I was in 11th grade.
I didn’t know I had an American History test, and when I walked into my classroom and realized I had one, I panicked.
I had an “A” average that I wanted to keep. Suffice it to say, there was a part of me that felt justified. I rationalized that if I had known about the test, I would’ve studied, and done well. And not knowing about the test was sort of, kind of, not my fault.
I had to make a quick decision: cheat or don’t cheat.
I hid my stack of notes under my test and thinking my teacher oblivious, I chose: cheat.
Of course, I was caught. And the humiliation and shame I felt was way worse than if I had failed the test. But usually, when someone decides to cheat they’re not imagining getting caught; they’re fantasizing they’ll get away with it.
What I didn't contemplate at the time was how I would feel after the test, knowing I’d cheated to get a specific result.
I’m not a football fan. I don’t like many things about the sport, in particular, aggression, but also the issues presently circling the game: domestic violence, sexual assaults, player concussions and higher rates of dementia.
However, I will say that Deflategate (the scandal determining if the Patriots intentionally deflated balls, which makes them easier to handle) has caught my attention.
I guess what I’m thinking is that if I felt guilty about cheating on a test in 11th grade, what were the Patriots thinking? And now that they've won Super Bowl XLIX, how does the team feel?
It’s not confirmed that the balls were deliberately tampered with but it seems evident that they were. And I’m wondering why a winning team would bother. After all there are consequences for getting caught. Besides fines and penalties, your team’s integrity is questioned and good old-fashioned American values like sportsmanship and honesty are diminished while money, glory and winning take center stage.
What ever happened to:
You win some, you lose some.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it’s how you play the game?
According to Stephen Mosher, a professor at Ithaca College who studies sports ethics, “It’s certainly accepted as part of the culture that you game the system as much as you possibly can, and if you don’t get caught, it ain’t cheating.”
Maybe it’s that mentality that has given us a slew of scandals to consider, starting with Watergate, the political scandal in 1972 that forced President Nixon to resign rather than be impeached. The Nixon administration was accused of cheating and then lying after breaking into Democratic National headquarters.
The suffix “gate” has come to be used many times since 1972, especially, but not exclusively, in regards to football scandals.
To name a few, there has been Bountygate, a scandal in which members of the New Orleans Saints were accused of paying out bounties for injuring opposing team players.
Spygate refers to the incident when the New England Patriots were disciplined for videotaping sideline defensive signals from New York Jet coaches.
And now there is Deflategate.
So what’s the drive?
Is it money?
Is it fame?
Is it power?
Is it winning?
Tom Brady, led the Patriots to victory in Super Bowl XLIX, and is now a 3-time winner of the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award.
The thing I don’t understand is that how you play the game actually does matter. You might achieve a victory; but if you cheated to accomplish that goal, did you really win?
I’d say if your goal is to be illustrious, at least in this country, the answer is yes.
We might want to think about that.