There are many different ways in which to rehabilitate one’s image and reputation after a downfall. When I think of the prototypical role models, former president Jimmy Carter comes to mind. So does former junk bond salesman Michael Milken. How about Ellen Degeneres? These three totally turned around negative images and are now seen in a mostly positive light.
Then there’s Pete Rose. Major league baseball’s all-time hits leader has been banned from Hall of Fame consideration because he was caught betting on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, while he was managing them. For years Rose denied the allegations, even while serving time in prison. Then, needing money in his post baseball life, he penned an autobiography of some 500 pages and devoted, I believe, one or two pages to the scandal, finally admitting that, indeed, he had bet on baseball games.
Since then, Rose has bounced around the fringes of baseball, showing up at autograph shows, hosting a radio program and doing pretty much anything to scrounge up some money. Now comes news that Rose is selling signed baseballs on his web site to the tune of $499 per that read, "I’m sorry I cheated on baseball." How sleazy. The man who refused to admit he had cheated is now trying to make money from the fact that he did.
If Rose really wanted to improve his image and reputation, he’d create a whole line of "I cheated and I’m sorry" merchandise and donate each and every penny to some sort of charity. At least it would be a step in the right direction. Instead, he sinks further into the image abyss with this disgrace.
That said, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, I think Pete’s missing the big picture. If you think about it, the "I cheated and I’m sorry" tagline could work for many different situations in life and be attractive to multiple markets. For example:
1) for the college student who wants to apologize to his parents, a Pete Rose signed baseball that read: "I’m sorry I cheated on my exams."
2) for the small business owner who wants to impress the IRS agent sitting across the desk, a Pete Rose signed baseball that read: "I’m sorry I cheated on my taxes."
3) and, for the spouse who’s trying not to get booted out of the house, a Pete Rose signed baseball that read: "I’m sorry I cheated on you."
Considering the sleazy depths that Pete Rose is willing to go to, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did see such a line extension (and, Petey, I want a commission for the line extension idea). In the meantime, though, I continue to believe that baseball’s greatest hitter has struck out in terms of rehabilitating his image.
Hat tip to Isaac Farbowitz for this idea.