COMMENTARY 916.1: INFLATEGATE – Cheating in the NFL – to care or not to care, that is the question.

So, are you worked up about the boiling controversy over under-inflated footballs? Do you care that there seems to be cheating in the NFL. Big deal or trivial? It’s all is a matter of perspective.

For example, several months ago ago, it was confirmed that the U.S., in the pursuit of terrorist information, has and probably still does engage in what most people regard as torture (though its disguised by the euphemism “enhanced interrogation.”). What’s more, the majority of Americans support this. This, it would seem is a momentous moral issue yet almost all the discussion focused not whether this sort of behavior is right and whether it is consistent with our national self-image as the good guys, but the pragmatic question: did it work.

When compared to the moral significance of the torture to the individuals affected and its impact on our national character and credibility, the fact that athletes and coaches are willing to break the rules to win seems trivial.

On the other hand, it’s likely that more people know and care about what the NFL does than what the CIA does. Thus, the enormous role sports plays in the shaping of our culture and values could make  cheating at this high level a pretty big deal.

Still, it’s hard to take seriously the self-righteous huffing and puffing of critics who seem to have just discovered that NFL culture embraces the “whatever you can get away with” standard of morality.  There are many who think “cheating is part of the game” and others who think, “if you are not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.” All the righteous indignation to the possibility that Tom Brady, and/or his coach were willing to break rules to get a competitive edge looks like the inspector in the movie Casablanca who claimed to be shocked that gambling was going on at Ricks.

I think most of the sports journalists who are treating the story like Watergate are just pretending to care because its a great story to beat to death.

You may have noted that the outrage about cheating in football intensifies when cheaters lie. One can possess the delusion that effective cheating and getting away with it almost admirable but lying about it always seems so undignified. Yet, do we really expect a cheater to admit it?

Bill Clinton swore he did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky; Lance Armstrong denied blood doping as long as he could; and Barry Bonds, one of our most prominent un-convicted cheaters, still claims he never took performance enhancing drugs.

Although many forms of cheating are hard to prove inflategate should be a piece of cake. With moderate resources but persistent professional investigation techniques, the NFL could discover with a high degree of certainty  who did what and who knew (or probably knew) what. Do you think the NFL cares enough to do that? Do you think the fans care enough?

I’m a bit of a purist and I still think cheating is wrong, whether it works or not. I am offended when it happen and I think we ought to be more vigilant to catch cheats and very firm when we catch them. I wish we really did care more about cheating, but the trend is definitely going the other way. What do you think?

Comments 9

  1. Our “inflategate” cheating saga diminishes and weakens every youth football coach’s effort to enrich his kid’s playing experience. That is sad and pitiful and WRONG of our NFL leadership. From heavily tattooed quarterbacks, I cannot really expect more. However, from the Lombardi, Walsh, and Pete Carrol’s families; I honestly DO expect a higher degree of integrity.

  2. One of the things sports media is saying has to do with the fact that the NFL is being very quiet about this; I believe that has to do with the fact that the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl and the NFL does not want to rock the boat, at least not until after the Super Bowl and that reason alone is why they cheat; no accountability!!!! because money is more important to players, coaches, and the NFL. That is a sad testament to our society and all our ills, win at all cost no matter how you do it. You are right about the media’s role in all this; to them it is in fact just a good story and sadly that also has a lot to say about the role the media plays in our society. You also brought up the CIA and some of what they do and how that compares here which makes me wonder why….. The character of this nation has been forged by men and women of courage who do what they do to defend our physical lives and way of life from those who seek to take it away and honestly that has absolutely nothing to do with sports or Hollywood…. political correctness is costing lives here at home and with our friends and neighbors abroad!!!

  3. As a New Englander I was thrilled to watch the Patriots and Tom Brady dominate in last’s week playoff game. I immediately arranged to have a Super Bowl party and invited all my Seattle friends. Game on! Within 24 hours, I was not only embarrassed, I was ‘deflated.’ As a long-time cyclist who defended Lance Armstrong for years, for all the wrong reasons (he’s under the limit for testing or he would test positive so either make a better test or get off his back and let him ride) I recognize today that integrity and ethics in a sport goes much deeper than beating the system and somehow seeing THAT as winning in a sport. At this point in time, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick both know what happened to those footballs on game day. One or both of them need to step up to the plate and tell the truth, apologize for their lousy gamesmanship, and take whatever hits they have coming. It’s also clear that the NFL, the networks, the sponsors, the hosts, the half-time, those taking the bets, anyone involved in financial gain as a result of this or any sport is down-playing the seriousness of the cheat and is willing to let the game go on as planned. There may (or may not) be consequences later – draft picks, fines, nothing that will ultimately make a difference to those involved. I wonder where a clean conscience or in this case a dirty one comes into the play. Cheating is not OK and if anyone viewed Brady’s ‘Face the Reporters’ interview this morning there can be no question that he is rationalizing his cheat. Tom, do yourself a favor, come clean and do it NOW. Going forward – stay clean. You’re a terrific athlete however you just cheated. You have not earned the right to be in the Super Bowl so take yourself out of it. Do this for yourself.

  4. This incident makes me think of the sport of soccer…the world’s football sport. Is it cheating when nearly all of the players fake injuries on every single play where this contact? Some of the players get away with it, while others are carded. When I ask others about this, they all tell me…”It’s all a part of the game…a BIG part.” I think it’s a form of cheating…a dishonest attempt to get a penalty card to win the game. And, there are no rules saying you can’t cheat or be dishonest in soccer. It’s a universal problem…not just wirh American football.

  5. Why are we surprised?
    What do you expect from the subjects of a country, when the leaders of the country without hasitation lead it into wars where thousand of our children as army personnel gave their lives or are living a handicapped life because we were made to believe that other country had weapon of mass distruction amongst other lies.
    Really, are we in a position to ask the good Lord to bless USA when we cannot even play a game of football without selling our souls?

  6. Can you imagine John Wooden telling the team manager to alter the ball or some other piece of equipment to gain an edge? I sure can

  7. Maybe the real purpose of Inflategate is to help us reflect on how much we care about ensuring that our leaders do what’s right. While the topic is football, the bigger picture is how we are applying the principle of doing what’s right to all those around us. And our we surrounding ourselves with people who not only KNOW what’s right, but DO what’s right.

  8. Another idea… Why don’t you as advocate of good ethics and morals start a lobby group at the Houses of congress and the Senate plus the Whitehouse. If our children and the citizens see good examples from above, the citizens may want to emulate their good actions.

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