The Wildwood Boardwalk is a veritable potpourri of indulgence and goofiness. It’s a wonderful, wacky place. You have roller coaster rides and water parks. Haunted houses. Sketchy hucksters trying to lure you to play their fixed games of chance. Feeling hungry? Nothing hits the spot like a slice of boardwalk pizza. And, of course, there is that beloved mode of transportation, the Tramcar.
It also has more T-shirt shops per capita than anywhere in the world (unofficial count). So last week, while on vacation down the shore, I happened upon one such place. There I spotted a throwback Charlie Hustle shirt with the image of baseball’s all-time hit king, sliding headfirst on the front. Being a huge Pete Rose fan as a kid, holding dear that memory of him being the final piece to put the perennially close Phillies clubs of the late 1970s over the top. And being a proponent of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was a no-brainer, I bought it. Little did I know, I would get exactly one wear out the garment.
When word surfaced early this week that Rose, during sworn testimony, admitted to engaging in a relationship with a girl either 16 years old or younger in the '70s, my first reaction after wanting to throw up and take a shower was to toss my new shirt.
No more can I defend the guy. No more can I separate Rose the epitome of what you would want as a player with Rose the train wreck of a human being. I shouldn’t have been surprised, none of us should. He bet on baseball and, perhaps worse, carried on a lie about for the ensuing 20-plus years. Not to mention that pesky jail sentence for tax evasion. But I was willing to forgive while looking forward to his induction into the Phillies' Wall of Fame next week. However, this latest news and Rose’s testimonial justification that she was of the consensual age of 16 when he was a 34-year-old married, father of two, drove me to the point of check out.
Couple the Rose revelation with Allen Iverson’s latest Houdini act and subsequent one-game BIG3 League suspension by Ice Cube (you can’t make this stuff up), and it hasn’t been a banner couple of weeks for former Philadelphia sports icons.
One of the tenet’s of sports from a fan’s perspective is this: It should provide an escape from the real world. And when said reality creeps into our fantasy bubble, it’s a bummer. To deny die-hard, unconditional supporters a chance to see you play one more time on the Wells Fargo Center floor, even for a token cameo is wrong. Same with Phillies fans, who have been waiting for nearly 40 years to celebrate Rose. Those folks are the ones who get it in the end.
Iverson supporters, while bummed presently, will be more apt to forgive his transgressions. But in the case of Rose, the long-term, permanent damage for many like me has been done. It does make you appreciate players like Brian Dawkins, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley that much more. But ultimately, we don’t know what is going on with any of these guys. Either way, it’s no fun when reality creeps into our sporting cocoons.
And while we’re at it, watch the Tramcar, please.