Pats and Purity

February 3rd, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Every player lives sportsmanship. Every cleric has a pure heart. Every bride is a virgin.

Spy peeking through blinds Alternately, the indignation and melodrama surrounding athletic corner cutting and outright cheating to win is sad, amusing and understandable.

Quelle horreur! Professional cyclists taking drugs to win!

Tour de France cyclists have drugged themselves for over a century. It was cocaine, speed and even alcohol when those there the available options. Many winning and also peddlers state flatly there is no other way to abuse your body and mind for three weeks otherwise.

Baseball boys looking like Bibb, the Michelin man, are certainly not surprising steroid users. That sport has a long history of every conceivable type of cheating, from fixing games to signal stealing to drugs.

Now the purity fantasizers would have us shocked that the Patriots spied on opponents’ practices. The talk of tainted record is likely permanent. The message boards fill with slurs on the coach and team. The indignation is vitriolic and loud.

Yet, as with other sports, the history of cheating is long and varied. Don’t tell your 8-year-old twins or even your 68-year-old uncle, but football teams have been spying on each others’ practices nearly forever.

Now the Patriots admit to filming practices. That has caused palpitation among the simpleminded. In reality, it is scant improvement over the long-standing practice of using naked eye or binocular spying. Video can be more convenient and can let more than one person weigh in on the interpretation, but it is a variation on a theme, not some breathtaking and new offense.

NFL ball is a multi-billion business. I have no doubt that virtually all teams go for every advantage they can. Sometimes, they violate the NFL rules the owners and managers have agreed to respect.

Get a grip, fans. The Pats were caught and punished. We may never know how many teams have done the same, similar or maybe even worse.

Onion cheat to win braceletThe odd aspect is that in any professional sport and quite a few amateur ones, cheating is an unfortunate part of the game. Even crusty old sports like cricket have their scandals. Yet with the possible exception of professional wrestling fans feel or feign absolute shock that their sport is not pure and does not fit the ideal of fair play.

I’d rather the Pats had not felt it was necessary and that it was likely that they could get away with breaking the rules to get an edge. I’m not sure who can enforce the how-competitive-is-too-competitive rules beyond the NFL, which in this case did enforce and did penalize.

The scandalized fans and press in losers’ markets can go to town putting asterisks after the Pats record or Barry Bonds’ stats or Roger Clemens’ awards or Floyd Landis’ former title. Maybe they can explain why they insist their favorite sport is the one pure one. It’s those other guys who cheat, not mine.

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