xml:space="preserve">

Each week at the Toy Department, in addition to offering one of our writers the chance to endorse something they feel strongly about, we'll also give one of our writers a chance to dismiss something -- however unpopular that opinion may be -- in a segment we call "Dead. To. Me."

During Sunday's North Carolina-Oklahoma game, CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg mentioned that the Tar Heels were attempting to become the first team to win 100 NCAA Tournament games. "That's kind of cool," I thought until Nantz mentioned that Kentucky had reached the mark but lost credit for a few wins because of sanctions against the 1988 team.

Advertisement

Suddenly, I felt the "Dead. To. Me." fires raging in my gut. Because I hate few things more than the whitewashing of history. It's an infantile response to human iniquity, the province of dictators who believe that our story must fit their notion of what's proper. I like my history messy and full of morally questionable people doing periodically spectacular stuff. Because you know what, that's life.

The Kentucky example struck me because I remember Eddie Sutton's 1988 team well. Why? Because they beat Bob Wade's Maryland Terrapins, with Brian Williams at center, in the second round. It was a terrific game in which Rex Chapman's rainbow jumpers proved a little too much for the seventh-seeded Terps. But the NCAA would have us believe that Kentucky never won that game or its first-round contest against Southern. One of Sutton's assistants mailed Chris Mills $1,000 in cash, but the package popped open in transit. Once the episode became public, the 1988 team was wiped from the NCAA's books.

But wait. Did Maryland and Southern get to go back and play each other? Did the winner get a chance to do better against Villanova than Kentucky did in the next round? Of course not, because you can't go back and recreate something as complex as a 64-team tournament. You can't rewrite history.

There are even greater examples of this type of stupidity. Michigan allegedly did not beat Cincinnati in the 1992 national semi-finals or earn a No. 1 seed the next year on the way to another title game. All because a booster gave cash to a few basketball stars. I guess the Fab Five never existed. No baggy shorts. No black socks. No sick dunks by Chris Webber or funky mid-range jumpers by Jalen Rose. I guess I dreamed my love for that audacious team.

There are people who will tell you that Hank Aaron should be reinstated as baseball's home-run king because steroids probably helped Barry Bonds reach 762. Set aside the fact that we have little idea how much steroids help in hitting home runs. Those people are saying history would feel a little neater if we could carry on without any awareness of the drug mania that apparently infected baseball (and perhaps, still does).

I'm not comfortable with that. I wouldn't be comfortable saying Babe Ruth played against all of the best players of his time or that amphetamines had no impact on the game of Aaron's day. Every era is dirty and complicated in some way. Ruth, Aaron and Bonds all hit a bunch of home runs in the middle of different messes. Bonds hit the most. Why do we need to simplify it beyond that?

I don't even like the stripping of Olympic gold medals from athletes who are caught doping. It seems fairly simple to say the guy who finished second won a race when the guy who finished first turns up dirty. But does anyone really feel that Carl Lewis was the fastest guy in the 1988 Olympic 100 meters. Let me tell you, he wasn't. Ben Johnson dusted him, drugs or no. Why must we alter history to pretend that didn't happen?

So I hope Bobby Bowden gets to keep his wins and Bonds his home runs. If A-rod passes Barry, I'll say the same for him. The erasing of history is now and forever more, dead to me.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement