A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Billy Reed: Look for Billy’s cutout in the Reds stands and don’t play golf with Trump (integrity matters)

I freely admit that I have enjoyed watching the Cincinnati Reds on TV, even though I seriously doubt if major-league baseball will be able to continue dodging the Coronavirus pandemic that has shut down so many things we love.

For example, the Louisville Bats canceled the entire season months ago. They’re the Reds’ Class AAA farm team, and I miss going to Slugger Field on the banks of the Ohio River to see the Reds’ upcoming prospects, players sent down on rehab assignments, and, generally, the fun of being at the ballpark, any ballpark, on a hot summer night.

The Reds have undergone shortened seasons in the past but never were forced to cancel their entire schedule. They’re making do without fans in the seats – live fans, that it. Like several other teams, they’re selling large cutouts of fans that will occupy several seats in Great America Ballpark, and at least create the image of a crowd.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

I bought one of those cutouts, which cost $75 each. I sent the Reds a photo of me wearing a Reds’ cap and shirt. I now search the ersatz “crowds” to see if I can get a glimpse of myself. Then, watching alone, I can say, “Oh, look, Billy…there’s Billy.”

We each have our own ways of coping with the pandemic. I’m sure TV audiences are at an all-time high. Some read books or work jigsaw puzzles. Many worry about whether we will have an election on Nov. 3, and, if we do, whether the Russians will rig it in the incumbent’s favor.

To my knowledge, Donald J. Trump has not attended a baseball game. Golf is his sport, and last week he even held press conferences at the super-exclusive club he owns in New Jersey. There he was welcomed warmly by the multi-millionaires who pay membership fees and dues that separate them from the rest of us.

I’m sure all the Americans who are out of work and in danger of losing their homes were warmed to the cockles, whatever they are, by the sight of Trump bragging and threatening from such lavish surroundings. The irony was surely lost on Trump, who doesn’t concern himself with such mundane things.

But here’s the thing about Trump and golf: He lies and cheats just as he does in business and politics. Rick Reilly, one of my former colleagues at Sports Illustrated, documented it in a book titled, “Cheater in Chief.”

He tells story after story about Trump not counting all his strokes, giving himself long putts, kicking his ball out of the rough, declaring himself to be a club champion when he wasn’t, and other unacceptable acts in a sport that prides itself on its integrity.

Golfers are expected to call penalties on themselves, for heaven’s sake, and what other sport does that? Golfers won’t abide cheaters, yet Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus accepted invitations to play with Trump. The message that sent to young players was not what they needed to see or hear.

At the bottom, whether it’s sports or business or just about any other endeavor, we all should want a level playing field. Men should not be judged by the color of their skin or the size of their handicap, but by the content of their character.

If we all bought into that simple concept, many of our problems would go away or be seriously reduced. Instead, America has come to embrace cheating. Anybody who beats the system, no matter how he or she does it, immediately becomes a hero to many. Forget the sainted sportswriter Grantland Rice’s most famous line: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

That sounds quaint, even naïve, in our current society where, says Attorney General William Barr, “The winners get to write history.” No, no, and no. We must fight that sort of thinking with every fiber of our being.

Long before Trump and the Coronavirus joined forces to ravage our nation, I couldn’t understand how anybody could enjoy winning if they had to cheat. If I were a college basketball coach who had to buy players to win, for example, I simply could derive no pleasure from accepting a tainted trophy.

If that puts me into the minority today, so be it. I will never accept cheating any more than I will accept racism or sexism. On the level playing field of my imagination, everybody has an equal opportunity to succeed and there is no room for those who want to illegally tilt the field to get an edge.

But all this is beyond my pay grade. I will continue to pull for the good guys and roast the bad guys at every opportunity. And generally speaking, it’s pretty easy to tell the two apart, no matter how much the bad guys lie as they try to confuse us on the issues.

It all makes me feel helpless and hopeless. I should be able to spend my time more productively than simply watching the Reds on TV and looking for a cardboard cutout of myself in the stands.

As President Obama said when introducing his health-care play, I’m open to suggestions because good ideas can come from anywhere.

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  1. John says:

    Well said, Billy Reed, you’re especially on point re: cheating. Seems like a lot of people are ok with it, particularly in politics, as long as it means “owning” an opponent.

  2. Mark Nolan says:

    Thank you, Mr. Reed, for reminding us what is important in sports and in life.

  3. Landon Overfield says:

    Billy, you knocked it outta the park with this column! Being an old guy like you (well, maybe not QUITE as old), I yearn for a culture which values honesty, fair play in all arenas and a level playing field for every American. I have always respected your journalistic ethics and you courage in “calling it like it is”.

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