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Say It Ain’t Sho

Updated: Apr 3

I have to admit it. I feel bad for today’s modern athletes. The anxiety of living with the constant pressure of social media has to be exhausting. Nowadays, their lives are under a microscope. Everything they do or say is often taken out of context to repurpose catchy headlines.

As the old saying goes, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Unfortunately, this is the side of Shohei Ohtani's most recent alleged scandal. The story has changed a couple of times, and it’s concerning. Words are now being scripted and managed by a “team” interpreter. 

An outside investigation is now underway, and there is significant concern about MLB’s Golden Boy. Say it ain’t so, Shohei! Personally, I want this to go away. He’s grown on me. His charisma draws people to him—most goats do. 

We see it more and more, don’t we? The moral breakdown of celebrities. As I write this article, American rapper and music entrepreneur P Diddy is being raided and is wanted for questioning. Tampa Bay Rays rookie phenom Wander Franco recently made some bad decisions.

There are so many others, but these are the most recent. My point? To whom much is given, much is expected. Athletes are considered role models, regardless of what Charles Barkley said. They are bestowed with an anointing. They are looked upon as modern-day heroes whether they want it or not.

I know. They didn’t ask for that, but that is the price of fame. Fame is the default setting for all those adorned by fans, and with it comes a level of responsibility. With all the fame and fortune comes an expectation that you will not indulge in criminal activity.

You see it on sports news coverage. Occasionally, a young girl or boy, typically around the age of 7-16, meets their hero at a sporting event. They’ll have an emotional reaction to meeting them. Exhibit A: that young lady at Burbank Sports Cards when Michael Rubin called her hero Devon Booker and allowed her to talk to him personally. She had an emotional moment, and the hobby feel-goods were evident that day.

But what happens to this young lady if Devon Booker has a moral failure tomorrow? I mentioned Charles Barkley a moment ago. He’s taken a lot of heat for a Nike commercial he did in 1993 when he proclaimed, “I am not a role model!” 

He didn’t want that responsibility placed on him. He made a great point after the fact and still stands by it today. Charles believes that role models are inside the home. This is profoundly accurate, in my opinion. In other words, children should not look to celebrities and athletes as their heroes. Mom and Dad should have this position. 

So, as a father of five children and six grandkids, with a seventh coming this August, what do I teach my kids? I will have a hard talk with them about heroes—or should I say humanity? I will have to express to them that we all fall short, that there is a difference between right and wrong, and that there are consequences for indulging in criminal activities.


I wonder if anyone had these types of talks with the celebrities above. Speaking of consequences, here’s the reality: Athletes' moral failures roll downhill, and most affect collectors and the secondary market. Emotionally and financially, some collectors pay a hefty toll. What have I learned from all these unfortunate events? Here’s what I plan on doing going forward. 

How I Plan to Handle Moral Failures of Athletes

1. I plan on not putting all my eggs in one basket. I typically choose a rookie at the end of the season to collect. I’ll buy a few hundred dollars of raw cards and send some off to get graded to add to the PC. 

My last burn was Fernando Tatis Jr. I got a fist full of rookie cards back from grading ecstatic because the majority came back PSA 10s! Only for the young man to get busted for steroid use a few weeks later, leading to a significant suspension.

Instead, I could take that $300 and choose three players to collect. That’s a logical option. I can stay the course and put it all on one athlete, but I must realize that decision involves risk.

2. I plan to see how they progress. Waiting and seeing has been a strategy of mine for many years. My focus has been rookie cards of Hall of Famers; these are just slightly safer from suffering a moral failure. But I get excited to collect the base rookie cards of current hot players I enjoy watching, so I sometimes stray. 

I typically like to wait 3-5 years before I drop big money on any particular athlete’s cards. This way, I can see their level of consistency, get a better picture of their stats, how they handle pressure, and get a better picture of their hobby love. For example, Bryce Harper is underrated and on the road to the hall. Luka Doncic is another athlete who is on his way. Yes! I may have to pay a slight premium, but I’m slightly lowering the risk.

3. I plan on being a better judge of character. I recall 1996-97 as the best basketball rookie class in history. I wanted to collect Allen Iverson, but he always concerned me. He had issues with authority, run-ins with the law, his coach, teammates, and a real rebel. And this detoured me from collecting his cards. 

You’re judged by the company you keep. If you hang out with turkeys, you’ll become a turkey. If you hang out with eagles, you’ll become an eagle. I love how Michael Jordan did things. Yes, he’s faced tough questions concerning his personal life. But after the game, he would come out and address the press in a suit, well-mannered, and carrying himself like a gentleman/professional. 

I’m talking about the content of a person’s character coming into cohesiveness with their sports cards: Freddie Freeman, first baseman for the Dodgers, for example. CJ Stroud impressed me this past football season as he carried himself well, but will I buy his cards? Ummm, not yet. For me, he needs to pay his dues a bit more.

This is what’s most challenging about Shohei Ohtani, isn’t it? He seems to be such a humble, well-mannered, respectful athlete—the ultimate role model in a sense. He gets better every year out on the field, too. Today’s athletes, heck even we, must be mindful of our digital reputations on social media. Times have certainly changed. Be careful out there, friends!

Until next month,


Remember, friends, not all rookie cards are created equal.


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