The St. Louis Cardinals have been accused of hacking into the competitive records of the Houston Astros, but the story has not consumed the Internet and the airwaves yet in the manner that Tom Brady and deflated footballs did. This is interesting because the Cardinals allegations, if true, would represent both a more systematic and insidious threat to the integrity of baseball than "deflategate" did to football.
At the moment, the Cardinals allegations are operating in a highly congested crisis news climate. From the church tragedy in Charleston to the antics of the racially promiscuous Rachel Dolezal, there's been lots to talk about. In the sports news cycle alone the breaking news of Hackgate had to contend with the Stanley Cup, NBA finals, U.S. Open and the Women's World Cup.
In addition to crisis congestion, there may be a few other factors at work in the relative snooziness of the Cardinals case.
Whereas the Patriots and FIFA affairs ignited because of pre-existing rumblings about the ethics of those organizations, the Cardinals have been considered a model baseball franchise. This gives them the benefit of the doubt. For now.
As with most cyber crime, the present allegations about the Cardinals and Astros are hard to understand. We don't really know who did what yet, if anything, or if big shots were involved.
As I discuss in my book Glass Jaw, operatic personalities like the Bond villain-y Sepp Blatter and the torrentially perfect Tom Brady tend to catalyze controversy, rightly or wrongly, more than faceless techies clacking away on laptops in order to... do what exactly?
Shrewdly, the Cardinals have resisted overdoing their damage control. They opted for a less-is-more approach pledging cooperation with the authorities. People and organizations in controversy never seem to learn than in the era of the never-ending news cycle you are rarely rewarded for ostentatious flackery. The result in this case is ESPN marginalizing the reach of the story, relegating its front page footprint to the size of a blurb about the Astros GM assuring the public that he changed his database passwords. Changing passwords? Not exactly SEAL Team 6 killing bin Laden in the news value department.
Finally, while few of us understand cyber crime, we do know that when the FBI gets involved, bad actors will probably be prosecuted. With the kind of institutionalized corruption alleged at FIFA or the vague legalities of deflating footballs, it's hard to determine what the specific action item is and who will be handing out the punishment. Uncertainty creates anxiety and anxiety begets outraged and open-ended punditry.
Regardless, the Cardinals have benefitted from the only ironclad rule of crisis management: when you've got a mess on your hands, pray that somebody else has a bigger one.
Stuart Dezenhall contributed to this report.
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