Column: Rats in the foxhole

Column: Rats in the foxhole

The saying asks, “Who would you want sitting next to you in a foxhole?” It’s a personal question, but I can make a confident guess as to who won’t be on anyone’s list.

Former Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Jason Grimsley.

The affairs surrounding the 17-year veteran are the latest developments involving performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball (MLB). Those who are up on current events shouldn’t be astounded there has been substance abuse in MLB. As the 14th player suspended by MLB for violating the substance abuse policy, Grimsley is guilty of another, more heartbreaking crime.

He squealed like the pig from “Babe.”

Throw him in the same group with former major leaguer Jose Canseco, who ratted out players in his book “Juiced.”

Being on the wrong side of the law is tough, and for a person with Grimsley’s lifestyle, it’s a position I’m sure he’s having a tough time handling. But at what point is it appropriate to do what he and Canseco have done? What about the lives of fellow players, friends and their families? What about baseball itself and the integrity of the game?

Young athletes are taught the importance of being a good teammate, a good competitor, and most importantly, a good person. Are these attributes still important for personal and team successes in professional athletics?

The opposite can be seen in the case of the Duke lacrosse team. While the allegations against three of the players are much more serious, what has been interesting to see is the strength the players have had for each other. While the enormity of the charges casts a shadow over the program, the lone bright spot for these Devils has been the support they have shown for one another.

Loyalty on the sidelines, on the field and in life is more apparent with Huskies of Huntington Avenue than on those national levels.

Chris Emanuele, the centerfielder for the baseball team who recently graduated, said it would be a “shock” if an instance along the lines of the Duke lacrosse team happened to a teammate. But he also can give lessons to Grimsley and Canseco on the importance of sportsmanship and friendship.

“I can tell anyone on our team something; I can guarantee you 100 percent they would have my word,” Emanuele said. “Our team is so tight our word would mean gold to anyone.”

The question can go deeper. What happens on teams during a time of crisis? As bystanders we can watch the story develop on the news, but what we don’t know are the inner thoughts of the athletes who are directly involved.

While not a psychologist, Director of Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society Peter Roby offers a clear glimpse into the athlete’s psyche during scandal.

“I think there’s a natural tendency to want to support what the other person is going through, you create a bond by being on teams during the long season and going through success and failures will bring players together,” Roby said. “So much of the support and loyalty of teams is a part of why they’re successful and it is something that coaches and managers are trying to stress.”

It can be comparable to what most people would be tempted to do for friends or family – anything. Shouldn’t Grimsley have known this as a rule of life?

“If there is law enforcement people involved, at that point you have to ask yourself when is loyalty not smart,” Roby said. “Sometimes by being overly loyal you enable others to continue in a lifestyle that is not in people’s best interests.”

Loyalty should never stand in the way of stopping someone from self-destruction, but it should be a quality in athletes who wish to succeed on and off the field.

Maybe I’m being too narrow in focusing on loyalty in athletics, as it is an idea that exists beyond the foul pole of sport.

To get a good idea of loyalty in your life, the question you need to ask yourself is this: who are you willing to spend nine innings with?

– Matt Foster can be reached at [email protected]

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