Thanks to recent controversies surrounding Tom Brady and Alex Rodriguez, the age-old argument involving the asterisk has re-emerged.
Most of you know what Brady did. And Alex Rodriguez is in the news for surpassing Willie Mays on the all-time home run list (4th), which likely would not have happened without the help of steroids.
Sports fans have long pondered how the record books should regard cheating and other disparities, and time and again the asterisk seems to be the viable answer. The only problem? It's not all that viable. Implementing asterisks opens a can of worms: How could we know all the cheaters who cheated and to what extent? Is it fair to give the same asterisk to an insignificant, small-time swindle and a big-league one? What about non-cheating disparities? Would we need to asterisk-ize every football stat that occurred after the season was extended to 16 games?
There's no end to the inequalities in sports record keeping and no perfect answer to this problem. That said, I favor asterisks—providing, we use a variable, multi-tier system. After all, the advantage gained by deflating footballs for one game is not the same as consuming performance-enhancing drugs for a decade. We need different types of asterisks for different disparities. Here's what my system would look like.
First, we will continue to employ the standard five-point asterisk. Under my design it will be used to denote statistics affected by rule changes, like the aforementioned season extension or a modification of the playing field. A good example of the latter is when the maximum height of the pitcher's mound was raised by five inches in 1968, giving pitchers a ridiculous advantage for one season.
Next, we need to assign an asterisk-type symbol to the statistics of athletes who used steroids, such as Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong and Sammy Sosa. This symbol will be called asteroids, the image for which will be a tiny, floating space rock being injected with a needle.
Also on the cheating tip, we will need a symbol to denote stats that benefit from the manipulation of equipment, such as deflating footballs, scuffing baseballs or putting itching powder in your opponents' jock straps. This will be called a tamperisk and the symbol will be an image of Sammy Sosa stuffing cork into the top of a bat.
Speaking of Sosa, if a player has cheated by both tampering and 'roiding, his or her stats shall be accompanied by a Sammy-Sosarisk, which will be an image of Sosa stuffing his bat with cork while the conditioning coach sticks a needle into his bare ass.
There should also be symbol to denote cheap-shotters and thugs—the kind of players who aim to injure their opponents. We'll call it the nasterisk, in honor of these nasty players who inflated their stats with vicious—if not felonious—attacks on other players. Take Ty Cobb, who intentionally slid, spikes-high, into the ankles of opposing infielders; Roger Clemens, whose affection for throwing baseballs at batters' heads rivaled Henry VIII's penchant for removing them; and boxer Antonio Margarito, who earns a nasterisk and a tamperisk for filling his gloves with plaster of Paris.
The icon for the nasterisk will be Ty Cobb in the dugout sharpening his spikes to cause maximum damage (for which he was known).
And while this is not an exhaustive list, there is another type of -erisk which must be included. It's for a rule disparity, not a cheat, but it greatly affected the statistics of the MLB players of the time. I am talking about a blacksterisk—for all the stats that were put up during the years of the Negro Leagues, before African-Americans were permitted to play in the majors. After all, who knows how many infield hits Willie "The Devil" Wells would have gobbled up or how many ERAs Norman "Turkey" Stearnes would have lain to waste were they permitted in the cracka league? For the blacksterisk symbol, I'm going with an image of Ty Cobb in Hell being gang-raped on a bed of sharpened cleats by the disembodied phalluses of every black man he called "darkie."
Finally, my asterisk system will also denote general, asshole-ish behavior, even if said behavior gave no advantage on the field. For these we will need a class of symbols called ass-sterisks which, admittedly, are only included because I needed a reason to say "ass-terisk."
Types of ass-terisks include the waah-sterisk which is for incessant whiners who make a scene when a call doesn't go their way. The icon for the waah-sterisk shall be a silhouette of John McEnroe stomping on a splintered tennis racquet.
There will also be a racisterisk, for competitors like John Rocker, Fuzzy Zoeller and Ty Cobb—who by my count now has a tamperisk, nasterisk, blacksterisk and racisterisk beside his name.
Naturally we'll need a sexisterisk, the symbol for which will be a female reporter lurching in disgust as she opens a dick-pic text from Brett Favre.
The pederast-erisk will denote male athletes who gained advantage by having sex with young boys the night before the big game. Of course, there is no record of this ever happening, but I couldn't resist including the term "pederast-erisk."
Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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