Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In a perfect world?

Don Shula stirred up a little controversy this past week with his comments, or non-comments, on the season the New England Patriots are putting together. Should the Patriots be burdened with an asterisk next to their name if they succeed in going 16-0?

First and foremost, I think the asterisk is one of the most misused symbols in the English language. A little history: the asterisk originates from feudal times where it was used as a symbol to indicate date of birth. It originally had six arms, like teardrops falling from the center (see the picture above). It can bring attention to a footnote and is also used in mathematics, human genetics, economics, and cricket. You know...things that really matter. However, now it is being thrown around like a Frisbee at Woodstock!

In 1961, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in a season record, he did it in a 162 games schedule while Ruth played a 154 game schedule. So Ford Frick, the baseball commissioner at the time, placed an asterisk in the record book. He wanted to have an explanation (or retelling) for the accomplishment that Maris had achieved. The stigma of the asterisk stayed with Maris for many years.

Today, the concept of a real or figurative asterisk denoting less-than-official records has become widely used in sports and other competitive endeavors. It became almost a sport to say the word when Barry Bonds hit 72, and after 756 it hit a fevered pitch. Marc Echo, who bought the ball for a large sum of money, had an on-line poll concerning what to do with the ball: send it into space, donate it to the Hall of Fame, or burn an asterisk into the ball. Sure, like the next guy, I'd love to see anything shot into space, but it is historical. He owns the ball so he can do what he wants with it. As for me, I think it's spineless to use Joe Q. Public to stand between you and Bonds at the next ESPY's when you're the guy who allowed a piece of history to wear the Scarlet letter.

Shula, on the other hand, is the coach of the only NFL team to go undefeated in a season: 16-0 in 1972. the player and coaches from that team get together to celebrate the last undefeated team's first loss every season. At tad pompous if you want my opinion. They only beat two teams with a winning record in a 16 game schedule. The Patriots will have to play 19 to go undefeated for a season. Do you think that an asterisk on the 16 game schedule would be fitting? Maybe it is more that the Pats are looking so good that we won't have to watch those guys pop open the Dom and toast to their record being intact.

Yes, the Patriots were caught doing what most, if not all, people do. Trying to get ahead by any means necessary. "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'," is the phrase that became popular while sitting in the bullpen filling your fingernail to a sharp point. It's a pitcher's friend and allows one to score a ball easily in an attempt to get more bite on breaking pitches. I don't really care if the Patriots go 19-0, I would just like to not have to hear they may get the asterisk. If I were to get a 19-0 Patriots team, and a winless Dolphin team, in the 2007 season, it would be a perfect world.

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