Ray Ratto: ‘Len Bias Made A Difference In History Of Maryland Athletics’
The University of Maryland has announced that former basketball great Len Bias, who died of a cocaine overdose just days after being drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics in 1986, will be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October.
John Feinstein believes that is wrong.
It’s okay to forgive Bias, and it’s okay to pity him, Feinstein said, but to honor him? No way.
“I would disagree (with that) for a couple of reasons,” CSN Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto countered on The John Feinstein Show. “One, what he did was a statement of a disease, to me – not a statement of criminality. I think it’s substance-abuse. Given what we know about the incident that night, it surely was sufficient that it wasn’t his first time. And cocaine being a highly addictive drug, I would err on the side of it being a medical problem.”
“Secondly, Maryland gets to choose what it admires,” Ratto continued. “It’s their Hall of Fame. They paid for the building. If it doesn’t work for some people, then they have the choice and the right to not view the Hall of Fame as a place of honor anymore – and that’s fine. I don’t quibble with your reservations, but the Hall of Fame is really not about anything other than, ‘Hey, here are a bunch of people who came to our school, you probably like them, and maybe you’ll give us money because we put his name on a plaque.’ I mean, it’s a money grab like everything else.”
Feinstein feels that could be the case with Maryland, as the other athletes being inducted this fall come from non-revenue sports. Bias, on the other hand, gives the casual Maryland fan a reason to care – and a reason to consider paying $95 to attend the induction ceremony.
“History is not always all to the good or all to the bad,” Ratto said. “I think the Hall of Fame is pretty much how you want to define it. It’s not an absolute. They’re all judgment calls. If Len Bias was put into the Hall of Fame because they truly respect what he did at Maryland, that’s one thing. If they did it (for money), then shame on them. But I have no idea of knowing either one of those. But to me, if the only reason you would keep him out is because of the way he died, that seems a little small – because he may have done many other good things for many other people.”
What about Pete Rose? Should he be in the Hall of Fame?
“I’m troubled by Pete Rose for one simple reason,” Ratto said. “His defenses for his gambling have always been, ‘Well, I gambled on some stuff but not on baseball.’ And then, ‘I gambled on baseball, but I only gambled as a manager.’ And then, ‘I only gambled for my team.’ Maybe someday (there will be) evidence (that) he voted against his team, which would make perfect sense for a guy with a gambling problem. I don’t know that we’ve still gotten the full story on Pete Rose.”
Either way, Ratto would have no problem voting for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or, when his name is called, Alex Rodriguez – mainly because Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame is hardly a palace of moral fiber.
“Baseball has any number of rogues and borderline criminals (in its Hall of Fame),” Ratto said, “and in all honestly, once you let them in, you’ve got to come up with a real good reason why, for example, using PEDs is a bigger crime than defending the color line. So if you’re going to have a Hall of Fame and include everybody in it, you basically have to give up the notion that it’s a place of honor and that what you really have here is a living museum of good and bad. And ultimately, that would be why I have no problem with Len Bias. Even if you take the least charitable view of the way he died, he still made a difference in the history of Maryland athletics.”