When I was a small boy back in the Dark Ages one of the bromides I was fed over and over is that “cheaters don’t win.” I believed it as did most of my playmates. But as I have grown older (and more cynical) I have come to realize that cheaters do win. Not only in sports, but also in business and in politics. In fact, it is now considered naive to think that cheating doesn’t win. Success is measured in wins and losses, not how the game is played, as I had been taught.
A recent obvious example is the New England Patriots who are notorious cheaters and who also have one of the most glittering records in all of professional football. They were caught filming their opponents’ practices and deflating footballs so their quarterback could get a better grip on the ball, especially in wet weather. Most recently, after they beat Dallas on Sunday Night Football, Tommy Jackson — a former Denver Bronco linebacker and now a prominent talking head on ESPN — was praising New England for the “subtleties” in their game plan that allows them to win. He was speaking about a play that New England likes to run in which one receiver “picks” off the defender of another receiver thereby allowing the latter to run free and be open for an easy reception. It’s against the rules and New England was penalized twice for it in this particular game. But, Jackson noted, if they run the play ten times and get caught twice that means they are successful eight times. That is one of the subtleties that Jackson admires about the Patriots.
In that same game we were able to watch Greg Hardy, recently back from a four-game suspension for domestic violence against his then girl-friend — whom he hit repeatedly and then threw onto a futon covered with assault weapons. He was found guilty by the courts and the NFL suspended him four games for his actions. Tsk Tsk. Prior to the game he told reporters he would be back “with guns blazing,” an unfortunate choice of words — words which were echoed by owner Jerry Jones in his delight over having Hardy back on the football field and on his beloved team. In that same interview, after saying that he only wanted to talk about football, Hardy openly “admired” Tom Brady’s beautiful wife whom he “hoped would be at the game, along with her sister.” Terry Bradshaw, bless his soul, excoriated both Hardy and Jones for their remarks and for the fact that the NFL would allow such a player to continue to play football. And his voice was joined by a few others, one of whom pointed out the glaring inconsistency in which the players wear pink to support breast cancer research and yet are involved in so many domestic violence cases. But, on the whole, the football world is happy the man is back “with guns blazing.” He is an amazing football player. But the evidence suggests that he is a horrible person.
Now, Hardy is a cheater with a capital “C.” And he is not only immensely successful, he is also a very wealthy man — though we tend to equate the two things in this culture. New England won the game despite the fact (because of the fact?) that they employed a plan that involved a beach of the rules. Cheating does win.
I am not naive. I know cheating has always gone on in this imperfect world. And cheaters are often, if not always, successful. Shit happens. But one would like to think that more people like Terry Bradshaw would speak out against the practice when it is well known to happen and fewer talking heads like Tommy Jackson would sit before the TV cameras and drool over the New England Patriots and Tom Brady while they speak with admiration about the “subtleties” of a game plan that allows a team to be successful because it knowingly employs tactics that are a breach of the rules of the game.