May 19, 2008

Sacks, Lies and Videotape.: Mark Bowden explains why he thinks that cheating and sports always have and always will go hand in hand. Bowden says cheating in sports at all levels is here to stay so get over it. Plus "Tilting the Level Playing Field" from

posted by BoKnows to culture at 07:02 PM - 11 comments

Americans have always tolerated, even enjoyed, a minor degree of cheating in sports at all levels. I agree with Mark Bowden that this is true, and I think it is a shame. My pet peave is that almost no major league baseball player stands inside the batter's box. Next season, the league should enforce the rules it has and call all the batters out if their back foot is out of the batter's box. Minor issue, but rules are rules. Aren't they?

posted by Aardhart at 08:54 PM on May 19, 2008

I loathe cheating in all it's forms. It sickens me that cheating is considered acceptable at all. I'd would MUCH rather see a gallant underdog lose. I think that's one reason why I like teams and individuals in sports who are at the back. I was always a huge supporter of the Minardi team in Formula One, simply because to me, they represented the true passion for sport. Despite what idiots like Lombardi say, there is much more to sport than winning.

posted by Drood at 12:44 AM on May 20, 2008

Drood i dont think you totally understand that by calling Vince Lombardi an idiot you basiclly saying that football is idiotic as he was vital to what the league has become as fas a success goes. The man pioneered the NFL when it was formed and to be as successfull as he was that man was far from an idiot. You calling him an idiot to me just shows how little you actually respect sports in general. Now i know there is cheating but not everyone cheats, but to sit here and bad mouth a legend and great football mind is just not neccessary. Vent your frustration on the ones now that making sports look CRAPPY not someone how as nothing to do with what is going on today.

posted by Ravenhawk_03 at 07:07 AM on May 20, 2008

Wow, grey-area ville. There's cheating and there's cheating. Everybody does something in life that is against the rules, so there are no pure souls. Have you ever exceeded the speed limit? Jay-walked? Crossed the street in the middle of the block? Not reported everything on your taxes? Errr.....forget that last one. NOBODY does that! I know we are talking about sports here, but which is the worse transgression--throwing a spitball or taking an illegal drug to "enhance" your performance? Is holding a lesser offense than videotaping the other teams play calling or run-throughs? How about the so-called unwritten rules of the game? In baseball for example, when a pitcher throws inside on a batter who crowds the plate and subsequently gets a team mate of his plunked as payback. Is it cheating or gamesmanship? Some smart person said that unwritten rules weren't worth the paper they were written on, so maybe that's a bad example. Cheating will always exist anywhere there is competition. How much of it is acceptable is an interesting measuring stick for our society.

posted by THX-1138 at 10:48 AM on May 20, 2008

How much of it is acceptable is an interesting measuring stick for our society. The answer is fairly simple: Whatever you can prevent or detect can be outlawed. If you can't detect it, have to prove intent, or otherwise leave loopholes, you can't outlaw it. If outlawing whatever might be considered cheating detracts in any way from your sport, you shouldn't outlaw it. Just make sure that everyone has equal access to the technology. NASCAR is a prime example. Over the years, crews and drivers have found more and more innovative ways to cheat, and each time, the governing body has made a new rule. Now we have the "Car of Tomorrow" and one-design competition that has nothing to do with the vehicles the manufacturers put out. Go back to the old days of vehicles that have to be available in a dealer's show room. If someone bends the rules, then allow everyone to bend the same rule. What you wind up with is ever-increasing competition, more creativity, and a better sport. In life, you have laws, with punishments, that are enforceable and result in offenders being put out of action (for the most part) at least temporarily. That's an entirely different proposition. The laws are enacted in the interests of public safety or interest, and not to level some field of competition.

posted by Howard_T at 12:30 PM on May 20, 2008

I guess you are agreeing with me then, Howard?

