Speaking of... Life, Hope & Truth

Say It Ain’t So, Joe!

I am a great fan of baseball and have also dabbled a bit in the history of the game. One of the darkest moments is referred to as the “Black Sox Scandal of 1919.” Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds that year.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was one of the eight named as a conspirator even though his achievements during the Series could not confirm he did anything but play his best. He batted .375 and his 12 hits still stand as a Series record. He committed no errors and threw out one runner at home plate. But he and seven others appeared before a grand jury where they were indicted on conspiracy charges. All eight stood trial in a Chicago courtroom in 1921 and were acquitted of any wrongdoing. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the commissioner of baseball, wasn’t convinced by the jury and banned all eight players from Major League Baseball for life. Today sports enthusiasts still debate whether Joe Jackson was guilty or not.

One of the most famous and oft-repeated lines in sports came out of this era. The story goes that after the eight were acquitted, as they were leaving the courthouse, a small boy came up to his hero, Joe Jackson, and said, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” According to the story, Joe Jackson never answered, but hung his head and walked on. Most baseball historians doubt the veracity of the story, but none can deny the effect a sports star has on his fans, especially the young ones.

If we were to take this saying and apply it to our day, we would have to say:

“Say it ain’t so, Tiger!”

Or, “Say it ain’t so, Lance!”

The list of star athletes who have been caught lying in the past decade reads like a who’s who of all the major sports.

The latest revelation by Lance Armstrong that he did use PEDs has created disillusionment among millions of fans around the world. How could our heroes lie to us, and why would they cheat?

Here is a man who succeeded in a battle with cancer and won seven successive Tour de France bicycle races. For almost a decade, he denied in every forum that he used any performance-enhancing drugs. But all that changed in one interview with Oprah Winfrey. When asked a series of yes-and-no questions by Oprah, Lance answered “yes” to the question “Have you ever used performance-enhancing drugs?”

The phrase “say it ain’t so, Joe” epitomizes the fall of the sports heroes, but it doesn’t stop there. Lying permeates every aspect of our society. It is ironic, but we expect that politicians and elected officials will lie to us, but not our sports heroes! It seems that the world has now turned upside down.

From Shoeless Joe Jackson to Tiger Woods to Lance Armstrong, it has been a sad tale, but these are only a few of the modern-day sports heroes who have fallen prey to lying and cheating. If we could only return to the time of innocence when a small boy uttered the words “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Jim Franks.