Let It Rain Asterisks*

Fans should be flooding every kind of cheater with the message that they won't tolerate it

September 20, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

After the Ravens practiced yesterday, Brian Billick declared that in no way was he implying that the New York Jets and coach Eric Mangini were cheating in Sunday's game.

Too bad. I had a bagful of asterisks with me, ready to sprinkle all over it.

That's my side gig now. I've got asterisks for sale, first come, first served. The demand has risen so high so fast, someone had to step in, figure out who and what are deserving, and apply accordingly. And, of course, cash in on the trend. (Goodness knows, I can't retire on what I make writing for newspapers.)

In short, I want the asterisk-card-and-poster concession. I know I'm late to the game. Whoever first thought of blanketing every San Francisco Giants road game for the better part of two seasons - to taunt Barry Bonds, devalue his home run records and profess the fans' devotion to honesty and integrity - beat me to it.

To eventually possess the ball that Bonds hit to pass Hank Aaron and propose the idea of stamping it with that infamous symbol of illegitimacy (as fashion designer Marc Ecko has now done) was the logical next step. The message is simple: Cheating is cheating, and we will not accept it.

Then, SpyGate broke. And the big names started trickling out of the Signature Pharmacy online doping scam, among other cases. Fantastic! Time for everybody to put their asterisks where their mouths are.

These will have to be rush orders, though. There are less than two weeks before the Patriots and coach Richard Milhous Belichick play on the road again, at Cincinnati. Bengals fans had better come ready, with 50,000 asterisks to wave to signify that the win over the Jets, the hot start, the three Super Bowl seasons and this entire era are tainted and should not be officially recognized.

There's even less time to waste for Packers fans; the San Diego Chargers and Shawne Merriman, suspended last year for using steroids, play at Lambeau this Sunday.

I have no idea how I'm going to get a batch to Arlington, Texas, for tonight's Orioles game, in honor of Jay Gibbons, now linked to two performance- enhancer cases. Or to Yankee Stadium, in case fans want to wave 'em at the Toronto Blue Jays' Troy Glaus in absentia (he and Gibbons are actually injured and out for the season). Or to Miami, where the New York Mets and Guillermo Mota (back since June from a drug suspension) play the Florida Marlins.

But I have a little bit of a cushion for opponents of the Yankees (Jason Giambi), St. Louis Cardinals (Rick Ankiel), Detroit Tigers (Gary Sheffield) and Los Angeles Angels (Gary Matthews Jr.), all of whom don't hit the road until next week. That also goes for the San Diego Padres; their pitcher Clay Hensley, who gave up No. 755 to Bonds last month, once was suspended in the minors for testing dirty. Get your orders in fast, though, folks.

Meanwhile, those who respect the sanctity of the records have three more weeks to stock up for the Patriots game in Dallas on Oct. 14, the first on the road for hGH-busted safety Rodney Harrison.

And right around the corner? The NBA regular season. That's 30 arenas with asterisk signs from courtside to the rafters calling out the NBA for the Tim Donaghy scandal.

On top of all that, I have to get ahold of all the record books and start dropping in those little marks. Bonds' records, OK, somebody moved very aggressively on that. But there's still Giambi's 2000 AL MVP. Glaus' 2002 World Series MVP. Gaylord Perry's Hall of Fame designation (for old-school cheating connoisseurs). The Chargers' 2006 AFC West title.

Plus, of course, those three Lombardi trophies for the Patriots. Can we borrow the term the NCAA uses for basketball tournament teams nailed for violations? Super Bowl XXXVI - Vacated. XXXVII - Tampa Bay. XXXVIII and XXXIX - Vacated. Asterisks take up less space, though.

Of course, some have said that ideas like these are preposterous. That Belichick's sleazy sideline videotaping, and the speculation about past dirty deeds, don't taint his record or reputation, the Patriots' dynasty or their early-season dominance. That other teams probably do it, too, and have done it before. That they were still dominant the week after getting caught red-handed. So there, let's move on.

Just don't let that Bonds jerk try to apply any of that logic to his situation. He's a cheater.

Know what else? Ankiel had legitimate medical reasons to dabble in the "growth." Giambi has said he was sorry. Merriman has served his punishment. Harrison admitted his misdeed as soon as it became public. Those cases are, you know, different.

But the public isn't buying that - I'm banking on it. I truly believe deeply that America will now take the message it has sent to Bonds since 2006 and carry it to every arena and stadium in which these other unethical rule-breakers set foot: Cheating is cheating, period.

Unless what you really mean is: Cheating is cheating, period.*

I hope not. I've already printed up the cards.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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