I've been buying (and even writing!) a lot of cards lately, and I ran across one a few months ago that perfectly captured the sentiment of this moment: "I don't have a bucket list, but my fuck it list gets longer every day." Well, I scratched a major item off my "fuck it" list today.
I've written in an early post here about my early, impassioned, and enduring admiration for "the Hit King," Pete Rose. It has survived his many public sins; indeed, his decades-long exile and vilification serve for me as powerful evidence of the inhuman streak of Puritanism that persists in American culture and helps make our public dialogue much more brittle and bitter than it would be if we tolerated mess better, if we were less devoted to principle and more to spirit, or simply to people and other flawed creatures. (Hmm, any more recent examples come to mind? Lord, what a depressing election. The only bright spot is that they've legalized marijuana in Oregon, which should at least make the vitriol and idiocy of our politics slightly more tolerable.) I defy anyone to persuade me that, however flagrantly Pete Rose transgressed against the letter of baseball's laws and through arrogance and bull-headedness dug himself almost to China, he ever damaged the spirit of the game. I defy anyone to show me another player living or dead who embodies more fully the joys of playing itself. C'mon, who's out there who wants to argue this with me? Bring it on!
My main contention re: Rose is that his virtues are all tangled up with his faults in a way that many find hard or impossible to accept, but it's true of all of us to one degree or another, and the degree is probably linked most closely to whether we are living small or large.
Pete Rose continues to live large and to work as diligently as ever. He ought to be hustling on a field somewhere, channeling all his happy hungry animal energy into the nurturance of younger players. Instead you can find him signing autographs and chatting up fans at a memorabilia shop just off the Strip, four and a half hours a day, five or six days a week, most weeks of the year. That's where this pilgrim found him today.