Is is that hard to not cheat?

By now just about everyone has heard about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, a cheating scheme that likely helped them win the 2017 World Series. It’s absolutely shocking … that people are actually talking about Major League Baseball.

This is the time of the year that folks talk about how they miss college and NFL football, about that trailer that just dropped for Season 3 of “Ozark” or that chicken sandwich from Popeye’s and whether it’s better than the one at Chick-Fil-A and whether it was worth the wait or worth getting shot.

But baseball? Sure, we’re excited about tee-ball starting up and whether our high school boys will win region or state, but folks don’t talk about baseball as much as they used to — such as before the Atlanta Braves became the Cobb County Braves.

Yet, folks are indeed talking about it, but mainly about one thing — the cheating Astros. Yes, sign-stealing is practically an art form that goes back decades in Major League Baseball, but the Astros took it a step further and used technology to steal signs and then did some not-so-high-tech banging on a trash can to let hitters know what pitches were coming.

I don’t understand the motivation to cheat in sports — whether it’s elaborate doping schemes at the Tour de France, anything the New England Patriots do and even in golf, where the ever fun and friendly 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed has been accused of cheating by folks from college teammates to current PGA pros.

Apparently, a lot of folks in sports abide by the old NASCAR saying that goes: “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”

Actually, I think stock car racing would be a lot more exciting if so much wasn’t determined by how much money a team could sink into a car or the cheating they attempt to make it faster. I wish every vehicle were exactly the same and that the drivers didn’t even know which car would be theirs until right at the start. I might even have them do like kids with the bumper cars at Six Flags where they sprint and hop into the first decent-looking one they can. Can’t you just see Joey Logano running and hopping into one now?

“Yea, I got the yellow one!”

When I was a kid, we played sports in the back yard, the front yard, in the street or at school approximately 436 days a year. It was usually 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 or something fairly manageable.

We didn’t have coaches, which is probably why none of us became great at any specific sport. We didn’t have fans, although we had serious non-fans like the next-door neighbors who kept complaining about footballs knocking apples out of their trees — or as we referred to it, “acceptable collateral damage.” And we didn’t have referees, umpires or instant replays.

Sometimes, this would lead to some rather heated discussions over whether someone skipped a number or two on their way to “five Mississippi” before rushing the passer or whether pass interference had been committed (something the NFL hasn’t figured out to this very day). If it got to a standstill, someone would pull the ultimate trump card:

“Let’s ask Chris.”

Everyone knew that whether the call was for or against my team, I’d give my honest take on the situation. Granted, it would still end in a fight, but at least they had a pretty good idea of whether they were fighting on the right side.

Today, cheating is rewarded in America. There’s a reason millionaires and billionaires get audited at lower rates than average Americans. They hide their profits. They hide their tax returns. They take advantage of every loophole. They buy their way to the front of the line. They know that in America’s courts it’s far better to be white, rich and guilty than to be a poor minority who’s innocent. It’s all a game. And a crooked one at that.

But cheating in sports is just not OK. If I were a superstar athlete making $5 million a year and cheating could get me $10 million a year, I’d take the honest $5 million. Then again, $5 million sounds like a fortune to some of us normal, honest folks.

Our country may be full of crooks, but we should at least keep them out of sports. Some things are still sacred … or should be.

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