Bimbo Banter

Why Pete Rose Should Be in the Hall of Fame

  • Leadership
  • July 17, 2015
  • by Merrie Spaeth

07 17 15 pete rose

The annual All-Star Game has given Pete Rose another chance to be in the Hall of Fame, and the familiar arguments have resurrected. One topic that never gets addressed is the role of Pete’s lawyers in the original deal where Pete accepted a permanent ban from the sport. Of course, Pete is accountable for his own actions and he (finally) admitted that he did bet on baseball, but Pete deserves real consideration because the press conference where the deal was announced was terribly staged and managed by the lawyers.

Whatever Pete was guilty of, the announcement set in stone Pete’s guilt and has haunted him since. If lawyers want to negotiate deals and be super-agents, they should be accountable for their communication malpractice.

Pete led off the press conference and clearly didn’t have an idea of what to stay, so he blurted out, “I did not bet on baseball.” The most common mistake in communication is to repeat and deny a negative word; the listener overlooks the denial and actually hears the opposite of what the speaker is trying to say. (We named this genre for the young woman caught with a high profile, but married man, who held a press conference and announced, “I am not a BIMBO,” thus causing everyone to think she was.)

A reporter then asked, “Why would you accept this punishment, if you did not bet on baseball?” Silence. Pete looked down. He again repeated, “I did not bet on baseball.” At this point, his lawyer stepped forward and said that the Commissioner had not found Pete guilty of betting on baseball but had used another clause in baseball’s code of conduct.

The lawyer read all the way through every clause, citing various infractions such as attacking others. After each section, the lawyer said “That’s not here.” Finally he reached the end of the document, Rule 21, which has a clause titled “miscellaneous,” and read every line, noting it included anything else “other than betting” that baseball would deem damaging.

By the end of this peroration, everyone was convinced that Pete had committed every crime under the sun. Plus, Pete looked so miserable that by the end of the event, you almost expected him to be dragged off in handcuffs.

Let’s replay this. At that second question, “Why would you accept this punishment?” Pete should have been prepared with two strategies: who do you care about? (Answer: the fans). How do you want them to remember you? (Answer: as a great player—in fact, the greatest hitter—and as someone who loved baseball.)

Now the dialogue is very different. Why would you accept this punishment? “Because I care about my fans and I want them to remember me as a great player, and a great hitter and I want them to know I love baseball.” Mr. Lawyer, back out. You’re the one who set in stone the perception that Pete is a bad guy.

Note: Pete still hasn’t found someone who understands communication. His quotes over the weekend that he could have murdered a few people and been out of jail in the years since the Commissioner’s ruling were the wrong thing to say. Pete – just say it: “I love baseball.” We’ll love you for it.

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