© Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Who did it better: Brad Pitt in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”, or Alex Bregman in “Once Upon A Time In the Grapefruit League?”
Who did it better: Joe Pesci in “The Irishman”, or Jim Crane in “The Owner”?
Who did it better: Bong Joon Ho directing “Parasite”, or AJ Hinch directing “Codebreaker”?
That’s where we’re at as a sports- and apology-loving society. We looked deep into the Houston Astros eyes and said: “I dunno … could you do it again? Take two? This time, with feeling?”
This is a perplexing place we are in, fellow citizens.
We are now in the business of *judging apologies*.
Like, had the Astros delivered a Denzel-level apology, were we supposed to applaud and forgive?
When the only reason in the first place they were apologizing is because, as the great Will Clark used to say on KNBR: “You got caught, partner”?
Had Mike Fiers never blown the whistle on the Astros and their electronic shenanigans, the Astros would not be apologizing for anything. They’d be strutting around.
But once Fiers blew the whistle, the Astros had to enter society’s most unforgiving gamut: the public apology.
How many of these have we seen through the years?
Lance Armstrong. Tiger Woods. Michael Vick. Barry Bonds.
Wait. Scratch that. Barry Bonds isn’t about to apologize for jack. Carry on.
Anyway, my point is: the whole exercise feels artificial, and a product of overly-saturated media society. Paulie Mac made a joke on air today about how things have changed, how back in the 1970s “Lee Majors could wreck his T-bird and show up on the set of ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ the next morning not saying a word.”
A classic Paulie riff, and he’s right. We are now in a strange, artificial world of demanding, and then judging, and often finding tremendous fault with … public apologies.
I’m not letting the Astros off the hook here. What they did clearly crossed the line, and brings to the front burner the changing ethical codes of baseball front offices, as salty old baseball dogs give way to hyper-educated Ivy Leaguers in pursuit of the bottom line. Plus, there’s the role of the evil siren song of technology adding to the confusion, as I was just saying to my good friend George Orwell.
So the Astros took an age-old code of gamesmanship, and turned it into an overly-designed cheat code that offended all baseball lifers. They should be sorry.
What should they have said? I’m not sure anything would have been sufficient, but there is a human art to the act of contrition, one in which they fell woefully short — especially the defiant owner, Jim Crane. Crane has been on our show every year from Pebble Beach, and we’ve always enjoyed his low-key frankness. But in a situation like this, his “owner” gene came through too strongly. By that I mean, when a guy gets that powerful and rich, he often loses touch with reality. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re deciding whether to lay your head at your Pebble Beach home, your Beverly Hills home, or your Texas mansion.
Probably the best thing the Astros could have done is give a conversation about how human beings throughout history have often gotten caught up in illicit behavior, about how hard it is to say no when a World Series awaits, about how greed and competitiveness is a real thing and how ethics are frequently the first victim of those twin powers.
In other words, to keep it real. But real doesn’t work in sound bytes, or tweets, does it?
In the meantime, we all become Roger Ebert and Mick LaSalle and Rotten Tomatoes critics. We rub our chins and judge their apologies. See you at the Oscars, sports fans.