Those voices are discussing baseball, the longstanding national pastime of America until it was replaced by debt, obesity, and mass shootings.
The Houston Astros, winners of the 2017 World Series, have been punished over a yearslong cheating scandal that has roiled Major League Baseball. It’s actually pretty shocking — that anyone is able to recall who won the World Series three years ago.
The MLB investigation found that from 2015 to 2017, the Astros were stealing signs — to signal the opponent’s pitch to a batter, someone in the Astros’ dugout would start banging on a trash can. It’s a nefarious method lifted straight from the frames of Nickelodeon’s “Doug.” Some have said outfielders were seen drumming on streetlights dressed as Ringo Starr, but those rumors are unverified, incredibly obscure, and most definitely dated.
The Astros aren’t the first team in recent history to steal signs — In 2017, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees used Apple Watches to communicate pitches in between reminders to breathe and stand up.
And sign stealing is only the latest controversy in a league whose relationship with cheating resembles that of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his housekeeper.
Barry Bonds’ steroid use tainted his distinguished career; Pete Rose’s gambling banished him to a life of autographing baseballs in parking lots. And who could forget the accusations of beastiality that ended Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez’s promising stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Now, it’s not like baseball is the only sport where competitors have been caught seeking an unfair advantage. Deflategate, Lance Armstrong, and Russia treating the Olympics like it’s a presidential election shows the lengths athletes and organizations will go to secure a victory.
Here’s my major question: how is any of this fun?
Look at the energy people pour into the homework known as a fantasy baseball team, or the lost weekends spent in season ticket nosebleeds watching college students kill time between binge drinking sessions.
People invest so much of themselves into identifying with professional sports teams, but at the end of the day, they’re just another business. Guaranteed Rate Field isn’t named after a designated hitter.
The Astros were fined $5 million for cheating — what is that, two hot dogs and Miller Light at Minute Maid Park? They’ll make it back in tax breaks when they abandon the place and open up a new stadium five minutes away.
I’m not much of a sports guy — if you asked me what the Infield Fly Rule was, I’d guess it was a Phish song — but there’s something to be said for the old quote, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
Between the Academy Awards or the Monopoly game that comes with your fries, we’re a culture obsessed being winners. But when there’s a pervasive sense that we’re being cheated by companies, in our politics, and even at our national pastime, it’s hard not to feel like we’re a nation full of losers.