Not since Swagart melted into Reverend Weepy – not since Clinton waved his fleshy finger claiming that he “did not have sex with that woman” have TV cameras captured such a blatant example of denial as they did this past week with Pete Rose.

In case you’ve been flying around over Kansas in a Tornado with Toto for the past decade, Pete Rose was the guy banned from baseball in 1989 for gambling on sports. Of course, he denied everything, until evidence whittled him down to one last pitch -” I never bet on baseball.”

And although “Mr. Baseball” says he agreed to the ABC Primetime interview to end years of denial (Yes, he really did bet on baseball, Dorothy – although he says never from the dugout and never against his own team), my guess is that his river of denial is once again beginning to overrun its banks.

No, the sports columnist is not pinch-hitting for me today. This is the “Spirituality column.” But why write about a baseball player, you ask. Let me pitch you three possibilities.

One – Rose’s story is not uncommon. Okay, I know that most of us were not paid a kajillion dollars to scratch, spit, hit and throw, but most of us know something about lying to protect our – well, shall I say – assets. Self-preservation is built into us all.

Two, as a spirituality columnist, it’s my job to point out that our challenges are not going to come to us neatly packaged, like those in the Bible. Life’s invitations to take the low road are tricky, and they know how to entice the unwary soul.

Three, bad behavior is bad behavior, no matter which team it’s on. And some foul lines need to stay where they are.

The excuses and defenses are as old as the Garden. Rose, Swaggart, Clinton – the highlights reel spans the globe, and includes everyone from heavy hitters to average Joes. I remember a personal encounter I had with a pilot who asked me whether the sexual acts he committed while overseas could be considered as committing adultery against his wife back home.

If there’s a loophole out there, I haven’t found it. Judeo Christian writings are clear about some things. The Ten Commandments are not full of legalese jargon like “Thou (hereinafter known as the Party of the First Part) shalt not covet thy neighbor’s (hereinafter known as the Party of the Second Part) wife, excepting insofar as the Party of the Second Part fulfills the obligations hereinafter set forth, including, but not limited to, all sections and subsections listed below.”

No. Moses was clear – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.

Of course, God knows that whether it’s lust over Nancy Neighbor or Lady Luck, the mind turns to peanut butter – very creative peanut butter that can come up with some doozies as far as rationalizing and justifying and making up excuses and reasons why “in my case it’s different.”

Mr. Rose points to other players who have committed bigger sins. Pete, there are always bigger sinners.

Rose’s argument reminds me of the speeder who argued with the cop saying that other drivers were driving much faster. “Why,” he asked “didn’t you stop them?”

“Do you fish?” asked the cop. “Occasionally,” answered the driver.

“Do you catch every fish that swims by?” asked the cop.

The driver stared at the irresistible bait of logic. And with a follow-up question, the cop set the hook — “Or do some of the bigger and faster ones get away?”

How do we avoid the Pete Rose syndrome? Well, it’s not easy. With all good intentions as we get up to the plate, we may be thrown a wild pitch we know we should leave alone – but oh, the possibilities. Maybe just one swing and… uh-oh, it’s a high-flying foul ball that might be caught. We hold our breath and hope maybe we can get away with it this time… maybe… maybe…

If you want a life with less agony of defeat, let that pitch go by. Let God be your coach. God can really hustle and he’s your biggest fan. And with God on your team, you can have some apple pie between innings, and enjoy the game of life.