I have a sports-themed Christmas tree in my woman-cave. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. (I hope I’m not the only one!) My tree is Jayhawks-laden but also features glass baseballs, footballs, basketballs, tennis and soccer balls, Kansas City Chiefs ornaments and some of those little plastic athletes Hallmark has produced over the years.
It’s been a while since I put up this tree, but this year I’m hosting my family, so it had to go up along with eight other trees. That’s not as many as it seems — I’ve got two 7-footers, a 6-footer, a 5-footer and a bunch of minis. (Now that would be a weird basketball team.) It was fun to open those boxes and find decorations I haven’t seen for a long time, even some that have been forgotten. It was less fun to realize, as I released the Hallmark athletes from their plastic and cardboard cages, that I had to make some decisions about some ornaments purchased during a happier time. There they were: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez. Never mind the Hall of Fame — I don’t have a vote anyway. But does that trio deserve to be on my Christmas tree alongside Willie Mays and Satchel Paige and Nolan Ryan?
I put those three aside and worked on the tree without them. That was just delaying the decision. I had to dump a few ornaments this year: The hanger on Jeff Gordon busted irreparably, and my first KU ornament — a dough mouse holding a pennant made by my aunt more than 30 years ago — had developed something that looked like dough mouse leprosy during his long hibernation. That one was hard to lose: It was still in a box with my late Aunt Virginia’s handwriting on the outside. But sometimes you have to let go.
And ultimately that’s what I decided to do with Rodriguez, McGwire and Sosa. Rodriguez’s recent behavior made him an easy call. I thought harder about McGwire and Sosa. Baseball has embraced McGwire (as a coach) despite his admission he used performance-enhancing drugs during his prolific career. Sosa has never admitted using PEDs; he denied it, in fact, during testimony before Congress. But in 2009 his name appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003, and Sosa’s agent never denied it. Sosa also requested to sit out the final game of the 2004 season with the Cubs and left the locker room before the game ended. I added that to the “con” list.
So my tree is three ornaments lighter. I’m okay with that; I have plenty of other memories to fill the tree, and Hallmark keeps cranking out new plastic heroes every year. This year’s addition was Marcus Allen (in a Chiefs uniform, of course).
I also just realized I must have McGwire and Sosa in my baseball card collection, and I have an A-Rod autographed card as well. And if I start looking through those cards, who else will I find? Well, those decisions can wait till after Christmas. Setting a standard — or self-righteousness, depending on your point of view — is time-consuming.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.