By Ernie Palladino
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The All-American Hogwash Machine threw itself into full swing this week.

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Warm fuzzies abound. Redemption, or what serves as personal turnaround in our media-driven fantasies, fell upon us willing blossoms like a summer rain, engendering feelings of love and hope everywhere.

Yesterday’s villains have turned into this week’s heroes, and we have taken them to our hearts. Again.

Alex Rodriguez, steroids cheat and inveterate liar, banged his 24th homer of the year on his 40th birthday Monday, and hearts of Yankees fans everywhere soared. In a postgame interview, he credited his wasted 2014 “time off,” a pleasant euphemism for the full-year suspension Major League Baseball meted out for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, for this year’s resurgence from hip surgery.

Adrian Peterson, the future Hall-of-Fame running back suspended for the Vikings’ last 15 games after his arrest for whipping his four-year-old son with a tree branch, not only earned himself a nice chunk of dough in a $26 million contract restructure, but was greeted on Sunday’s first day of training camp by slews of adoring autograph seekers. Peterson undoubtedly set their imaginations into high gear with his lofty — probably unattainable — goal of a 2,500-yard rushing season.

Look north, and Tom Brady will walk into the Patriots’ training camp as something akin to a martyr. “What’s a couple of PSI in a football?” Brady’s loyal legions asked all offseason, discounting the fact that to reduce a ball’s internal pressure minutes before kickoff breaks the rules. “What’s a busted cell phone?” the apologists will mutter, even as word filters out that Brady destroyed a piece of evidence containing thousands of text messages, perhaps some pertaining directly to the Deflategate mess that bought him a four-game suspension.

For them, it will matter little that Roger Goodell upheld the sentence Tuesday because of Brady‘s arrogant withholding of evidence, for in their minds even one quarter of one game would have been too much. And should Brady lead Bill Belichick’s rule-benders into another Super Bowl title, well, imagine the party they’ll throw the deflationist in Foxboro.

Stories of villains-turned-saints litter the athletic landscape. The current examples are nothing new. Nor is their return into the good graces of the local constituency. Remember, the more righteous of soccer fans might have called for Hope Solo’s suspension from the World Cup for allegedly whacking around her teenage nephew, but even some of those stood front and center cheering Solo all the way up the Canyon of Heroes. Even Nickelodeon didn’t hesitate to give her a spot on its “Kids Choice Sports” awards show.

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Why?

Because each one of them helps his or her team win. Or at least improves the chances.

That’s why it’s so much easier for achievers to find forgiveness. One only wonders if Rodriguez would receive similar acclaim if the home run total had 20 fewer and the Yanks sat seven games behind instead of seven games in front. Would even two homers on his birthday have generated love for a man many wanted run out of town in March? Would Peterson even be a Viking now if he was just another average Joe special-teamer?

But fans are easy. They forget. Or, more exactly, they don’t want to remember. Great stats and championships are the greatest causes of moral amnesia. Win, and all is forgiven. Create a highlight reel, and the alternative history buries the real knockout video.

So the cheers will continue as long as the achievement continues. A-Rod’s a good guy, great teammate. Peterson’s a loving father. Goodell nailed Brady to a cross.

They are all products of perception, all bought into too easily.

They are villains. Productive ones, but still villains.

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The rest is hogwash.