Why You Should Care About Cheating In Sports

// // May 09th 2009 // Life + Rant + Sports

Manny Ramirez is the latest athlete to be caught using performance enhancing drugs.

cheaters

Who Cares!

That seems to be the overwhelming reaction. From radio host Gary Radnich to one of my favorite blogs – Reign of Error – they’re not just tired of the scandals but they fail to see that it’s a problem.

The range of excuses and rationalizations seem endless.

Some view athletics as a form of entertainment and, as such, they don’t see a problem with steroids or cheating. If they’re entertained, they don’t care.

Athletics != Entertainment

I submit that athletics is a form of competition. The competition is entertaining. It is not entertainment. The latter is used by far too many to equate entertainment to business. Athletics is not a business. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people make a business from sports and competition. But they are not synonymous.

If athletics is entertainment then lets get rid of wins and losses and forget about those silly standings. Instead it’ll just be like 81 trips to the movies. I assume you’ll have no problem with that.

By all means, lets crown the winner in terms of who was most entertaining. Forget the World Series, lets track who made the most money and have an end of the year awards ceremony. We can fight about whether the most profitable team should have won the most entertaining team award. Which outfield wins for best supporting cast? That sounds delightful!

Still think sports is entertainment?

Why do people leave when it’s a blowout? It doesn’t mean that there won’t still be home runs or touchdowns or goals or dunks. It means the competition is over! So please stop saying you’d be pleased as punch to sit and watch some ‘roid filled lunk hit 6 home runs in a 34 to 0 laugher.

Can you blame them?

Many say it’s hypocritical to blame these cheaters. ‘Wouldn’t you take steroids if it meant making $20 million a year?!’ My answer is no. I wouldn’t.

I understand this motivation. I acknowledge that it can be a very alluring idea for some. But I would not cheat for money.

The heart of this argument comes down to greed and it exposes a very real problem with American culture.

People seem willing to accept those willing to do anything in the quest for the almighty dollar. Success is no longer about attaining our best through hard work, practice and determination. Success is about attaining a big bank account … period. That sad statement is reflected in our ambivalence toward cheaters.

Cheating is a slippery slope

If it is okay to cheat to make more money, this means Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff shouldn’t be vilified. They were simply taking every advantage they could to get ahead.

This means you shouldn’t be angry at Wall Street fat cats. And don’t even try to be upset about mortgage lenders. No whining about politicians taking money from lobbyists. Stop complaining about black hat SEO and click fraud. Get comfortable with colleagues sleeping their way to the top.

These people are all just trying to gain an extra advantage. They were all just doing what they had to to make a buck.

If you accept cheating in sports, you accept it everywhere. You abdicate your outrage and muddy your ethical discernment. So spare me the ‘hypocritical’ tripe and look for that label in the mirror.

Empathy not sympathy

Some sympathize with the athlete (particularly an aging athlete) who is trying to stay competitive. To them I say that it is okay to empathize with the athlete – you might understand why they did it – but in no way should we condone or accept this behavior.

I understand the weakness of these athletes. Just like I might understand the reasons behind someone perpetrating a violent crime. That doesn’t mean I sympathize with them, nor do I think what they did is okay.

There should be no entitlement to ability nor having the same ability for perpetuity. There is no exemption for entropy.

Winning through cheating is not winning

Let’s give the marathon record to the joker who rode the bus for half the race. Hey, he was just trying to use any means necessary to win, right? What’s the big deal!

Winning is not about short cuts.

In 2003 I completed the Mount Diablo Challenge in one hour and twenty-six minutes. I was not first that day. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I won that day.

A year of training – of hard work, sacrifice and determination allowed me to climb 11 miles and 3,200 feet that day. I still rely on that day and others on my bicycle to remind me that hard work pays off, that seemingly insurmountable goals can be overcome through hard work.

Cheating! I’d wonder if it had been me or the drugs. I’d have robbed myself of that hard won self confidence and fulfillment. No thanks.

Lip service

Oh, we try to promote the idea that it is the journey that matters and not the destination.

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

We tell our kids this but many now fail to honor this adage. Some, sadly, even find this statement quaint and outdated. And that’s scary because isn’t this what America really stands for?

America shouldn’t cheat freedom to win.

Everyone is doing it

Nonsense! Everyone isn’t doing it, and even if they were every mom has the perfect response.

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?

Only a few get caught

Others focus on the fact that only a few cheaters get a lot of media coverage and that many cheaters never get caught. I find speeding is a useful analogy to show the specious nature of this argument.

A lot of people speed. Only a few get caught. Those driving candy apple red sports cars at excessive speeds may get caught more often because they naturally attract more attention.

The fact that only a few get caught, or that those driving really fast in extravagant cars are often singled out does not change the fact that speeding is against the law.

Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod and Manny get an unfair amount of attention for their misdeeds because they’re the candy apple red sports cars of the bunch.

Life is unfair. Get over it.

Life Is Unfair

Oddly, some use the ‘life is unfair’ argument in support of cheaters. They throw their hands up in the air and shout that it’s never a truly level playing field.

So I’ll revise the argument. Life is unfair enough without our artificial contribution. Or to rely on yet another saccharine saying – ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right.’

Don’t Cheat Yourself

Don’t give cheaters a free pass. Don’t say it’s okay because it’s just sports. Don’t say it’s okay because it’s entertaining. Don’t say it’s okay because it’s about money. Don’t say it’s okay because you understand why they did it. Don’t say it’s okay because winning is what really matters. Don’t say it’s okay because you can’t catch everyone.

Don’t cheat yourself with these flimsy arguments. Even if you don’t aspire to some lofty ethical paradigm, think of it as preserving your own self interest. Don’t invite cheaters into your own life.

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Comments About Why You Should Care About Cheating In Sports

// 1 comments so far.

  1. Rishabh Mishra // May 09th 2009

    An extremely detailed blog post that refutes very well all the arguments against punishing those that cheat in the field of sports.

    I think you’re doing an excellent job in defending fairness.

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