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Nice guys

09/07/07 5:55PM By Brian Porto

(HOST) Commentator Brian Porto is encouraged to see that - in sports at least - sometimes nice guys do finish first.

(PORTO) Sports are supposed to be fun, but I haven't had much fun reading or listening to the sports news this summer. When San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds broke the Major League homerun record, his achievement was tainted by suspicions that he took performance-enhancing drugs en route to 756 homeruns. Atlanta Falcons quarterback was indicted for sponsoring a dogfighting enterprise on property he owns in Virginia. Closer to home, the University of Maine will punish its women's softball team for hazing freshman players and then posting pictures of the demeaning ritual on the Internet. Faced with this onslaught of bad news, I began wondering if I would ever again find sports inspiring.
    
Happily, the induction ceremony for the Baseball Hall of Fame revived my faith in the inspirational power of sports. I could not help but be inspired by the induction of Tony Gwynn, who played 20 years for the San Diego Padres, and of Cal Ripken, Jr., who played 21 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles. Both men were voted into the Hall for their baseball prowess, of course. Gwynn made 3,141 hits during his career along with eight National League batting titles and a lifetime batting average of .338. Ripken is one of only seven players in Major League history to have hit more than 400 home runs and made more than 3,000 hits, although he is best known for having played in a record 2,632 consecutive games between 1982 and 1998.
    
But those numbers are not nearly as impressive as the decency of both men, who prove that the late Brooklyn Dodger Leo Durocher was wrong when he said that "nice guys finish last." Tony Gwynn was a consummate student of baseball, who constantly sought out information that would improve his game. Cal Ripken showed up for work every day for 17 seasons, regardless of how he felt physically or emotionally, and gave his employer the best effort he possibly could. Neither man's name ever appeared in a news story about off-the-field misbehavior.
    
The lesson in this summer's mixed bag of sports news is that sports reflect more than they affect our society; like America generally, sports are neither all good nor all bad. Fortunately, they still produce men like Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, whom every Little League coach in Vermont and New Hampshire should point to as proof that nice guys can and do finish first.

Brian Porto is an attorney and a free lance writer.
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