If cheatin’s wrong, I don’t want to be right

e-mail Pete

Kenny Rogers had a foreign substance on his pitching hand. Some sort of brown substance that looked an awful lot like a pine tar mixture was captured by the FOX TV cameras in Game Two. So what. That’s the message from baseball anyway.

But in the World Series, in the age of mega media, at first the indifference from the game of baseball feels like a big deal. ESPN tells us so. The outrage from pundits nationwide called for Rogers’ suspension. In other sports the words would fly and the penalties to follow.

But baseball has never much cared about cheating. You’re considered a crafty veteran if you can steal signs. And it took an act of Congress to get a real steroids policy. Gaylord Perry, although a known cheater, still managed to earn a place in Cooperstown. For more on the best cheaters in baseball, take a look at this list compiled at espn.com. My favorite is John McGraw. Now that’s cheating. None of this sneaking some pine tar on the hand. He’d spike your mother for an extra base.

And baseball is right not to make much of cheating. Right in that the sport has never been more popular. Another season, another attendance record for MLB (yes, at stadiums other than Oriole Park fans are flocking). The television ratings remain strong, enough so that the mighty NFL won’t go head to head with the World Series. There was no Sunday Night Football on October 22nd. Instead a triple header of Heroes reruns found its way to NBC. Since circumventing the rules is a sport itself, and the fans don’t really care, why would the league cater to the media for something at this point that could never be proven? That’s bad business, and with a multi-billion dollar TV contract just signed, big business wins out.

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