Hold your heads high, Post 87

Jul. 28, 2014 @ 09:32 PM

For decades, the unwritten rule in NASCAR was “you cheat to eat.”

Heck, there were and still are tons of unwritten rules in stock-car racing. The rules that are written can be a little dicey, too.
It’s only cheating if you get caught, after all, and old-timers know the NASCAR rule book always comes with the acronym “EIRI.”
That, of course, stands for “Except In Rare Instances.”
I kinda understand why folks cheat to eat in professional sports. I’m not condoning such behavior, but pristine sportsmanship and 100 percent fair play do not always put food on the table or clothes on the back.
If everyone else is doing it, the reasoning goes, why not me?
For the record, I’ve never been good enough at any given sport to be tempted to follow the “cheat to eat” line of thinking.
I’d like to say my sense of honor and integrity would prevent me from sliding down that slippery slope.
Honesty makes me say I know better.
I share all this because the shady practice of bending the rules, or creatively interpreting the rules, cost the High Point American Legion Post 87 baseball team dearly the other day.
Post 87 rolled to a pair of impressive victories to open the N.C. American Legion state championship tournament in Lexington, defeating Wayne County 11-8 on Friday and bashing Shelby 12-5 on Saturday.
The HiToms were well-positioned to win a state title and advance to the American Legion regional tourney in Asheboro later this month. A trip to the American Legion World Series in Shelby later this year seemed within reach.
That’s when the picture grew mirky.
The Shelby team filed a protest with the N.C. American Legion folks following Saturday’s loss — a setback that ended Shelby’s 34-game winning streak.
Shelby claimed Post 87 player Cesar Trejo violated a dual-participation rule by attending a workout in Peachtree, Ga. in mid-July.
The initial protest was denied, so Shelby appealed to the American Legion national office in Indianapolis on Sunday morning.
That body ruled in Shelby’s favor, so Trejo was deemed ineligible and as a consequence, Post 87 was forced to forfeit both victories.
As it was a double-elimination tournament, that ended Post 87’s season.
To make a long, twisted story short, Trejo’s appearance at that Under Armour-sponsored workout July 11 and 12 violated an obscure American Legion rule.
American Legion baseball actually has two rulebooks — the national guidelines and the national tournament guidelines.
I’m not clear which rulebook contained the statute used in the Trejo case.
From what I gather, if you follow the strict letter of that particular law in one of the books, Trejo was in violation. The Legion national office was within its rights to kick Post 87 out of the tournament.
But this is a childish move by a team that got beat on the field, then scrambled through rulebooks and websites on a Saturday night looking for a shyster way to turn defeat into victory.
American Legion baseball has a well-deserved reputation for being as corrupt as a Central American junta and as petty as a teenager in that movie “Mean Girls.”
Silly, ridiculous stuff like this happens far too frequently for my taste.
The legendary TV sheriff Andy Taylor once told his deputy, Barney Fife, that it’s important to know the law and obey it, but it’s also vital to remember that people are involved.
A little decency and common sense go a long way whenever folks are part of the equation.
In the Trejo case, the kids on the Post 87 team paid a heavy price for a questionable series of protests and appeals.
I feel bad whenever kids get shafted in this way, be they from High Point, Peoria or Timbuktu.
As we all know, life is rarely fair. Bad breaks and bogus calls are everyday occurrences.
We just have to suck it up and keep on keeping on.
That doesn’t mean we have to like it.
Hold your heads up high, Post 87 players, coaches and team officials.
You played terrific baseball all season. You handled yourselves with class.
You were beaten by a technicality, not a base hit.
And that’s a tough way to lose.