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What defines cheating?

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By Dan Waters

I stumbled across this article in The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based paper, about the Canadian Football League that Patriots fans might find relevant…

Apparently, leading up to Saturday’s game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Ticats confiscated more than a dozen pages of notes from a visitor who later told the team he was scouting for the Blue Bombers.

Ross Hodgkinson, director of football operations for the Blue Bombers, had this to say about the visitor, who identified himself as Ron Trentini:

“It was an open practice and this guy does some [Canadian university] scouting for us in the Toronto area. He was overzealous and he took it upon himself to make some notes. It was his own doing and as soon as it was reported to us we sent an apology to the Ticats. Hopefully, that will be the end of it.”

CFL practices are known to be more accessible to the general public than NFL practices, although in recent years teams have cracked down on certain things —  such as the presence of video cameras — in order to increase the secrecy of the practices.

“I think the Bombers and this guy are taking our league marketing campaign of ‘accessible and affordable’ a little too seriously,” Ticats president Scott Mitchell said.

He then added this, which I believe sums up the entire issue of cheating in sports:

“Its unfortunate, but the Bombers are a great organization, so I’m sure it’s something they’re not proud of. We’re all looking forward to a great game Saturday.”

That’s it? It’s like getting pulled over for doing 60 mph over the speed limit and getting let go with a warning. Cheating goes against everything one knows is right, and — as Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, et. al know — is seen as despicable by the general population.

How then, were Trentini and the Bombers able to make such a simple, Houdini-esque escape? If you’re worried about your naïveté, I would stop reading right here, but the answer is simple:

Cheating is commonplace in sports. It always has been and always will be. From the prep level all the way up to the big-wigs getting paid millions of dollars per year.

Not to say this isn’t a newsworthy topic, because it certainly was both that and a well-written story, but wouldn’t it be more surprising to read about someone not cheating in sports these days? I mean, you know there’s a problem when half of America’s athletics are involved in Congressional hearings.

My opinion on some scribe taking notes on the opposing team’s practice? More power to you. Reviewing film is scouting. Reviewing film is not cheating (yet), so by the transitive property, scouting is not cheating. Taking an undetectable steroid is cheating. Cutting the power to visiting teams’ headsets while they are in the middle of a downfield march is cheating. Buying a high school kid a new $75,000 Escalade so he’ll commit to your school is cheating. Trentini’s actions imply a lack of sportsmanship, but that doesn’t make it cheating. It’s more of a matter to roll your eyes about and move on than to get hung-up with.

Sure, the line between what is cheating and what is not is ambiguous, at best. But at least in my mind, as long as the cheating occurring in sports remains blue-collar, I’ll let it go without much of a second thought. It’s the new, technological era of white-collar cheating that is making me so jaded at my young age.

Needless to say, in my mind, Bill Belichick will always stick out like a sore thumb.

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