I could not have been more surprised when the news broke. Major League Baseball took a stand, resulting in the firing of Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and skipper A.J. Hinch.
They’re crime? Cheating.
I know. I almost fell on the floor. Imagine a professional sports organization that actually cares about dishonesty. On top of losing their two top guys – MLB suspended the men for a year, after which the Astros fired them both – the team was fined $5 million dollars and forced to forfeit their first-and second-round draft picks the next two years. The Red Sox then canned skipper Alexa Cora and the Mets parted ways with new manager Carlos Beltran, both of whom were involved in the Astros scandal.
Their crime revolved around the stealing of signs. Baseball purists have long ignored players decoding opponents signals to get an edge, but Houston’s use of electronic gear to systematically capture signs was way over the top.
Sadly, for too long, rabid sports fans have accepted cheating, as long as their teams keep winning. The most notorious cheaters, of course, are the New England Patriots. The NFL’s response to the repeated scandals involving head coach Bill Belichick and golden-boy quarterback Tom Brady are pathetic by any standards. Spygate, Deflategate, the supposed bugging of opponent’s locker rooms and scrambling of headset signals, and the filming of the field area to steal signs during the recent contest with the Cincinnati Bengals show a level of cheating that is equally disturbing and unprecedented.
And all completely unnecessary. Did the Patriots really need subterfuge to beat the 1-12 Bengals? Did they really need to soften up footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship game, a contest they won easily 45-7? It seems as if the Pats cheat simply because they can. The NFL has fined the team piddly amounts of cash. What’s one million to a team valued at a little over four billion dollars? Brady served a four-game suspension, but still wears those Super Bowl rings with pride.
One wonders how they look in the mirror.
As a former amateur sports official, the adage “It’s only cheating if you get caught,” always left me disheartened, especially when uttered by young athletes. Sports are supposed to teach us positive qualities that can help us in life: teamwork, leadership skills, punctuality, and the ability to win and lose gracefully. Cheating was never supposed to be part of the package.
Baseball’s smack down of the Astros makes the National Football League’s response to cheating pitiful. The NFL clearly doesn’t care how teams win, as long as the money keeps pouring in.
I wish the league would consider the message that sends to young athletes who idolize those who play in the pros. Kids who watch closely and do all they can to emulate their heroes.
No wonder they think cheating is just fine as long as you don’t get caught.
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
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