(So here’s me thinking that I’d done a good job avoiding all scores and information from the first couple of days of the traditional New Years Test Match in Sydney.
That was, until this morning when a headline jumped up, telling me we’d taken a wicket in the first over of the match. So… I’m guessing they don’t start the game on January 1 anymore!)
So, what constitutes cheating in sport?!
Firstly, a little back story…
In the first cricket test match against India, Australian Michael Hussey, struggling to keep his place in the team, came out to bat. With his career on the line, he was given out for zero when technology showed that his bat had made no contact with the ball.
Dejected and angry, he walked from the field.
In normal situations, he could ask for his unlucky decision to be immediately reviewed, and the technology at the game’s disposal would soon enough find out the truth, enabling him to continue his innings, and hopefully his outstanding career.
However, India is the one nation that refuses to agree to the implementation of the technology in its matches. They feel it is ‘unreliable’.
Amazingly, Hussey agrees.
(Just a terrible decision by the ‘International Cricket Council’ to relent to pressure from India and allow ‘teams’ to decide if they will use technology [only India refuses its assistance]. No wonder cricket is as far behind as they are. Why refuse the assistance if it helps make more accurate decisions? So what if it’s not perfect? It never will be. Just ask Bill Gates and Microsoft.)
A hero gone?
This situation with one of the more respected and admired batsmen in modern day cricket caused quite a ruckus. And it had people asking me, ‘If a player or team appeals against a batsman when they know him to not be out, does that constitute cheating??’
This of course crossed over to other sports. What about in football where players claim to have touched the ball before it crosses the line for a goal, only for replays to show that he was nowhere near the ball?
In basketball, where ‘working the referees’ is an artform – just ask Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan – watch a game for 5 minutes and wait for the inevitable whining and complaining from players regarding a foul that they couldn’t possibly have made, before, again, seeing replays that show obvious contact. Rasheed Wallace, we’re looking at you…
Where does this behaviour cross the line from gamesmanship to cheating?
If a fielding team in cricket knows that an opposing player is not out but appeals anyway, putting the burden of proof on a single umpire, is that not cheating?
Players who continually complain to umpires and referees – are they not known as cheats before long, or is ‘everybody’ doing it, and so it just becomes the norm?
There’s no definitive answer here, but it’s a theme worth exploring.
I can’t think of many players I’ve played alongside who don’t wait for the umpire’s decision if, in cricket for example, they know that they are out, or for that matter, refuse the free throws in basketball if they know that there had been no contact against them. For mine, that doesn’t constitute cheating.
The discipline in this theory, however, is then accepting the umpire’s decision when they are given out when they haven’t made contact with the bat or are repeatedly sending opposing players to the foul line when little or no contact is made.
And that’s where we start to see the fireworks!
Some people handle the little innocuous refereeing mistake with a sly grin or some amusing banter with the player being rewarded for the error.
Others blow up out of all proportion, making for genuine amusement for everyone else, especially in basketball where referees are so well known for their love of their decisions being questioned.
It takes a strong-minded and disciplined individual to consistently see the bigger picture in light of a play, a series of plays or an entire game where everything and everyone seems to be against them… Not too many hold up under these circumstances. It’s just that some have shorter fuses than others. (And as an opposing player, there’s nothing more enjoyable than knowing which opponents are mentally fragile!)
Me and you
In cricket, would I appeal if I knew an opposing player wasn’t out? No. You? Would I ‘walk’ if I knew I was out and the other team appealed? No. I would wait to be given out. You? Would I gladly walk to the free throw line as soon as the referee’s whistle blows, signifying a foul, regardless of what contact I felt?! Hell yes. You?! Would I claim to have touched a ball before it went over the goal line if I knew I hadn’t touched it? No. You?
But what if it was the last minutes of a close AFL Grand Final. Would we do it then?
What if getting the NBA referees alongside meant that we would see increased playing time and minutes, and therefore increased stats, equating to more money and a longer playing career? Would we be so moral?
Would we appeal in an international test match if we desperately needed the player to be out, therefore helping us win a crucial game and possibly shoring up our position in the team in the process?
Would we blatantly stop a goal with our hands in a major soccer World Cup Quarter-Final? (That clip is horrible to watch. For the record, the handball was seen, the penalty was correctly given, but saved by the keeper, and Uruguay went on to win…)
Because that’s cheating.
But somewhere in between lingering at the crease when we know we’ve had a nick, complaining to basketball refs about fouls we don’t like and breaking rule no. 1 in soccer in the midst of a World Cup final – don’t use your hands – the line between gamesmanship and cheating has clearly been crossed.
A blurry line
It’s a blurry line and is one that crosses over outside of the sporting world. When does not telling the truth constitute a lie? Is embellishing or not including certain activities in your tax return really ‘cheating’? Would you support a mate no matter what or push for the truth to be told?
What would I do? What would you do?