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    Cheating – Who draws the line?

    On a Sunday in early September, a coach was taping signals during a football game.’ 56 years prior in August, a baseball team was on an improbable run of coming back from 13 ‘frac12; games back in the standings to win the pennant.’

    That coach was taping for Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots of the National Football League.’ He was taping defensive calls that the coach for the New York Jets was giving to his defense.’ The New York Giants baseball club in 1951 was accused of stealing signs from teams, and flashing lights on the scoreboard in the outfield to inform the batter what pitch was being thrown.’ Apparently, this was going too far, just as taping coaches on the sideline was.’ The Giants were never caught or penalized for doing this.’

    What is cheating?’ Since sports began, cheating has always been an option.’ To gain an advantage over your opponent is of the most importance.’ To know what the play is, what the pitch is, or who is playing or not can give any coach an advantage, but what’s cheating and what’s good preparation?

    During a professional football game, plays are being taped.’ Defenses are being taped, so when a quarterback goes back to the sideline, he can talk about the coverage he is seeing.’ The week before in practice, the scout team is running plays against the defensive starters.’ These are the plays that the Jets run.’ Yes, the identical plays.’ So, is this cheating?

    The NFL came down hard on Bill Belichick and the Patriots.’ Belichick was personally fined $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and lost draft picks. Which picks they lose depend on if they get to the playoffs.’ Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL said in a letter, ‘This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field.’

    The NFL has set regulations on what can be taped and what cannot be taped.’ So the NFL has told teams that it is ok to cheat, as long as the NFL says it approves of it.’ I realize that the NFL wants to make the league as fair as possible, which leads to better competition, and in the end a better NFL season.’ Holding occurs on every play, just ask an offensive linemen.’ Or a wide receiver making an illegal pick.’ It happens, no matter who says it’s not supposed to.

    Baseball players use film too, as well as teams from the National Hockey League. Colleges and high schools use film.’ Baseball players watch players’ trends, how a pitch is thrown, and even a batter’s swing.’ Hockey players watch film on goaltenders to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and how well they skate.

    As in the NFL, these leagues say it’s OK to use film to gain an advantage. The question is, Is it right?

    We can go as far as to say cheating goes all the way to the grounds crew.’ The way a baseball team rakes their field may help a bunted ball to stay fair, or go foul.’ In 2005, when USC visited South Bend, Indiana and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it was said that the grounds crew left the grass ‘extra long’ to slow down USC star Reggie Bush.

    Cheating can happen anytime, by anyone on the playing field.’ Last time I watched a football game, I still saw players on the field.’ Coaches teach and help players perform.’ They come up with plays that will work against their opponent.’ As long as players are on the field, they still have to execute the play.’ You can tell a defense what play you are running, or a batter what pitch is being thrown, but it is put on that athlete to still perform at a high enough level to accomplish the goal. Coaches still have to properly break down the film as well.’ Anyone can tape what the plays are, but using them to an advantage is the important part for any team.

    If the NFL is going to lay down laws about using film to gain a competitive advantage, then make it cut-and-dry.’ Either allow coaches to use film however they wish, or do not let them use any type of film at all.

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