Categorically wrong
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

There's something about being in the sportswriting business that keeps you from caring too much about what happens on the field. We start out rooting for quick games and easy storylines, then graduate to rooting for quick games that produce enduring, heartbreaking storylines.

It just doesn't make sense to actively dislike someone for a substandard effort or perceived misdeeds on the field. Bill Buckner? Even if I were a Red Sox fan, I don't think I'd care that much. He missed a ball and immediately became a great human interest story. There's no villainy in that. It's not the right word.

But there are guys whose negative influence changed the way we view our games, and those guys are worthy of the term. A villain is someone who forces us to see the steroid in every home run, or the fix in every missed free throw, or the amphetamine in every late hit.

Guys like Jose Canseco, for instance. Or Tony Mandarich, Brian Bosworth and Bill Romanowski. They're not so much villains as categories of villains, guys who have damaged the image of our games. They've soiled it, really, and in the process they've changed every sports conversation. They've made us think twice about what we tell our friends or our kids whenever we talk about how the games are played.

I guess what I'm saying is, they've brought all the wrong aspects of the real world into the one place where real shouldn't matter: on the field.

And for that, villain seems just about right.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at



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