The problem with cheating

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Cheating hit the news cycle again, thanks to the Houston Astros, who stole opposing pitchers’ signs for two seasons.

Apparently, they mounted a camera in centerfield of Minute Maid Park, relayed the feed to a monitor watched by someone who decoded the sign given by the catcher. Then the decoder struck a trashcan, possibly one BOOM for fastball, two BOOMs for breaking balls and so forth, to relay the next pitch to the batter.

Former Astro’s pitcher Mike Fiers shared about the scandal in a November interview with The Athletic. That story spurred a Major League Baseball investigation. Findings released in mid-January confirmed the Astros used their sign-stealing system in the 2017 regular season and playoffs and then again in part of the 2018 season.

Major League Baseball came down hard, suspending Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, fining the Astro’s organization $5 million and taking away their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

The Houston owner fired both Hinch and Luhnow the next day. Boston manager Alex Cora, who led the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series, was terminated soon afterwards because he served as bench coach for the Astros. The investigation found he was directly involved.

The aftershock continued when the New York Mets parted company with newly-named manager Carlos Beltran, a former Astros player described by some as a ring-leader in the scheme. Beltran instantly became the answer to a future trivia question: which National League manager was fired before he ever managed a game?

Who knows what will happen next as the Boston team is still under investigation? Will Astros players eventually confess and apologize? Will the MLB force the Astros to give up their 2017 World Series title? Certainly, a dark cloud of dishonor hangs over the case displaying the coveted championship trophy while the 2017 World Series losers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, wonder what could have been if the Astros weren’t cheating.

Too often, people attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

Numerous baseball stars likely “inflated” their statistics by using performance-enhancing drugs prohibited by baseball. Gaylord Perry was known for his illegal spit ball, but somehow got away with it season after season. Other pitchers have been accused of “doctoring the ball.”

In 2017, the MLB banned former Braves general manager John Coppolella from baseball for life for funneling extra signing bonus money to five international players during 2015-17, circumventing MLB international signing rules. The Braves lost thirteen prospects.

NFL’s New England Patriots were accused of illegal taping of other teams and of deflating footballs. High school football teams forfeit wins and sometimes lose titles because of using ineligible players.

Off the field, the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal dominated the headlines. A 2011 state report found teachers and principals changed wrong answers on standardized tests in 2009. Then there’s the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal designed to influence undergraduate admissions decisions at several top universities, including Yale and Stanford. Fifty people were charged.

So what’s the big deal?

Cheating reveals flawed character. Collins Dictionary describes character as a variable noun. “If someone is of good character, they are reliable and honest. If they are of bad character, they are unreliable and dishonest” (www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/character).

William Shakespeare said, “No legacy is so rich as is honesty.”

James E. Faust said, “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living and truth loving.” Character rooted in Christ should result in honest living.

Cheating undermines integrity. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Having strong moral principles is important to Christ-like living. Proverbs 11:3a reads, “The integrity of the upright guides them …”

Cheating breaks trusts and disappoints followers. Once trust is broken, it’s hard to rebuild. Ask a spouse who has been cheated on. Ask a church whose leadership experienced a moral failure. Whether it’s a professional athlete who breaks a kid’s heart or a spouse who breaks a vow, cheating hurts.

Cheating brings consequences. Proverbs 10:9 reads, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Once the cheating is revealed, the inevitable fallout raises the question, “Was it really worth it?”

What goes around comes around. Just ask the Astros.

[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. The church gathers at 352 McDonough Road, near McCurry Park. Join MRBC this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them online at www.mcdonoughroad.org. Order Chancey’s new book “The Day I Nearly Met Dolly: Tales of Faith, Family and a Few Homeruns” on Amazon.]

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