Sunday, August 19, 2012

'IF YOU'RE NOT CHEATING, YOU'RE NOT TRYING'


When I played in the Boston Red Sox minor-league system, we had a pitching coach
who would teach his pitchers how to scuff a baseball so it was dart, dance, and dive
through the strike zone. Defacing a baseball is illegal, but the former major league
player who once was a teammate of Rich Rhoden, a notorious scuffer (cheater), would
finish his sessions by saying, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying."

In the past few weeks, when the headlines were filled with players, current and former ones
along with coaches who got busted for cheating the game and even their friends, I often
thought of that quote. Eddie Murray, the Hall of Fame first baseman, was charged by the
Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trader, taking a tip from former teammate,
Doug DeCinces, to help line his pockets with an extra $350,000. If you're not cheating, 
you're not trying.

Jim Donnan, the former Georgia football coach and Hall of Famer, was charged with
running an $80 million ponzi scheme. He fronted a "liquidation" company and convinced
his closest friends, many of whom are still in the coaching profession, to invest with him.
Donnan even schmoozed one of his former players to drop $800,000 into the company
and said, "Daddy will take care of you." Daddy took care of himself and now Donnan
faces the possibility of spending the rest of his natural life behind bars. If you're not 
cheating, you're not trying."

Melky Cabrera sure tried hard, didn't he? The journeyman outfielder of the San Francisco
Giants was hitting .346 in a contract year and was looking to hit it big with a monster
season. Cabrera was on his way to earning a contract that would have set him up for life,
but now, he'll go through the rest of it being labeled as a cheat. He tested positive for
testosterone and it was revealed that he tried to set up a fictitious web site where he claimed
he purchased something that led to a positive drug test. Give Melky points for the effort
because after all, "if you're not cheating, you're not trying."


Cheating seems to be getting out of control these days, even the badminton team from China
dumped games to try to get a better seed in the Olympic tournament. Badminton? Are you
kidding me? Cameron Van Burgh of South Africa won a gold medal in the 100-meter
breaststroke and admitted that he cheated, taking extra butterfly kicks on turns to gain an
advantage. Van Burgh's reasoning was that if he didn't do it, his competitors who were also
doing it, would beat him.

The art of cheating seems to have increased in the sports world because the rewards have
become so great. There are better contracts, more endorsements, and greater fame for all
those who come out on top. One great year at the right time can provide security for an
athlete and his family for their rest of their lives. Cabrera was in line for a huge contract
and was having a phenomenal season. Then he got busted. Most of the dumb ones do.


It's high risk, high reward. And if athletes do get caught, they always feel they can get
away with it because they've basically gotten away with everything throughout their
lives because they were star athletes and received preferential treatment.

If that doesn't work, they feel usually blame it on somebody else. Rafael Palmeiro
blamed his positive drug test on his teammate, Miguel Tejada, who Palmeiro alleged,
gave him a B-12 shot that was tainted with steroids. Ryan Braun pointed the finger at a
Fed Ex delivery man who failed to send his urine sample into the lab within 48 hours.
Alberto Contador, a Tour de France champion, stated that a tainted piece of beef was
the reason for his failed drug test. Tainted beef, really? Cabrera went to a whole new
level of lying when he bought a web site and tried to tell MLB that the product he
ordered from it was laced his high levels of testosterone. Comical, purely comical.

I realize that cheating is nothing new in the world of sports. After all, we've seen Bill
Belichick and "Spygate", college football has provided a recruiting scandal every year
for the last 50. Danny Almonte blew away hitters in the 2001 Little League World Series


with 80-mile an hour fastballs and a knee-buckling 73-mile an hour slider. Trouble was,
he and his coach lied about his age. He was 14-years old after stating he was just 12.
NASCAR crews always try to push the envelope by suping  up engines to provide an
unfair advantage.

Will this epidemic of cheating stop anytime soon? I seriously doubt it. With so much
money to be made, athletes and coaches will continue to cross the line and cheat the
games, themselves, and the competition. As long as their are scholarships, big contracts,
and the drive to get on ESPN,  cheating will continue to plague the sports world. After
all, if you're not cheating, you're not trying.

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