Are You Comfortable with Winning at All Costs?

Are You Comfortable with Winning at All Costs?

Let me first say that I'm at least as competitive as the next guy. I quit playing on a work softball team that included many of my friends to join another with total strangers just to win a few more games and a free t-shirt. But, that said, there are other aspects of sports and my favorite teams that I put on par with winning.

For the last three seasons, I have taken at least one of my children to basketball camp down at Indiana University. Seeing the players and coaches interacting with all the kids, mine in particular, has served to develop quite a soft spot in my protective shell.

I mean, it's easier to yell and scream at the TV and complain about the players when they're just laundry. But when we are forced to humanize those players, things begin to take on a bit more dimension and it may become harder to criticize. Of course, that cuts in opposite direction as well. In other words, we can become so enamored of a team or player that we look past obvious flaws.

And while we could certainly steer this topic toward money, the answer to the headline would then be neither as nuanced nor as difficult to answer. After all, it's pretty easy to dream about spending someone else's money and simply break the bank to sign every free agent who comes along.

No, I'm talking about the cost of bringing on players who have baggage, be it behavioral, legal, or pharmaceutical. What is the value of your soul as a fan when compared the desire to win a title? I would ask Yankees or Dodgers fans, but I don't really know that either group provides an accurate measure.

The former segment has too many titles (27) to fairly judge the value of just one, and the latter is no good because, well, I have long questioned the presence of a soul in anyone from LA. Sorry, Angelinos, just my humble Midwestern opinion.

Or perhaps I could go ask Ravens fans how they feel about Ray Rice, the stud running back who was recently suspended only 2 games for cold-cocking his wife. Despite video evidence of the act, no charges were pressed and Rice will be on the field for Baltimore in Week 3. How much money have Rice and the NFL made off of pink #27 jerseys?

Our WilcoMeThat put together a list of his most-hated Cubs, a compilation of cretins who everyone was glad to see leave the North Side. But would those players have been so reviled had they won a title? Look at a guy like AJ Pierzynski; by all accounts, he's a class-A douchebag, but White Sox fans still carry a torch for the guy.

Cubs fans were nearly unanimous in their overlooking of Sammy Sosa's rapid inflation and me-first clubhouse presence until he was eventually traded away. And Milton Bradley was welcomed with open arms before failure to perform on the field earned him a cold shoulder. And Carlos Zambrano?

Indiana Pacers fans were enjoying their rough-around-the-edges squad in 2004, a team that surrounded an aging Reggie Miller with characters like Jamaal Tinsley, Stephen Jackson, and the man formerly known as Ron Artest. That all changed on November 19th; I think you know what happened, so I'll not rehash other than to say it was the greatest live television I've ever watched.

That team had been on pace to win the East, if not an NBA title. After the Malice at the Palace though, the rabble started about how the team was full of thugs and things needed to change. They wanted a team that better reflected the community, so that's what they got. And no one was happy because the team didn't win and wasn't any fun to watch.

It's said that winning cures all ills, but is that true for you? What about you? It's easy for all of us to sit atop our high horses and say that we want our team to be populated by choirboys who spout cliched Bull Durham-esque platitudes and follow all the rules, both written and un. But is that what we want, really?

By all accounts, the kids the Cubs have coming up through the system have great makeup. Maybe they were born with it, maybe it's Maybelline; either way, there are some good young men with immense talent on their way to Chicago. I experienced that firsthand while watching the Daytona Cubs and talking with Dan Vogelbach recently.

But it's inconceivable that all the prospects would work out, so one must assume that Thed Epstoyer will need to cull some talent from the free agent pool or via trade. Would you be willing to get a guy who's a known cancer if it meant a title? Is it okay for him to metastasize as long you get your wish granted before he affects too many people?

I honestly don't know where I fall on this question, and that's why I'm asking you, loyal reader. Because while part of me thinks I'd feel all oogy about winning behind Parker Brothers or another such player, the other part would be too busy reveling in the joy of a championship to care.

If I had to guess, I'd say that most of you would take the title and deal with the bad apples later, but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.


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  • Reverse order:
    1. Epstoyer already showed their hand with Manny, who they deem to be a good influence on the AAA hopes of the future.
    2. A.J. wasn't a cheater, but knew better how to work the rules legitimately. Too bad the Angels couldn't figure out the "dropped third strike rule." On the other hand, it sure appears that SamMe was an egotistical jerk besides a cheater. Now, if you want to argue whether baseball has any true remorse for the steroid era, that's another question. Also, someone has to figure out how the cork got "accidentally" into SamMe's game bat.
    3. Rodman was probably the basketball equivalent of AJ, but local perception suddenly changed when he went from Detroit to Chicago. Then he became a slightly weird guy who went to the hair salon in Northbrook Court.
    4. Even if it took cheating, winning in 2003 was preferable to tanking in 2012-2014.
    5. By bringing up the NBA (and probably add World Cup association football), all sports seem too immersed in lawyers on and off the field for my taste.

  • In reply to jack:

    What lawyers are on the field? Tony La Russa doesn't count.

  • In reply to Ryan Davis:

    Tony, sure, but maybe those acting like lawyers, such as during replay delayed for "did the toe come off the base when the tag was on the buttocks?" Also, apparently football requires the challenge flag fairly immediately, while in baseball the manager trots out, waits for the signal from the dugout, usually goes back, but if there is a challenge, the announcers then sit around to see if there is indisputable evidence, or indisputable to Joe Torre. It sure isn't the days of Earl Weaver coming out, kicking dirt on the ump's shoes, and being thrown out. That was baseball.

    But I was thinking more about the basketball and alleged soccer flops, where my impression was that if a soccer player puts a hand on another player, it is a foul, regardless of whether the one fouled was pulled down.

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