Westbrook’s do-over

Having to suspend a bunch of high school athletes for underage drinking as they prepare to defend a state championship wouldn’t normally be seen as a lucky break, but Westbrook High School officials should take a step back and see how fortunate they are.

How often does anyone get a second chance to do the right thing?

Westbrook police broke up a loud party Tuesday, arresting two and summoning nine. Word reached the high school that the party, hosted by an 18-year-old member of the defending state champion baseball team, had allegedly included other team members who had signed oaths not to use drugs or alcohol.

School officials have suspended a “handful” of athletes from “multiple” teams, including three members of the baseball team.

Sound familiar? It’s a lot like the situation last fall, when 30 athletes were suspended right before the start of the state football tournament, but were then reinstated in time to play after school administrators caved to pressure, sending a terrible message to students and families and giving their community a black eye.

Westbrook High School officials have another chance to do the right thing, and this time, they shouldn’t mess it up.

Finally, some common ground

It’s nice to know that there is something that leading conservatives don’t like about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

Bundy escaped criticism for his extreme anti-government views and for his illegal use of public land from people like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (who will be addressing Maine Republicans at their convention Saturday).

When Bundy provoked an armed standoff with federal authorities rather than pursuing his interests through legal means, he was supported by conservatives.

And when the government backed down before the confrontation turned into a bloodbath, Bundy was applauded for standing up for his beliefs.

But when Bundy began sharing his views on race, especially his belief that African-Americans were better off as slaves, the conservative abandonment of the rancher turned into a stampede.

While it looks somewhat hypocritical for people who usually rail against “political correctness” to turn their backs on an ally simply for sharing unpopular personal views, there is something to celebrate here.

After years of ugly partisan wrangling on just about every issue to come into the public square, we may have found a position on which almost every American can agree: Slavery was an abomination and no defense of it is acceptable.

If we can build on that, and maybe all agree that this is a country of laws where it’s never acceptable to settle property disputes with violence when the courts are available, we might be getting somewhere.

When you cheat, cheat good

New York Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda got tossed from a game against the Red Sox this week because he violated an ancient rule in baseball: Don’t get caught.

Pineda is officially charged with using a foreign substance – namely, sticky pine tar – to get a better grip on the baseball during a cold April night at Fenway. But it’s clear that the real offense was something more subtle than that. It’s not that he used it, said everyone from Red Sox manager John Farrell to retired Hall of Fame hurlers, but that he didn’t do a better job of hiding it.

Apparently this kind of cheating is commonplace and generally acceptable to umpires and opponents alike as long as you are sufficiently sneaky. When you go to the mound, like Pineda did, with a gob of goo smeared on your neck for all the world to see, you have to pay.

To non-baseball fans, this is maddening. If it’s against the rules, it’s against the rules, whether you conceal it or not. Conversely, if, as almost everyone agrees, the sticky stuff does nothing unnatural to the flight of the baseball, change the rule and make it legal.

But this is a sport which has been designed around the right kind of cheating.

From stealing bases and stealing signs to the “hidden ball play,” baseball has tolerated a certain amount of artful dodging for more than a century, and those traditions are part of the sport’s enduring appeal.

So the lesson of the Pineda episode is clear: Go ahead and cheat, but when you do, be a professional at it.

Now, play ball!