Football, Cheating, and the Moral Fiber of Society

Cheaters never prosper.  

According to ESPN's NFL Live, Sean Salisbury and Mike Golic, they do.  In the wake of another cheating scandal in professional sports, Salisbury and Golic defended the reigning super bowl champs, the New England Patriots [EDIT=i really meant the Indy Colts..haha], strategies of video taping their opposing team's plays as the game was going on, calling it "competitive advantage."  Apparently, there is a very thin line between "competitive advantage" and "cheating" in professional sports and that line is called football.  

Both Salisbury and Golic contend that we shouldn't care so much about this because "cheating happens in football" (so, cheating happens in other sports, but isn't it criticized harshly--i.e. baseball?)  As the professional football ethos goes, "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" ... so they say.  They further add that its not cheating because the offense still "has to run its plays" and "the QB still needs to make the accurate throw" because "the defense is still there."  I'm not expert at football but if the Madden video games series is any indication, strategy is equally significant to the game as mechanics.  How else do you plan to maneuver around oppositions offensive and defensive schemes to find the gaps to exploit?  Why else do coaches cover their mouths on the sidelines as their calling plays? Isn't the QB's ability to make "the accurate throw" dependent upon their ability to make the right reads and wouldn't knowing that ahead of time significantly help their decision making and their accuracy?  

I'm not here to argue whether cheating is endemic to the game of football (and if it is, then you wonder why it it can't be in other sports), but rather to point out some that what ESPN sports analysts say, a lot of times, makes absolutely no sense.  Apparently for Salisbury and Golic, "stealing signs" is not like "steroids, drug abuse, drunk driving, or dog fighting" because "it's about the game."  Wait a minute, wasn't Tom Donaghy fired for doing something that tampered with "the game?"  To uphold football and in my opinion, the Patriots as a dynasty, Salisbury and Golic don't necessarily make any real arguments besides making it a moral issue.   In avoiding the issue of "cheating" they both instead highlight questionable individual and not to mention PERSONAL choices to argue that what the Patriot did wasn't "as bad."  Instead of evaluating the cheating on its own terms and its effects on the outcome of the game, instead, they judge what the Patriots did on a different scale altogether, that is morality.  Whereas baseball and basketball are supposedly places to uphold the values of "fair play," then football, in their opinion, is "just a game" in comparison to extra-sporting issues considered bigger problems for the sport than parity.  

I'm not condoning the behavior of players like Pac-man or others who have allegedly taken steroids.  Nor do I think that football is some sort autonomous place untouched by real life.  Instead, I'm pretty disgusted, though not surprised, by the blatant biases of these sports analysts who think that too much attention is being paid to things that are "in the game" while simultaneously saying that what happened doesn't matter at all because it is "in the game."  Isn't that a contradiction?  Further, in their opinion, "they should just be fined and we should move on."  Why didn't they same the same thing for Michael Vick, in the sense that why did they give so much air time to something that has nothing to do with the game?  I'm not questioning Salisbury and Golic's ability to analyze the game of football.  In fact, I'm usually convinced by their analysis (except when they say Alex Smith is a rising star).  Also, they seemed cool with the fact about the punishment, too, so its not as if they believe that the Patriots were necessarily innocent.  But as a wanna-be cultural critic, I am challenging the contradictory gestures they make in their attempt at validating "cheating."  I guess it just reflects the underlying tension of how to judge sports and the extra-sports affairs.  What is the significance of a player's private life (is there?) and to what extent does it actually have an affect on the game?  The problem here is that Salisbury and Golic seem to excuse cheating on the basis that its not drunk driving or dog fighting, which to me is a cop out.  I guess what I'm also trying to say is that it doesn't make sense if they're going to judge cheating based on "morals" and to say that "cheating" is okay because its "its contained within the game" and not affecting real life. But isn't "cheating" always, already a "moral" issue to begin with whether it's a sports related or not?  

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