By Elan Paolo-DeCarlo
This week, the sports world has gone into a tizzy over allegations that the New England Patriots knowingly tampered with the inflation levels of footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Colts. “Deflate-gate” is not the first time Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has skirted league rules.
In 2007, the Patriots were found guilty for videotaping opponents practices, and the situation took on the name “Spygate.” Belichick, widely regarded as one of the premier coaches in all of sports, is known for his cutthroat, win-at-all costs approach.
But at the end of the day, is he a cheater? What constitutes cheating in the modern sports age?
Some may argue that Belichick’s antics are just an outlet for his competitiveness and chalked up to gamesmanship. There is a line and he has certainly edged his way near it.
Football is not the only sport where these sort of tactics are seen. Remember a year ago, when then Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd instructed one of his players to run into him, causing him to spill his drink. The Nets were out of timeouts, but Kidd suavely manufactured a way to get a break in the action. Is that cheating? Or is it ingenuity?
Over the course of a century, baseball has accumulated a tome worth of “unwritten rules.” Perhaps the most important is the concept of stealing signs. Last season, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers got into a bench clearing altercation after Chris Sale hit Victor Martinez. Following the game, Sale accused the Tigers of having someone in the centerfield bleachers with binoculars that was sending the signals to the dugout. In 2010, Major League Baseball intervened when it was revealed that Philadelphia Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was using binoculars. In 2011, the Toronto Blue Jays were accused of rampant sign stealing with an elaborate system at the their home stadium. In addition to sign stealing, many pitchers have been caught doctoring the baseball with foreign substances. When a pitcher is caught, like New York Yankees Michael Pineda a year ago, he is usually suspended. But in the conversation it is often mentioned that a large percentage of pitchers are guilty of the practice. I guess cheating is ok. As long as you don’t get caught.
There’s an old adage in sports, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Is true? Where is the line and how far over it is too far? This week Bill Belichick and his team are finding out.