posted by THX-1138 at 01:01 PM on May 20, 2008

A sport that technically lasts 60 minutes, and yet games last 3-4 hours... Yes, Football IS idiotic. (And I say that as a fan of the sport.) I fully understand what I'm saying when I'm calling Lombardi an idiot. Clearly myself and Mister Lombardi have differing opinions of what is important in sport. I'm a fan of Formula One. Michael Schumacher is the biggest legend the sport has ever had, and he's a cheating piece of shit. He deliberately took Damon Hill out in 1994 to take the title. He tried to do the same to Villeneuve in 1997 and failed. (And was disqualified from the season for his trouble.) He tried to put his own brother into a wall at 160mph. He engaged in race fixing on more than one occasion. I don't care what sort of legend you are, claim to be, or are publicly perceived as. If you cheat, you are a fraud and your position in society is undeserved. THX: Breaking the speed limit is hardly akin to cheating. Life is not a sporting contest considered to be carried out on a level playing field. Raven: I don't care if the cheating is obvious or not. Whether it looks crappy or not is irrelevant. In fact the more subtle cheating is worse IMO as it makes it tacitly acceptable somehow.

posted by Drood at 03:25 PM on May 20, 2008

Anyone remember the Raiders old motto "If you aint cheatin you aint tryin"? While I dont think this goes for all of sports I do think that if a way to better your game is out there that isnt within the rules some people will use it.Not saying its right but it does and will continue to happen as long as there is a first place and a last place.

posted by jda at 04:07 PM on May 20, 2008

Yeah, that's really not what I was getting at, Drood. My point in the first part of my comment is that no man is a saint. Nobody. Not no one. Followers of the Catholic Church might have a few saints, but you, me and the average Joe are far from it. And what are laws but rules with stiffer penalties. To carry over my train of thought to your sport of choice, what would you consider the greater transgression: Race fixing or putting someone into a wall at 160 mph? Or is cheating an equal sin no matter what the act? In football (sorry, not one of your faves) the forward pass was against the rules at one point. If you did it, you were cheating. Now if you're good at it, you are hailed as the conquering hero. At least on the gridiron. What was once frowned upon is now embraced. And what is hip today might become passe. As society or tastes change, so do the rules. And even in some instances, the laws. The rules and laws are therefore a reflection of how a society defines behavior, conduct, and safety of it's citizens and or members at a given point of time. So rules, to me, are an interesting sociological study.

posted by THX-1138 at 07:13 PM on May 20, 2008

I guess you are agreeing with me then, Howard? Sort of, but Drood's response is close to what I'm saying. In sport, disregarding any money changing hands, no one is being hurt through the violation of some regulations. My point is that you can only regulate so much in sports before you begin to take all of the creativity out of it. True, individual performance is paramount, but clever game planning and good scouting put the individual in a position to do his best. I would rather see everyone be able to use a given technological advantage than have one or two teams succeed and then have that advantage taken away. In life, there are laws that are meant to protect life and safety, level the economic playing field, and generally make relations between humans more tolerable. Even here, you see people flouting the law and getting away with it because of clever lawyers exploiting perceived loopholes. In this case, the need to close the loophole is obvious. In sports, the opposite is sometimes true. What initially is called "cheating" should be exposed, the methodology detailed and published, and then all teams in the league allowed to do it. Suddenly, the cheaters no longer enjoy an advantage. Drood, your analogy of deliberately wrecking another driver in a race really shouldn't be called cheating. It is more like the cheap shot administered in order to injure another player on the football field. There are rules against it, but in most cases a 15-yard penalty and a short suspension do not make up for the loss, even for a short time, of a star player. This is an area that I feel ought to be dealt with by some truly draconian penalties, such as a suspension of both the offending player AND the nearest equivalent player on the offending team to the injured player for as long as the injured player is out. You would very quickly see the cheap shot disappear, and coaches would not use players whose lack of skill might cause them to employ such a tactic.

posted by Howard_T at 09:47 AM on May 21, 2008

I agree with Howard's last point, that there is a difference between cheating and cheap shots, and the need to more aggressively penalize the cheap shots. To the original thread about cheating, my thoughts are this: Cheating has always been a part of sports, and will always be a part of sports. It is almost impossible to remove it, and I don't think any league will ever really try to eliminate it. As THX pointed out, there are various levels of cheating, and I think most of us are fine with the lower levels. Your team's receiver pushes off on the defender, gets away with it and scores...You cash the winning ticket with your bookie. Now however, your star outfielder hits a ton of home runs, but is caught using steroids, maybe your reaction is different...or, maybe not. On numerous other threads on this site one can see that some people don't care if Bonds did the drugs, while others want him banned from society. Sports have done a fairly good job of regulating "cheating", with the exception of steroids, and I doubt we'll see any significant changes.

posted by dviking at 11:54 PM on May 21, 2008

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