During my first trip to Las Vegas, I learned two things about the city.
First, next time pack a gas mask for those walks through casinos that stink of Marlboro smoke and mangled hopes and dreams.
Second, Sin City knows no shame.
The concept of the word simply does not exist in the desert. There was no shame shown by the porno pushers on the Strip, shoving fliers into the palms of passing tourists. And not a single ounce of shame from Pete Rose who was just trying to get his hustle on.
Last week while taking my last hit of Vegas, I stumbled across Rose's place of part-time employment and had to re-evaluate my thoughts of self-righteous sympathies.
That music and sports memorabilia store — with wall-to-wall clutter of records and plaques featured its greatest attraction at the front signing autographs from noon to 5 p.m. Rose's lifetime ban for betting on baseball had brought him here to be gawked at through a store window.
To some, Rose might have cut a character more as a circus attraction than baseball legend. But, surely, he felt no shame. I felt no embarrassment for him either.
Don't cry for Charlie Hustle. I'll save the pity for people who need it — like the cleanup crew inside the Milwaukee Brewers locker room.
Ryan Braun has accepted a suspension for the rest of the MLB season for his use of performance-enhancing drugs. But while Braun slithered away without facing the questions and the cameras, his friends and teammates remained behind to mop up his mess.
I felt bad watching the Brewers squirm and squint under the white-hot glow of the television lights. Especially catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
That poor sap.
Lucroy was circled by the uncomfortable crush of reporters and his body revealed more than the trapdoor of his lips would. Cast into the role as the defense's star witness, Lucroy, through asymmetrical shoulder shrugs and downcast eyes, tried to stick up for his boy.
"We're family in here," Lucroy said, "and we defend each other no matter what."
The poor unfortunate soul.
Blind loyalty should have an expiration date and it's too bad that teammates like Lucroy are trying to preserve rotten cheese. I feel sorry that Lucroy does not realize how sorry he looks. Nothing like the old man on the other side of the window.
On that day, Pete Rose smiled, shook hands and made some easy money. He looked like the living, breathing embodiment of a cautionary tale — but he did not look pathetic.
So many years have passed since Rose accepted his punishment and time has revealed that his was a victim-less crime. Rose will have to pay for it for the rest of his life, but his transgressions never produced the wake of suckers and stooges that the PED era in baseball will certainly leave behind.
Feel sorry for the people who believed in Braun. Their purity deserves compassion. While Rose seems to be getting on just fine without our sympathy, thank you very much.
In that Vegas shopping mall, Rose was making a living and feeling the love from tourists with too much cash. And there are a lot worst things out there to do on a sweltering day than signing a few baseballs. Sure beats sweating on the hot seat and sticking up for a liar and a fraud.
Candace Buckner is a sports reporter for The Columbian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-735-4528.