Vital Signs

The Party's Over

The two most elemental questions raised by the Pete Rose gambling scandal were: do actions have consequences? and do the rules mean anything? With Rose's suspension from major league baseball, in keeping with the rules of major league baseball, came one answer to both questions: yes.

But the affair raised other questions whose answers weren't so clear cut, questions that had special weight here in Cincinnati. What is the cost, to both the adored and the adoring, of blind adoration? Who determines children's heros and why? What is the difference between a tragic figure and an arrogant fool?

Cincinnati is in all ways conservative—solid, predictable, and rooted. Trends are received rather than started here; and even at that, change takes its time. There is order here and a feeling of isolation, in the positive sense. This is not a cynical town. (Neither is it a town that's exactly bursting with humor, an idea you can prove simply by observing Cincinnatians' unwillingness to laugh it off.) Depending on the circumstances, Cincinnati can be either pleased or defensive about its parochial image.

There is no confusion, however, about the city's pride in being the birthplace of major league baseball. The game is important here, a factor in the collective identity, the one thing above all others that can really juice up the populace. That this baseball town is also the birthplace of Pete Rose,...

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