Why this treatment for the asterisk?

Published 8:02 pm Thursday, June 25, 2009

Punctuation is a funny thing. It offers great structure to the written word, while at the same time causing great despair to those writing.

Famous discussions in history have revolved around the use of a semicolon or dash, one quote or two.

The fact remains that punctuation seems to be finding its way into parts of our lives outside of the properly diagramed sentence.

Proof of such migration of punctuation has come in the form of the asterisk, which is insistent on trying to attach itself to sports records, athletes and years.

Case in point would be the recent retirement of baseball slugger Sammy Sosa.

Does he have the Hall of Fame statistics to make it into the Hall of Fame?

Experts would say if he does have the stats, and if he is elected, then there should be an asterisk placed by his name because of his alleged steroid use.

Why? Did the asterisk hit 62 home runs in 1998?

Did the asterisk set the mark as the only person (or punctuation) to hit 60 home runs in three consecutive years?

Then—and probably more important—there is the case involving the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The NCAA has ruled that the Tide must forfeit 21 wins over the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons as penalty for the widespread textbook scandal.

But, fans and record holders have strongly said that Alabama should place an asterisk behind those years to note the years that were affected.

As for Sosa and the Crimson Tide, the fact remains that both may have broken the rules and tarnished their legendary status.

And, in the long run, Sosa may be considered one of the best hitters in the steroid era and Alabama fans will still consider those wins. Well, maybe not the ones under Mike Shula.

But, let’s be honest, the asterisk didn’t do anything wrong. Why are we tainting it along with them?