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Sports Authority

Kramer: Thank you for cheating

| Thursday, January 16, 2020

To the now-notorious “Houston Asterisks” organization,

Your new name reiterates the tarnished image of a flimsy pastime, one filled with subtle and suave delinquency. No longer will the malicious strain of 2017 spare you from the scandalous company that surrounds you. Charlie Hustle. The Black Sox. Barry Bonds. The Louisville Grays. Ryan Braun. Truly iconic characters that, like you, adhered to wrongful means for a glorious end.

Around these names swirls a long-withstanding argument about the nature of cheating in a sport that’s become obsessed with innovation and gaining a competitive edge. Surely these talented, merely misguided deceivers deserve no greater punishment than the next guy. Everyone does it, everyone has done it and everyone will continue to do it, regardless of retribution.

No matter the scandal’s prevalence, it goes without saying that punishment for baseball’s newest cheaters needs to work from the top, down. Above the turmoil that you’ve caused, a new message rises up: if you cheat to lose, so be it, but if you cheat to win, what follows will prove the biggest loss of all. You deserve your punishment and, quite honestly, far more; luckily owner Jim Crane found the courage to up the ante. At any rate, your overzealous infidelity to America’s game of integrity puts you on the wrong side of history.

But with all of this said and done, I want to thank you for putting the MLB as a whole on the right side of history again.

The average age of MLB fandom and viewership continues to skyrocket. Games stretch unbearably long. For most millennials and rising iGens, the slow, static environment on display in the living room fares better as ambient noise than entertainment, let alone a sport worth playing. The well-pressed breed of players feels unbearably innocent, uncharismatic, restrained. “Good pitching beats good hitting,” Justin Verlander told a reporter in 2017. Boring!

Without your scandal, your front office staff — and your entire organization — is no different. No number of championship rings will stop a predominance of young sports fans from likening baseball to paint drying. But getting away with a transparent cheating tactic under America’s nose? Now that’s worthy of some attention!

On your account, the last few days have brought perhaps the greatest influx of MLB exposure and coverage since Ryan Braun’s public apology for doping. Every young socialite with a smartphone has firepower — and an opinion — against you, and surely they will not hesitate to barrage you with it for years. The frenzy of NFL and NBA news that normally receives this demographic’s attention will fall by the wayside for a while. Baseball needs this young appeal now more than ever.

As I find myself absorbing the countless slants and hot takes around the web, I thank you, Houston Asterisks, for giving baseball a voice. Thank you for sparking unprecedented conversation in an otherwise ignored game. Thank you for showing America that a darker — and more captivating — era of baseball may soon come to light.

Thank you, all in all, for cheating.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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