September 13, 2010

One of our great writers, Bill James, writes in defense of the spirit of scofflawery, a uniquely American tradition that, like our lax standards for bankruptcy, is one of the principal reasons our society is more vibrant and entrepreneurial than any other on the planet. James writes:
...America is an immensely creative country, very inventive, extraordinarily dynamic, meaning that things change in America at a staggering pace. Not only do Americans derive fantastic benefits from this, but the entire world derives great benefits from it, from the things that Americans invent and create. And this … nature that we have (which is not truly nature or truly natural) … of giving one another space to ignore the rules and do whatever we think is right is central to our creativity, our inventiveness, and to the power of American society to stagger, adjust, and rush forward.
He's writing specifically about baseball's tendency to produce "cheaters" like Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Branch Rickey, and Roger Clemens, but one could also include athletes such as Reggie Bush, who in his efforts to support his family while in college has taken more excoration, and held to a greater standard of accountability, than a more powerful political figure with the same last name has over the Iraq War. As James points out, our obsession with punishing these "cheats" leads us to ignore far more serious transgressions.