Commentary: When did playing fair stop to matter? As kids, if we were caught cheating we were driven off the playing field by our peers and forever labeled a cheater. And if we lied about our cheating the scorn got worse. But today cheating and lying are the new normal.
The Houston Astros reported for spring training last week and play the spring opening game on February 22. The boys from Houston are embroiled in the biggest scandal in baseball history, having been caught illegally stealing signs during their 2017 World Series-winning season.
Journalists Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich first reported in The Atlantic in November 2019 that Mike Fiers, a pitcher who played for the Astros in 2017, told them the Astros used a video camera in center field to read opposing catchers’ signs.
Astros players or team staffers would watch the live camera feed behind the dugout and signal to their batter what kind of pitch was coming by banging a trash can. And we thought they were just excited!
An investigation confirmed the cheating during the 2017 regular season and postseason, and in part of the 2018 season.
MLB suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A. J. Hinch fined the team the maximum allowable $5 million and forfeited their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. No players were punished in exchange for cooperating in the investigation.
While the penalties were the harshest in MLB history, many people across the country felt the punishments were not severe enough. Many sports pundits proposed the Astros World Series title be revoked.
But here in the Bayou City fans are singing a different tune. “Everybody cheats,” and “It’s not that big a deal,” are phrases used to defend the locals. The fact that our Astros won the World Series by cheating and then lying about it until they got caught does not seem to matter. “We won,” is all that matters.
I remember the thrill of cheering on my team at the Eagle when the final out was made and the bar played “We are the Champions.” Seeing a victory parade in the streets of downtown Houston was something I never thought I’d live long enough to see. Those fond memories are slightly tainted now.
“By any means necessary.” “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” “To the victor go the spoils.”
The President sets the moral tone for the country
In the book American Government by Cliffs Quick Review, the author writes, “The president is expected to set the moral tone for the nation, including exemplary honesty, religious faith, and integrity. The question of a president’s moral leadership has assumed new importance in recent years as the media and public have given the private lives of the elected officials closer scrutiny. The ‘character issue’ is frequently included in public opinion polls on a president’s performance.”
Well, that train has left the track!
Why should we expect a baseball team to play fair when the president of the United States won the election by cheating with help from a foreign adversary?
Should the Astros be expected to report their sign-stealing to MLB when the president didn’t report paying off a porn star less than a month before winning the presidency? The Federal Election Commission claims that Trump’s campaign violated campaign laws by not publicly disclosing the $130,000 payment to the FEC.
Why should a baseball team have its championship title revoked when the President, being found guilty of abuse of power and obstructing Congress, is acquitted by the Senate without witnesses or documents being called?
Why should the tenants of Minute Maid Park be expected to be honest about their transgressions when the tenant of the Oval Office has lied a documented 16,000 times in three years.
“The President is the very first symbol of American government that children comprehend. … The President, especially in the modern era, comes into our homes … and so we think of him as part of our life. And that’s why it’s so important for him to model the proper behavior for us.” —Historian Barbara Perry.
What the Astros did was wrong, very wrong and they should be punished, but to what extent? If a president, emboldened by his entire political party can break the law, lie, cheat, steal, and sleep around with porn stars and remain, president, should a baseball team’s stealing signals punishment be greater than his?
Astros’ fans, just like supporters of the President, are all right with cheating as long as it’s in their favor.
Lying and cheating just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. We cannot hold a baseball team accountable without holding a president accountable first.