Single page view By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2

How fitting that Barry Bonds and Bob Knight share headlines and sound bites in the same week. How appropriate that two polarizing men, accomplished and insufferable, bluster and whine together in the manner of small, spoiled children.

Not my fault.

I'm the good guy.

Blame the media.

Blame the chancellor.

Blame the haters.

Blame someone. Er, someone else.

Forget steroids, corruption, even America's ongoing apathy for the NCAA women's basketball tournament (sorry, Scoop). The real shame in contemporary sports is shamelessness, a chronic and rampant refusal to take responsibility for one's shortcomings.

Don't cheat. Don't be a jerk. Don't carry on like an unconscionable 2-year-old, at least not in public.

Oh, and if you slip up, own up.

Take your medicine. Make amends. Have some accountability. Simple stuff, really, and the lesson athletics is supposed to teach.

Except, of course, when it doesn't.

Knight uses an unexpected Sweet 16 trip to blast former Indiana athletic director Clarence Doninger, ignoring his own Hoosier legacy of boorish, infantile behavior. Bonds faults the press for grinding him down, never minding that "You Guys" aren't the ones:

1) Targeted by a federal probe;
2) Suspected of using performance-enhancing substances;
3) Possibly guilty of perjury and income-tax evasion;
4) Being ratted out by an alleged former mistress.

Bobby Knight
Is this the face of remorse and regret for all those Indiana incidents?

Talk about hitting for the cycle. Sadly, Bonds and Knight aren't alone. There's also the pitiful spectacle of Mark McGwire, withered and evasive, clamming up before Congress. Not to mention the tortured mea culpa (but not quite) of the incredible shrinking Jason Giambi.

And let's not forget the standard-issue, one-size-fits-all, lawyer-approved athletic apology: I'm sorry if I offended you. Now, everybody move on.

The upshot? If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, projecting culpability onto others runs a close second. The heck with love: Sports means never having to say you're sorry, let alone feel a twinge of honest, jarring remorse.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise.

Blaming everyone else is a quintessentially adolescent attitude; athletics are a quintessentially adolescent pursuit. Teenagers are too busy defining themselves to engage in the messy, ego-deflating business of self-fault. Athletes spend entire careers blithely dismissing personal failure – and with good reason, since losing is inevitable and a Hall of Fame hitter succeeds only three times out of 10.

Remember, too, that while teens see themselves as special and unique – to the point of comic alienation – sports figures are actually treated as such. From an early age, they're taught that they get to play by different rules. Make a mistake? No sweat. Already taken care of. Just worry about the next game.

Talent breeds exceptions and excuses; over time, the exceptions and excuses are internalized, becoming a pair of lenses with which to view the world.

I'm the problem? You're the problem. And so is anyone who disagrees.

"I was working for an athletic director who didn't know his [expletive] from third base," Knight said in a recent radio interview. " ... I stayed at Indiana six years too long."



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