Friday, June 20, 2008

Should Cheating Be Legalized?

It seems to me that cheating has been a part of sports since they began. The basic concept is that if you don't get caught, it's not a crime.

I'm sure that everyone drives faster than the posted speed limit now and then. However, do you think of this as a crime? I suspect that most people would say no if it's only slightly above the speed limit and they feel they are not driving unsafely. But legally, they are breaking the law, even if it's just a technical matter.

Well, in sports a similar mindset can (and does) lead to fudging on the rules. As long as you don't get caught, why not try to get a competitive advantage? We just wink or nod, and sometimes actually smile when we learn about the attempts.

For example, baseball is replete with cases where players have tried techniques that clearly are violations. Pitchers used to routinely throw doctored balls. Now, it's rarer, but it still happens. A fielder will frequently throw up his glove and show off a ball, claiming to have made a catch when the ball has already hit the ground. Batters use corked bats or claim to have been hit by a pitch when they haven't. Perhaps the most famous baseball case of cheating is when the 1951 NY Giants rigged up an elaborate system using binoculars along with electronic and hand signals to steal and relay to the batter the catcher's signs to the pitcher. That scheme remained a secret among the perpetrators for over 50 years.

In hockey, players use illegal sticks or routinely clutch and grab when the referee's vision is blocked. Holding and push-off techniques that are hard for officials to spot are employed in football and basketball. The New England Patriots were caught videotaping their opponents' signs. In soccer, players should get Oscars for their performances when faking injuries. I could go on and on. For most sports, there is a continuing quest to gain an edge using various physical ploys that are outside of the rules.

Beyond all this and topping the list of current concerns, the use of chemical "enhancers" is now perceived to be rampant in all sports. This is thought by many to be far more pernicious than the physical schemes since it may leave the user with permanent side effects.

But do we really want to ban all attempts at cheating, or do we actually enjoy this as a separate facet of the game itself? Does it add a little more intrigue?

Well, if that's the case, maybe all this stuff should be legalized. Unfortunately, that would create a drastically different game or even total chaos. That's why the rules are there in the first place. But, just to add a little spice, the officials should be rewarded for catching the tricksters more than they are today. Maybe, at the end of the season, the official who detects the most clever violation gets an all-expense paid trip to visit NBA referee Tim Donaghy in his cozy new home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's an interesting article about cheating during recruiting at