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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

[Sport]: Deny Everything

If there’s one thing I cannot stand, above everything else, it’s cheating.

Currently in the states there is a congressional hearing on steroid use in major league sports. Many of the players subpoenaed are refusing to say anything because it will incriminate them. So they are guilty, otherwise they would say so. Barry Bonds is the biggest cock of the lot. Not only did he not show up, he is now taking the season off to rest from “stress”.

You big dirty lying cheat!

There are a glut of good articles on the internet about how cheating in baseball has ruined statistics like who has hit the most home runs. There was a brilliant one on ESPN.com; except that I can’t find where I wrote down the author’s name, so no link for you I’m afraid.
[Aha!!! found it, sorry its late though, please click here to read]

Basically it ran like this: Who hit the most home runs ever? Well that would be this guy, except he was on steroids. So technically it would be this guy, except he corked his bat. So I suppose it was this guy, except they made the field smaller while he was playing. So maybe it was…`

My own opinion on the topic is this: if you cheat (and are caught or later admit to it) then all of your statistics are removed from the books. You no longer exist in sports’ history, even if you didn’t break a record. Does anyone remember Ben Johnson’s 100m time from the 1988 Seoul Olympics? 9.79 seconds. It is set in a general historical record not a sporting one. You don’t rewrite history or delete things you don’t want to remember. But you also do not tell future generations that this was a fair representation of who was the fastest or strongest or whatever.

An asterisk only has so much power. The little star after a piece of information does not make it valid. Most people don’t even read footnotes.

Outside of statistics, cheating is just wrong. But encouraging cheating is worse.

Crusader’s flanker Richie McCaw (who is probably the best player at his position in the world) hit the headlines a couple of weeks back for constantly killing the ball at the breakdown. The replay which showed Blues lock Ali Williams vigorously rucking to remove McCaw also showed McCaw lying on top of the ball. The general consensus amongst sports commentators (myself included) was: “ruck the hell out of him”.

[For those of you who don’t know what rucking is: Rucking is the action of scraping a player backwards off the ball (actually you are supposed to ruck the ball itself) in order to free the ball from under them. Rucking is always backwards never in a downward or stomping motion. Usually it is used to “warn” the offending player not to lie on the ball again by scraping your sprigs across their back (never the head). Most players come out with a few scratches or a ripped jersey but sometimes it is much worse]
What happened though was that three players ended up being punished (at various levels) for over-vigorous rucking. I can understand why Williams got pinged on the field. At first glance (which is all that refs get) it looked like he stomped on McCaw’s head. But a run over the tape showed that McCaw was infringing on the play and deserved a sprig in the back for his troubles. Moreover this wasn’t the first time he had done that during the game. McCaw was flirting with the law but never admitted as much. Neither did his coach. In fact the coach, Robbie Deans, claimed that McCaw wasn’t cheating at all, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Letting a culture of cheating and bad sportsmanship into team can only lead to bad things. Look at the dirty old Wellington Lions/Hurricanes or the dirty old Oakland Raiders. When those teams cleaned up their acts, they were (or are in the case of the Hurricanes) awesome.

McCaw’s talent lies in his ability to get the ball at the breakdown and push those laws to the limit, but he could at least admit that is what he is doing instead of the Barry Bonds way of doing things: Deny, Deny, Deny.

I got a little off track, but that’ll happen if you pop out for lunch half way through.

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