Thursday, July 31, 2014

7 comments It's Fine to Use Cocaine, Just Don't Die From It or You Don't Deserve To Be in the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame

John Feinstein doesn't think Len Bias deserves to be in the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame. He's too dead to deserve this honor. For some reason Feinstein brings Pete Rose into the discussion as well, possibly because he realized he didn't have enough material to write a column on why Len Bias doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. John Feinstein believes the character clause should come into play, and since Len Bias made the mistake of dying of a drug overdose, he doesn't deserve induction into the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame. Of course, John Lucas is in the University of Maryland Hall of Fame and he famously used drugs. That is totally different from Len Bias because John Lucas had the foresight to not die of his drug use. I mean, if you are going to use drugs, at least have the ability to not die. If you die, there goes your chances at making the Hall of Fame. 

The picture of John Feinstein that accompanies this article looks like it was taken in 1987. It may be time to update the pic. I'm pretty sure there is a Roxy Music poster somewhere in the background of the picture.

More than 28 years after his death rocked the sports world, Len Bias is going to be inducted to the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame this October, the school announced Wednesday.

What a travesty. Bias used drugs and wasn't even super-clutch enough to handle the drugs he was taking. By allowing Bias into the Hall of Fame, the University of Maryland is saying, "We support people who use drugs and aren't even tough enough to not die of drug use." That's not a message they should be sending.

Almost 25 years after being banned from baseball for betting on games, Pete Rose still is begging to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The question is this: Should either one of them be in any hall of fame?

And these two situations are completely analogous, that's the important thing to focus on. Dying of cardiac arrest caused by cocaine and betting on baseball. Definitely not an apples and oranges comparison.

Rose is baseball’s all-time hits leader — 4,256 — and if he hadn’t been caught betting on baseball, he would have been a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer five years after he last played in 1986.

If a frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's ass on the ground. If Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens had not used PED's then they would be in the Hall of Fame. If I were a foot taller I would have a better chance of being a professional athlete.

Bias is — almost without argument — the greatest basketball player in Maryland history.

(Lonny Baxter reads this sentence with a tear in his eye)

If he hadn’t died of a cocaine overdose soon after being taken with the No. 2 pick in the 1986 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, he would have been in the school’s Hall of Fame the moment he was eligible.

But he died, and everyone knows that dead people SHOULD NOT be allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. You die, that's a character flaw. No Hall of Fame for you.

But greatness as a player has never been an issue with either Rose or Bias. 

Which is why Bias shouldn't be allowed to enter the University of Maryland Hall of Fame, a place reserved for players who showed greatness in athletics while playing for the University of Maryland. Sure, he was great and meets that criteria, but he's dead. What kind of great athlete can't handle a little cocaine? Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry handled their cocaine. Maybe Bias wasn't such a great athlete after all.

There is no doubt a stain of mendacity on Rose that never fell on Bias.

Look at Mr. Fancy with his big words. Mendacity. Well, Pete Rose lied for a decade about whether he bet on baseball and then only revealed that he did bet on baseball once he got the chance to make money from his admission. Len Bias was a college kid who used cocaine and died as a result. You can sort of see where the stain of lies is on Rose, but not Bias. Bias being a liar isn't an issue with his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Rose only stopped lying about betting on baseball in 2004 because he was peddling a book and because he believed — as he said as recently as this week — that if he finally fessed up, Selig would reinstate him. He didn’t do it because his conscience caught up with him but because he was tring to sell books and because he thought he would get off the hook if he said, “Yeah, yeah, you got me.”

Hey, I said it first!

There’s a character clause on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which is why no one should ever vote for Rose or any of those who took steroids and lied about taking them.

I'm getting bored of rehashing the same argument over and over...but I also can't turn down having the same argument over and over. MLB didn't care about the character clause when letting assholes like Ty Cobb into the Hall of Fame. MLB didn't care about letting cheaters in the Hall of Fame when electing Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford into the Hall of Fame. Don't even get me started about the large amounts of players in the MLB Hall of Fame used "greenies" at some point in their career. It's laughable to discuss the character clause in terms of the Baseball Hall of Fame, as if everyone in the Baseball Hall of Fame is of the highest moral character and no player shall demean the group of angels currently represented in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There also is a character clause attached to the Maryland Hall of Fame. Apparently the committee decided 28 years was enough time either to look the other way or believe that dying of a cocaine overdose doesn’t represent a major character flaw.

Dying of a cocaine overdose doesn't represent a major character flaw. I like how Feinstein seems to differentiate between using cocaine and dying of a cocaine overdose. Sure, it's fine to use cocaine and then rehab yourself a few years later. John Lucas is a great example of this. Don't use cocaine and then die from this cocaine use, because you don't get a chance to get older and redeem yourself. Now your cocaine use becomes a character flaw. If you are going to fuck up, just be sure you live long enough to beg forgiveness for the fuck up.

