Part of the beauty of our great and singular nation is our elemental and seemingly innate ability to forgive and allow second - and sometimes multiple - chances. It is in fact a foundation of the American dream, the art of reinvention. This has been played out in serious ways with negative consequences affecting all the citizenry (see Nixon, Richard or Wall Street banks) as well as in more innocuous fashion (see Draper, Don from TV's Mad Men) with politicians, actors, parents, siblings, employees, artists and athletes all enjoying another shot at glory, redemption and success. It is, interestingly enough, a profoundly Catholic sensibility that has risen from our Puritan origins.
The notion and belief in redemption has for the most part proved beneficial to our nature, frequently aiding in our efforts to stake out the compassionate ground of our collective character.
But the flip side of forgiveness and redemption - or perhaps more aptly described as selective amnesia and denial - is that while it is necessary to survive and thrive through crisis, it also allows for too much to slip through, causing a blurring of the facts and a disturbing lack or permanent loss of perspective. So occasionally reminders must be sent out.
In sports, the narrative of second chances are routinely woven into nearly every major event and this year's baseball postseason is no exception. Indeed, the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball provide ample evidence of the inevitable triumph, whether deserved or not, of second chances.
It was entirely appropriate that Andy Pettitte was on the mound last night, pitching the Yankees to their 40th World Series with a strong performance that Yankee fans have become accustomed to in his two tours of duty in the Bronx. One can be excused for feeling as if they had been transported back to the late 1990's when Pettitte delivered clutch pitching in many a postseason contest.
The raucous applause from the Yankee faithful at the new stadium when Pettitte exited the game in the seventh inning could also be viewed through the lens of justifiable forgiveness - as his admirers were perhaps letting Pettitte know that they have long moved past his use of steroids.
When Pettitte admitted using human growth hormone on only a handful of occasions to fight off injury, there was nearly universal acceptance and belief in his statement. His upstanding character nearly demanded it. And nothing he has done before or since would give any fodder to his few detractors. The soft-spoken southpaw has been remarkably consistent in both his pitching and outward demeanor and his return to vintage form - pitching out of difficulty with a steady hand - has been entirely welcome.
But the big story of the 2009 postseason when it comes to redemption is obviously that of Alex Rodriguez. His storied, nearly epic hitting struggles in the clutch that commenced with the 2004 disaster against the Red Sox and continued on a raging downward spiral the following three years worth of playoff games have come to an abrupt and definitive end during this October. He has been the most prolific offensive force thus far in the Yankees' two series victories and it'd be surprising if he doesn't pummel National League pitching in the World Series.
But here is where there is an irksome loss of perspective. It appears to this writer that fans and commentators alike have put completely behind them the pathetic fact that A-Rod lied on numerous occasions in front of audiences both large and small, including a 60 Minutes interview, regarding his use of steroids during his years with the Texas Rangers - with the saddest aspect being that as talented as he was he needed no further advantage. And though he came clean, barely, when finally pressured many questions remain unanswered.
Lest people forget, the otherworldly talented Rodriguez stated back in February that he was "young, naive and stupid" during those years he was ingesting the banned substances and that he didn't know which drugs he was taking. We were supposed to buy the story that at the age of 27 he was still clueless - this after being a superstar and exposed to all of life's bounty by the time he was 20.
As we now know following the suspension of Manny Ramirez and the swirling suspicions surrounding his fellow Fenway Force David Ortiz, A-Rod was far from the only megastar whose name was linked to steroids over the last year and there is an argument that Rodriguez was unfairly outed and that if he weren't a Yankee it wouldn't have generated as much hype. These are not mortal sins after all, as we are talking about a game.
And A-Rod should be celebrated for his fertile fall but some tempering is called for - or at least a longer memory - before he is sainted in Yankee land following their 27th world title which they'll surely secure next week.
One individual who has clearly run out of chances and who needs to be cut off prematurely before his scheduled closing time in 2012 is our fair commissioner Bud Selig. For all his sincere love of the sport and his superb stewardship of his beloved Milwaukee Brewers three decades ago, Selig has been an utter failure as the overseer of America's pastime.
As if the steroid scandal and All-Star game fiasco weren't enough cause for his removal from his basically self-appointed position serving his fellow owners, we now are witness to yet another affront to baseball sensibilities - that is, the scheduling of the World Series in November. It is an absolute insult to the integrity and rhythm of the sport. Selig has proven to be all too complicit in our country's complete and total submission to moneyed interests which in Bud's case is TV ratings. But what Selig doesn't seem to grasp or see is that further erosion of the game's integrity puts the sport in jeopardy, something far more harmful than a drop in viewers.
Angels' manager Mike Scioscia put it best a few days ago when he said, "it's ridiculous, taking 21 days to play eight games. Can I say it any clearer than that? I think that it's something that eventually is going to have to be addressed. And I think that it does have an impact. I don't know if it has an impact so much on who wins or loses but it has an impact on the quality of play. And I think that's very, very important to the integrity of our game.''
Just like our fragile economy, do the important issues in baseball have to get even worse before any action is taken? Will the owners ever dare to let an outsider run the sport? After all that's the way it was done until Selig's ruinous reign. There have been good and bad commissioners in the past but at least they were not in on the fix so completely. One gets the feeling that fans aren't angry enough about how unsettling it is to have had an absence of objectivity in the sport's Park Avenue offices.
I mean, after all, you hear about those irrational, obsessed people fretting about how the chance of a "communistic", government aided healthcare program would spell doom for America - but I think the baseball fans among them would be well advised to turn their attention to protesting the fact that the owners are in a cabal all by themselves, something more similar to the Cold War era Soviet Politburo than anything liberals could come up with.