Losers

It's the oldest cliche that history is written by the winners, but sports, whose very raison d'etre is to produce winners, are so perfect an example of this truism that it's worth dusting off for another look.

It's been tossed out there already that if the Knicks just started winning, all of their off-court transgressions would become trivial. This is absolutely true, but usually when people write this they mean it in the most cynical way possible. That is to say that everyone's sexual indiscretions and character flaws will go away, not that they should go away, and even then they mean will go away in the media, not will go away in the eyes of The Lord, or something like that.

But then there's Marc Berman, pushing things to new levels of amorality: "JUST WIN, ISIAH!"

Berman ups the ante on the popular sports religion that places winning above all. When he writes:

"Thomas certainly will be booed loudly during the home opener Sunday and he must realize the boos are not just about his sexual-harassment defeat in court, but 118-182. It is all intertwined."

It truly isn't intertwined to Berman. What he means is that he could care less about the sexual-harassment defeat and the host of other character issues facing Isiah. He wants to see some victories. Berman's bullying tone takes on the the air of a jeremiad, but his column is in service of The Desolate One, promoting the trivial to religious status.

Look, the book about my beloved '86 Mets is called "The Bad Guys Won!" The violently misogynistic Jailblazers, whose Portland fans literally bought billboard space to decry, would have surely received similarly cheeky reverence if they had only made good on their championship promise. A strategically timed broken foot from Shaq and we'd be reading "The Jailblazers Won!" at Barnes and Noble instead. Just ask Rasheed Wallace, the tattooed technical machine and poster boy for Portland's bad boy era, who rehabilitated his legend almost overnight by winning a championship with Detroit.

I ask my basketball team to hit threes and play defense, not emulate Gandhi. Not that I take pride in having a convicted sexual harasser on the bench. But seriously, Marc Berman, even if it is true that:

"Thomas has to realize the only place he needs to win now is on the basketball court and everything else will take care of itself."

Do we really have to celebrate it?

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