Of course many people, including Lefty Driesell, who recruited and coached Bias, have convinced themselves Bias had never used cocaine before that night. Others have tried to make Bias into some kind of martyr. He was neither innocent nor a martyr.

I'm glad John Feinstein is able to have some real talk with us about Len Bias. He probably had used cocaine prior to that night, but no one really knows for sure. Bias isn't a martyr, but he is an excellent example of how drug use can derail a person's life and career.

It cost him his life — and it cost Maryland dearly.

Sure, drug use cost Len Bias his life, but his drug use really cost Maryland dearly. The Bias family could always make another baby that's a once in a lifetime athlete, but Maryland was going to need at least five to ten years to pull their program back together.

Driesell insists to this day that, in spite of his death and the way he died, Bias was good for Maryland, that many players wanted to go there because they were so enamored of him as a player. Gary Williams, who had to deal with the specter of Bias’s death when he arrived on campus in 1989, disagrees.

There were kids who were great players who were decent students who we couldn’t get in school because Maryland was trying to prove it was recruiting a different kind of athlete.

This is mainly why Len Bias shouldn't be in the University of Maryland Hall of Fame. His death led to the University raising their academic standards for athletes. How is Gary Williams supposed to coach his team if the players have to be academically eligible to get into the school? Thanks Len Bias, thanks for dying and encouraging the school to recruit a different kind of athlete. No University of Maryland athlete whose death causes the school to raise academic standards deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. No way. No how.

Of course reportedly part of the reason Gary Williams retired is because he wasn't happy that the University was not allowing some of the recruits into the school due to these recruits failing to have the requisite grades allowing them to gain entry into the University of Maryland. So Williams definitely has a type of player he recruits for better or worse and there are obviously exceptions. I think Williams really retired because he realized he had offered Alex Len a scholarship and this was such a black stain on his resume he had no choice but to retire.

I remember after we lost to Duke in the Final Four in 2001, feeling as if a lot of Maryland people still thought, ‘Well, that’s who we are. Something’s always going to go wrong.’

At least Gary Williams didn't have a victim's mentality about it. I wonder how Williams felt after Maryland won the national title the very next year? I'm sure Williams is happy with Maryland deciding to take the money and run off to the Big 10, where they will be an even more irrelevant football program and the basketball team will benefit by allowing fellow Big 10 teams inroads into recruiting in the Maryland/DC area. Guys like Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter who went to Maryland because it was comfortable and close to home can feel safer choosing Ohio State now that they know their family can see them play in Maryland once a year or so.

It’s as if some people want to forget that the reason he died was because he did something wrong. That’s a fact, and there’s no getting away from that fact. I saw the results of it up close.

Right, Len Bias did do something "wrong." It's a little insensitive to put it that way I think, but it's factually accurate. It would be like saying I shouldn't feel bad for Juan Dixon being an orphan because his parents did something wrong and left him behind. After all, they were drug addicts and had AIDS. I'm guessing if I said I wouldn't extend sympathy to Juan Dixon because his parents did something wrong then Gary Williams would think I'm an asshole. 

“If the publicity from this reminds some kids that this can happen, this does happen, not just to famous athletes, then maybe that way some good can come of it.”

I think that's pretty much what Len Bias' death did. It's a reminder even great athletes can use drugs and die from them. 

The question, ultimately, in deciding whether someone is a hall of famer is whether they elevated their sport, their school or their profession. Some sports’ halls of fame rely strictly on numbers, even though they often paint an incomplete picture.

Of course Len Bias did before his life could be a complete picture, which I think is an important thing to know. His life was an incomplete picture. Yes, hall of fames have tended to rely on outside actions of late, but the Baseball Hall of Fame and the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame have not in the past, or else guys like Gaylord Perry and John Lucas wouldn't be in each respective hall of fame.

Baseball was sullied and damaged by Rose’s actions, which should mean the privilege of being in the Hall of Fame is taken from him in spite of his remarkable achievements.

The same, sadly, should be true of Bias. There’s no questioning he lit up the Maryland campus for four years. But there’s also no questioning he left it in darkness for many years in the wake of his death.

So Len Bias should not be inducted into the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame, not because he used drugs, but because he died while using drugs. Death was his character flaw. If he had been man enough not to suffer cardiac arrest, and then redeem himself by playing basketball well in the NBA, then he very well could deserve to be in the Maryland Hall of Fame. But like a little bitch who can't hold his drugs, he died from using cocaine, so no Hall of Fame for him. 

Unlike Rose, Bias should be forgiven.

You are forgiven for dying, Len Bias! Congratulations! John Feinstein has absolved you from the sin of dying. 

But, like Rose, he should not be honored.

