WHEN YOU COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT – What I’m Thinking About Today

1. It’s Tuesday, May 12, 2015. It’s another warm day here in the New York area. Lovin’ it.

2. I am proud to say that I’m signature No. 2,160 on a We The People petition urging President Obama to honor baseball great Yogi Berra with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I normally don’t get involved with these sorts of things. But there’s a lots of reasons to honor Yogi, who turns 90 years old today. 

First, he was a great baseball player. Yes, the Yankees were a colossus in the years when he played. But he was a major reason for their success. A great hitter, a great catcher. No one has been involved in more World Series victories.

Second, he seems to be an exemplary sportsman. Among those advocating for him are pioneers of the integration of baseball, including Henry Aaron and Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie. He is popular among Latin players as well. And the petition points out that he is involved in promoting LGBT athletes’ rights and in encouraging students to participate in sports.

Third, few people have contributed as many expressions to American English as Lawrence Peter Berra. Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded. It’s deja vu all over again. It gets late early out there. You can observe a lot by watching.

And finally, he might be one of the ten greatest Italian-Americans ever. That means a lot to those of us who constantly heard negatives about our ethnicity. Yogi exemplifies what is great in Italians and others whose forebears have come here — working hard so that the path for future generations is better (see yesterday’s post about my father-in-law).

My grandfather loved Yogi more than he loved Joe DiMaggio. He would have been thrilled to see the affection being given to Mr. Berra on this day. So would anyone with a heart and a sense of humor.

The White House says that it will consider petitions once there are 100,000 electronic signatures. This one is only at 5,447. But June 8 is the deadline, so there’s plenty of time. Here it is.

3.    My friends and acquaintances from Boston had the wind knocked out of them yesterday by the NFL’s penalties against the New England Patriots. The team lost two draft picks and star quarterback Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season because the Pats were found to have used deflated footballs in the conference championship game against Indianapolis.

Among the squawks I’ve heard is that the penalty against Brady is comparable to those meted out to players involved in sexual and physical assault, which all would agree are far more serious offenses than taking a few ounces of air out of a football.

I’m not coming from this as a Patriots or Tom Brady hater or a fan of another team. I lost interest in the NFL when the Giants and Jets moved from playing in New York City to New Jersey. I was probably rooting for Seattle in the last Super Bowl, but that was because New England’s coach seems like a miserable sort. I was happy for my New England friends who celebrated their team’s triumph.

But playing by the rules is the tenet that holds a professional sport together. If the integrity of the sport can be questioned, there’s no reason to accept the outcome of a sporting event as valid. Pete Rose didn’t go to jail for gambling on the Cincinnati Reds (he went to jail for tax evasion), but has spent 25 years on baseball’s ineligible list because of it. There are now major penalties for the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Deflating the footballs may seem to be a silly thing to get pumped up about, especially since the Colts played with same footballs. But it was an attempt by the Patriots to gain a probably unnecessary advantage.

It’s the attempt, the idea of breaking the rules that’s offensive. It’s arrogant and unsportsmanlike. And it brings into question the integrity of every game the Patriots have hosted. That’s not good for the NFL as a business or as a civic institution. The Brady suspension and lost draft picks are suitable sanctions. 

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