Win-At-All Costs: A Cheating Scorebook
By Javier Morales
Cheating in sports has become a sport in itself.
What rules violation can top another? Who will be the next to break the rules? How long will a suspension last?
Keep score at home to not miss the next development.
The sad, realistic aspect of rules violations in sports: They will never stop. Rules violations now will continue to happen 50 years from now and so on. Infractions imposed on the wrongdoers are like a faulty dam, unable to stop the dirty flow of water.
Those trying to be that dam – the governing bodies – have as much to blame because of their reactive instead of bold proactive behavior. After all, they have to look after their wallets.
We thought we’ve seen it all: A pitcher scuffing baseballs with sandpaper. NASCAR drivers making illegal modifications to their cars. Baseball players juiced with performance-enhancing drugs. Wide receivers using Stickum to better catch a football. Recruiting violations in college sports.
On and on it goes.
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But just when we thought every type of infraction has surfaced, we learn that New England quarterback Tom Brady allegedly ordered two equipment managers to deflate footballs to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
Is anybody shocked over Deflategate? No. The appropriate word is “amused” because of what we are accustomed to reading in the news section now rather than the sports page.
From 2001 to 2010, the NCAA imposed violations on 53 of the universities in its top competitive level in football. That’s an average of 5.3 schools a year that suffered a penalty, which obviously did not deter illegal behavior. No fear factor exists because of the NCAA’s wait-and-hope stance.
Not every NCAA institution is squeaky clean. In fact, most get away with infractions, either minor or major in scope. Think of how damaging it would be for the NCAA to be aggressive going after the elite programs that have athletes who may receive improper benefits on recruiting trips?
The NCAA financially can ill-afford programs such as Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan to be hounded. Any time a traditional power like USC, for example, is weakened by a scholarship reduction because of a lack of institutional control, it affects TV ratings when the Trojans play.
The NCAA and ESPN, ABC, CBS and Fox Sports can’t have any of that.
The Ted Wells report into Brady’s alleged tie to deflating footballs suggests the NFL did not launch a sting operation against the Patriots before the playoff game against the Colts.
The Wells report explains that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson sent an email to the league office raising concerns about air pressure in the Patriots’ footballs before that game was played. Attached to the e-mail was a message from Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan, who was emphatic that the Patriots “will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better.”
“It would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage,” Sullivan’s e-mail states.
The e-mail went to David Gardi and Mike Kensil, members of the NFL football operations department. Gardi responded to Grigson that Kensil would speak to game officials about the concern. Kensil forwarded the email to three other high-level league employees: James Daniel, Dean Blandino, and Alberto Riverson. Blandino and Riverson said they would discuss it with referee Walt Anderson.
The NFL, instead, did nothing to alert the Patriots the balls would be monitored. Nobody in the league office, including commissioner Roger Goodell, will tell us why. We can only guess the league did not consider Grigson’s warning to be important.
More likely: The NFL did not want the image of one of its showcased dynasties – the New England Patriots – to fall under heavy scrutiny. If the media learned of the league actively keeping an eye on the deflation of footballs used by Brady … Oh boy.
The NFL turned its cheek and still got punched in the nose because somebody in the Colts organization leaked it to the press that a football intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was illegally under-inflated.
Win-at-all costs behavior is the most reckless attribute an athlete, coach, team or organization can have in sports. They can’t help themselves like a drug addict can’t lay off the illegal substances. Yet it never stops.
Why did Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, need to stoop so low to allegedly order the two Patriots equipment managers to deflate the footballs? Why did he reportedly lie afterward that he never communicated to those managers? For the same reason alleged performance-enhancing drug users Barry Bonds and Ryan Braun tried to gain an unfair advantage in baseball and cover it up afterward.
All of those involved, including the governing bodies, are in it for the money, not to be bogged down by embarrassing developments.
The less the public knows of the wrongdoing the better it is for the bottom line.
That will never change and the cheating will continue for generations to come. Keep that scorebook handy.