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MIKE WOITALLA: The complications of cheating
November 27th, 1998 12AM

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The policies of a recreational league I joined discourage "the manipulation of the rules to further winning." I think they mean cheating. Why use such a round-about description? Have words like restroom -- you can get charged with vagrancy if you took a nap in one -- made us euphemism-mad? Or do sports people have difficulty coming to terms with all the cheating that goes on? The word gamesmanship implies a lesser, even acceptable form of cheating. Hard tacklers who foul frequently are defended as being aggressive players. But a player who scores with his hands is immediately a cheat. TV commentators still commend smart or tactical fouls, and the phrase professional foul is a part of the lexicon. The righteous indignation that comes down on players who take dives -- or who don't jump to their feet within a nanosecond of getting fouled -- is often more emphatic than criticism directed at foulers. Why is it nobler to hack down a good dribbler before he gets to the penalty area than to draw a penalty kick by doing a swan dive? It's all cheating. People make moral judgments, and when they see others make them differently, they're prone to justifying the transgressions they view as the lesser ones. Why eject my player for swearing at the ref when their player got a yellow for a violent foul? But there's one form of cheating we can eradicate by pure deterrence -- forget moral judgments. Shirt-pulling is epidemic in soccer. Refs who call it correctly are chastised for the times they missed it elsewhere. Perpetrators are excused with the everybody-does-it defense. Make it a red-card offense. First, launch an intensive educational campaign so all players know they'll get red if any official sees them. And every red card will be justified -- because no one ever accidentally pulls a shirt. FANS: LET'S HEAR YOUR VIEW Are some manipulations of the rules to further winning worse than others? Click here to log onto (Soccer) American Graffiti. Then click on the topicentitled "YOUR VIEW: Cheating" and respond to Mike Woitalla in 200 words or less. Don't hold nothin' back! Best responses will be reprinted in Soccer America Magazine. If YOUR View is selected, we'll send you a cool t-shirt and pin... Because You're FANATIC.


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