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FIRST PERSON: The cure-all

TUPELO, Miss. (BP)–Hey there, Mr. Clemens. Heard you got lumped in with the juicers. Too bad. Don’t worry, the immediate fallout will be severe, but if you can toe that rubber for three or four more seasons and get to 400 wins – and cast doubt on what George Mitchell has reported about you – the Hall of Fame voters will likely let you in.

And you, Coach Sampson, of the itchy trigger finger. Put down the phone for a second and let me tell you a surefire way to get folks off your back: Win like Bobby Knight circa 1987.

Coach Belichick, you’ve figured this out. Got caught taping your opponents’ signals, media came down on you. So you came up with a quick-fix solution (with apologies to Al Davis): Just win, baby!

Winning is like that medicine your grandma gave you whether you had the sniffles or the Black Plague: It cures all ills. It resolves more sticky situations than vinegar. It magically transforms goats into gods, grumbling into gratitude, controversy into cotton candy. Winning brings forgiveness – or forgetfulness, whichever works – and often absolution.

Winning is the new morality. Forget how cleanly a college football program is run, or whether superstars stay away from those night clubs and bars. They don’t erect statues of clean-cut choir boys – unless they win.

We can measure wins and losses, and it’s through that prism that we assess a coach’s or an athlete’s true worth. Now, that’s not to say we’ll accept a winner who keeps staying in trouble. We’re people of integrity, and we can’t let the opposition say they’re more family-friendly than us. We want that demographic, too.

By the way, it’s quite important to make others believe that we’re tough on bad behavior. Especially when we’re losing. You see, losing makes us so angry that merely complaining about how our team is playing is not a sufficient outlet for our moral outrage.

When someone’s down, we will indeed raise that foot of self-righteousness and swing away: “We need a coach who’s committed to the players!” “With that attitude – and .254 batting average –- our third baseman has worn out his welcome.” “I never stopped booing Donovan McNabb!”

OK, so there doesn’t always have to be a morality element to our diatribes. That would make it harder to be fickle, especially for the Yankees fans among us.

Speaking of the Yankees, Joe Girardi was a great hire. Smart, great guy, and most importantly, a proven winner.

Don’t worry, coach, if ever you get in a bind, I’ve got Belichick’s phone number.
Brad Locke is a sports writer for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. Write to him at [email protected].

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