Many years ago the late LaVell Edwards, the legendary BYU football coach, fell into a brief discussion on the sometimes boorish behavior of coaches and players — the actions and foul words that occur on the field by people who might never do those things in another arena.

“It’s like they think they can be someone else once they’re between those lines,” he said. “That it’s OK.”

Maybe that explains the rampant cheating that had been uncovered in sports the last two decades. Maybe they separate the person they are at home with the person on the athletic field and believe they can act with impunity between the lines, and they’re not wrong to a great extent.

Anyway, the Houston Astros felt no compunction about devising and implementing an elaborate plan to cheat, even if they were not the type of people who might otherwise engage in such activities elsewhere. As a result, MLB is dealing with the fallout of another major scandal.

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In our opinion: Houston Astros get the cheater’s punishment

Heads are rolling. Four managers and coaches were fired in 72 hours — Boston manager Alex Cora, a bench coach with the Astros during the scandal and manager of the 2018 World Series champion Red Sox; Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who led the Astros to the 2017 World Series championship; Mets manager Carlos Beltrán, an Astros player during the scandal; and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow.

In 2017 — and part of the 2018 season — the Astros used cameras, monitors and something decidedly less technical — banging on trash cans — to steal the pitching signs of their opponents and communicate them to batters. They did this en route to winning the 2017 World Series.

“The effectiveness of the sign stealing can be gauged by the lengths they went to pull it off. It was alleged late last week that the Astros not only signaled stolen signs to batters by banging on trash cans, but also wore devices that could buzz batters while they were at the plate to tell them the next pitch.”

It is one thing to use the human eye to steal signs — this is a widely accepted and even applauded skill in sports, especially baseball — but the Astros used technology, and that is forbidden.

According to a report from MLB, “Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter. Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout.” The signs were signaled to the batter by banging on a trash can.

As NBC reporter David Li summed it up, “By knowing the coming pitch, a batter could adjust his timing. For example, batters would know to swing earlier if a fastball was coming or to sit back and judge the location for a breaking ball or a change-up.”

The effectiveness of the sign stealing can be gauged by the lengths they went to pull it off. It was alleged late last week that the Astros not only signaled stolen signs to batters by banging on trash cans, but also wore devices that could buzz batters while they were at the plate to tell them the next pitch.

It took years for all this to come to light, and then thanks to reporters Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich, not baseball itself. So MLB, which seems to be the most vulnerable team sport when it comes to cheating, finds itself embroiled in the biggest scandal since The Steroid Era and Pete Rose. 

What can the league do to rectify the situation now? Vacate the championship? Award it to the Dodgers, the losing team in the World Series? There is no real effective way to undo the damage. Carl Lewis was awarded the gold medal a few days after it was discovered that Ben Johnson had tested positive for drugs, but his moment was lost at the finish line and the podium. And so it is for the Dodgers.

Sport — with billions of dollars at stake — is a big target for cheating. What’s as remarkable as the dishonesty itself is the apparent belief among cheaters that they will get away with it. Or maybe we’re the naive ones and there is rampant cheating that has never been uncovered (does anyone believe the NFL catches more than a small percentage of PED users?). It seems naive to think that secret, systemic cheating will not eventually be revealed, especially when there are so many involved and so much available technology.

In the last 20 years, there has been Spygate and Inflategate — that’s two scandals for one team — the Adidas Basketball Scandal, the Baseball Steroid Era (which undoubtedly persists today), Lance Armstrong and just about every world-class cyclist, the betting scandal perpetrated by NBA referee Tim Donaghy, the Marion Jones/Justin Gatlin busts, the systemic Russian drug program, the Reggie Bush scandal, the Salt Lake Olympic bid scandal, the vote-trading scandal between figure skating judges at the Salt Lake Olympics. This period of time doesn’t even include the scandals involving Pete Rose, Ben Johnson and Tonya Harding.

When cheating was discovered at the 2000 Paralympics, you knew it couldn’t get any lower than that. In a competition for the intellectually disabled, it was revealed that 10 out of 12 members of the gold medal basketball team from Spain were not mentally disabled and had not been tested prior to the competition. Drug cheats have also become a problem at the paralympics.

That’s so shameful that, after shaking your head in disgust, your only conclusion is that there is little hope for the integrity of any sport.