Houston, we have a problem! I guess it would be more accurate to say the Houston Astros have a huge problem. Major League baseball recently concluded an investigation into the 2017 World Series champions and have accused the Astros of cheating. An elaborate system of stealing signs, masterfully executed utilizing modern technology like trash cans and hidden mics. This is a scandalous story that shows no sign of going away anytime soon.
The Houston Astros place in the annals of World Series champions seems destined to include an asterisk. Since it is impossible to go back in time to right a wrong, MLB has chosen to add an asterisk to any achievement it feels was accomplished by unsavory methods.
So far MLB has attached asterisks mainly to the accomplishments of individuals deemed guilty during the steroid era, but the Astros may be the first team to be branded as cheaters in the modern era. If they are guilty, then the punishment is well deserved. It's not much, but it's a start.
This situation got me wondering. Where are the New England Patriots asterisks? They are credited with winning six Super Bowl titles, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most ever. But do they deserve to be recognize in the same rarefied air as the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise if they have been proven guilty of cheating in the process of winning at least a couple of those titles?
To be clear, I am not referring to the multiple occasions during their supposed dynasty where the Patriots have seemed to receive preferential treatment from the referees, replay officials, and the league offices. The New England Patriots have been found guilty on two occasions, Spygate and Deflategate. These situations have been discussed at length, and I can see no reason to rehash either occasion. It serves no purpose in this conversation.
That brings me to my question for Steelers Nation. Should the Patriots have an asterisk attached to any of their championships? Would it, or should it, make any difference in the end? Should the NFL follow MLB's example and plunge head first down that rabbit hole? In my humble opinion, the answer is no.
First off, the asterisk wouldn't change a thing honestly. You can't go back and replay the games, or give the title to a more deserving team. Nobody really knows if the outcome of any of their games those seasons would have turned out any different. Maybe the Patriots would have won those Super Bowls anyway.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a championship organization, a perennial contender, and a exemplary franchise. The Steelers don't need anybody to feel sorry for them, or have another franchise reprimanded to feel better about themselves. The Steelers strive for the same goal every season, to win another Super Bowl title and bring home their seventh Lombardi Trophy. An asterisk next to a Patriots title wouldn't change a thing.
Here's a funny story for our less experienced readers. I was having this same discussion with a rather geriatric football fan, definitely not a Steelers fan, after the Deflategate fiasco a few years ago. I mentioned Spygate, and what I felted was countless other instances of apparent favoritism toward the Patriots. I proclaimed that something had to be done. Then my fellow conversationalist made a interesting accusation.
He brought up the fact that the Steelers were accused of steroid usage during the Steel Curtain dynasty years. I pointed out two important facts. First off, these were rumors and accusations. The Steelers interior lineman, both offensive and defensive, were considered abnormally powerful for that day and age. Some speculated that steroids had given them an unfair advantage on the field.
Maybe that was true, but that brought me to my second point. At that point in NFL history, steroids were not considered a banned substance. NFL usage was in it's infancy stage, and the potential health risks were yet unknown. Even if the Steelers were using steroids to perform at their peak on the field, so what? It wasn't illegal, any team could have done it.
Now for my summation. I couldn't care a less if the NFL ever utilizes an asterisk. I do however care how the Steelers conduct their business. I expect the Steelers to do things the Right Way, to play the game with character and honor. That matters more to me than the total number of trophies, or any asterisk.