Sports Adage Revisited: If You Are Not Cheating, then…

…good for you.

The adage actually goes, “If you are not cheating, then you are not trying.”

We have been reminded of this saying recently, as the two Super Bowl 49 teams have been accused of bending rules at various turns. Supposedly, the Patriots deflated balls to make them easier to throw and catch ( it does) in order to benefit their team. The balls are inspected by officials before the game but not guarded or inspected thereafter. At least two officials touch the ball on each play, so it is not quite right to say they would not know.

I would defy the casual observer to know if a ball was just barely underinflated. However, as a sports official for decades, I can tell you I have inspected various inflated spheroids and put them out of play. The inflation of a ball does matter to play. Underinflated basketballs are harder to dribble but easier to shoot/score with in a game.  Teams who want underinflated basketballs also lobby officials to ignore traveling and double dribble.

Check the NFL records to find out who has led the league in players suspended for violating league standards for banned substances for the last three seasons. You will find another prominent team mentioned.

And that is more disturbing.

There are other ways to cheat.

Basketball players are taught to slap their own legs when a team mate goes up for a shot while closely guarded. The idea is to trick the official into calling something he/she hears but does not necessarily see. And, it is cheating. In my basketball career, I learned to tell screaming players and coaches, “I call what I see and none of what I hear.”

I tossed a Pony League Baseball Coach for running an illegal timeout play and then screaming at my umpire partner for not allowing him to benefit from it. He showed  me a two fingered salute on his way off the field, one from each hand. He later told league officials he had run the play several times before and never got called for it. Told that the play was illegal, hence cheating, he replied he know the trick was illegal, but wanted to benefit from it as ever.

And, he said, laughingly, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

A leader of young men.

So, if you are trying and trying and trying to teach and play, within the rules. If not, I hope you run into officials who hold you accountable because you are the guy who adds to the rule book each year.

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