Pitied, certainly. But honored? No.

Because he died from using drugs? The University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame already has someone inducted who used drugs, so clearly the character clause (here's a shock) is arbitrarily ignored when convenient. The lesson here to "the kids" is that if you want to make sure you get into your college's athletics hall of fame, use all the drugs you want, just don't die from using those drugs. Read Keith Richards' biography, he'll show you how to do it.


Anonymous said...

I assume Feinstein is trying to make the point, however badly, that putting Bias in would seem to glorify drug abuse when I think it would be the opposite. In my opinion it would remind everyone of how special him, and his achievements for the University were and how he never got to continue exhibiting greatness due to his tragic death, which in turn might hopefully shine a light on hard drug abuse and it's dangers.

On a minor note are there really morality clauses for University Hall of Fame? I mean if Len Bias had been a serial killer I would imagine Maryland simply wouldn't put him up for consideration. This isn't the baseball of fame.

I've probably gone on too long but my last point. It's only the University of Maryland Hall of Fame. It's not like Obama is giving him the Medal of Honor.

Anonymous said...

Oops should have paid a little more attention know UMD does have a character. However like you said,I doubt accidental death is covered in that.

Anonymous said...

"It’s as if some people want to forget that the reason he died was because he did something wrong. That’s a fact, and there’s no getting away from that fact."

My God, Len Bias DID SOMETHING WRONG. No one in the history of the world had ever done anything wrong until Len Bias. What a ridiculous set of expectations Feinstein has for the Maryland Hall of Fame. If you ever did something wrong, you can't get in.

HE DID SOMETHING WRONG. Who the fuck talks like this, besides a parent to an 8 year old? Everybody makes mistakes, including you John Feinstein. This whole thing reeks of the sort of moral judgement that I can't stand in sports writing. I don't read a sports column to be preached about right and wrong. John Feinstein has done absolutely nothing in his life to have earned the right to cast judgement upon others, and neither have these other sports writers who become judge, jury and executioner anytime the subject of a Hall of Fame comes up.

rich said...

Some sports’ halls of fame rely strictly on numbers, even though they often paint an incomplete picture.

Mickey Mantle being an alcoholic.

Orlando Cespeda was once arrested for drug use.

Wade Boggs had an affair and a scandal that ensued.

Ty Cobb was such an asshole, 53 years later he's still known for being a complete asshole.

If you want to talk football, you can look to one O.J. Simpson.

Fairly soon, we can probably add Jamal Lewis to the list who missed part of a season because he was in jail for arranging a drug deal.

The closest you can get to Bias though is Bernard King, who was just inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame... a player who had a massive drug problem.

If you want to argue that anyone who has ever made a mistake should ever be honored, then fine, but you have to make a better argument than this:

The question, ultimately, in deciding whether someone is a hall of famer is whether they elevated their sport, their school or their profession.

What does drug use have to do with any of that? Len Bias absolutely elevated the sport and his school.

Regardless of how you feel on the drug issue, Len Bias is absolutely 100% tied to UMD basketball, so even if you don't honor Bias, all you're doing is changing the question from "Should Bias be honored" to "Why isn't Bias being honored?"

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I tend to agree with you. If anything, Bias is tied into the dangers of drugs. It's not a statement that drugs are awesome, but a statement that drugs can end the life of even the most in shape athlete if not used following the Keith Richards Procedure of Drug Use.

Even if they had a morality clause, they ignored it for John Lucas. He just got to live long enough to redeem himself. Bias is being punished for dying.

Anon2, yeah John Feinstein has done something to be able to cast judgment on others. He has a computer, a point of view and a air of moral superiority. That's all he requires. It does sound very juvenile to put it that way, that Bias "did something wrong." Welcome to the club. That means he was a college student.

Rich, the issue I see is that many Hall of Fames pick and choose when the morality clause is important. It seems that in the past the voters didn't care as much about morality, but today's voters seem to care about it very much. I prefer to focus on what happened on the field, unless the person being voted for was just a horrible human being.

And the answer to that question would be that Bias isn't honored because he died of drug use. So he's being punished for it essentially.

Snarf said...

I think Williams really retired because he realized he had offered Alex Len a scholarship and this was such a black stain on his resume he had no choice but to retire.

I know you're a Duke fan, but Len was the #5 overall pick in the NBA draft and a very good player for UMD. I guess this was supposed to be a joke, but I doubt anyone would regret that.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, oh it was a joke. Yeah, Len was a good player for Maryland but he could have been so much better if Mark Turgeon had actually run the offense through him and made sure that he touched the ball every time down the court.

So what Len is left with is going to the NBA when I didn't think he was ready and then he was drafted too high. But yeah, it was a joke that I guess you didn't care for, and I don't think Alex Len has a chance of being successful in the NBA.