In baseball, the first art a young man learns is the to decode the signals from the third base coach. The signs will tell you to swing away, not to swing or to bunt. The next thing you learn is to steal those signs from the other team. In highly competitive little leagues, coaches watch the games of future opponents to steal those signs and then gain some advantage when the teams meet up.
In 2002, the New England Patriots allegedly videotaped the St. Louis Rams walk-through practice right before they stunned the ‘greatest show on turf’ in Super Bowl XXXVI. Five years later they were busted filming the practices of the New York Jets before a game. Like all great cheaters they denied it, as they do the 2002 filming. The tapes of the Jets practice came out and they assured the world that it was a one time thing, they accidentally did, but they didn’t do anything–I can still be banker when we play Monopoly, right? Bill Belichick has taken the Patriots to six Super Bowls, won four and amassed an impressive record of 187–69–0 in 16 seasons. But, cheaters never prosper.
There is a fine line between gamesmanship and cheating—some athletes live on that line. Others do not play such subtle games, but take a bolder approach. In 1980, Rosie Ruiz ran the Boston Marathon in 2.5 hours. That’s 26 miles. She took a little short cut, and appears to have actually ran about a mile of the race. It has been suggested that she used the subway to get a good enough time in the New York Marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
In 1986, one cheater cheated so well that his team won the World Cup and he was named the Player of the Tournament. Diego Maradona punched in a goal, played it off—-fooling only the most important people: the refs. The goal was the difference that sent Argentina over England 2-1 and off to a World Cup final. Given the choice between winning the Falklands War or that game against England, I think the World Cup means more to Argentina.
Cheating will aways be a part of sports, each with its own modes and methods of gaining an advantage. In basketball we have the flop. In baseball we have the spitball, sign stealing, and corked bats. In football we have the Patriots.