Marolt: Cheaters never prosper — ha! | AspenTimes.com
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Marolt: Cheaters never prosper — ha!

Roger Marolt

Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, with Super Bowl 49 (sorry, I refuse to do the Roman-numeral thing) victory apparently his team’s for the taking, calls for a pass play over the middle with his team 1 yard away from hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The ball is intercepted. The New England Patriots win. The football world is in shock over the inexplicable turn of events.

Carroll humbly admits his mistake after the game. It cost his team the Super Bowl. In the sports world, he will never be forgiven.

Lance Armstrong, apparently one of the most naturally gifted bicyclists the world has ever known, gets caught in a backdraft of the preponderance of evidence that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career and is stripped of seven Tour de France overall titles as a result.



Armstrong reluctantly admits his cheating after there is no longer any doubt that the allegations are true. In the sports world, and even in the general population, he still has legions of loyal apologists and admirers. More than a few still don’t believe he cheated despite his own admission of doing so.

So, in the amalgamation of the societal mindset, which is worse: to make an honest mistake or to cheat?



You can’t make the call I’m leading you toward based on this one isolated comparison, huh? OK, who retains a larger fan base — Billy Buckner, the gutsy, hardworking ballplayer who played in the major leagues for 22 seasons but let an easy grounder roll between his legs that, if fielded cleanly, would have clinched the Boston Red Sox’s first World Series victory since the year they traded Babe Ruth? Or Roger Clemens, who led the charge to two world championships for the New York Yankees, even though it was eventually discovered that the fuel he used included illegal steroids and human growth hormone, to top the inventory listing of performance-enhancing drugs in his medicine cabinet?

Cheaters prosper. Honest human error gets you humiliated. Cheaters get sanctioned but make it up selling memorabilia that somehow goes up in value after their scandals are revealed. Athletes who make costly but honest mistakes pay for them the rest of their lives.

Athletes who admit their cheating most of the time move on seamlessly with their careers. Athletes who cop to being human to explain their mental or physical lapses on the field ignite even more hatred and scorn than if they had disappeared, never to be heard from again, which most fans would wish would sooner occur.

It’s not just sports, either. If you cheat in business enough times, you will probably end up making a lot of money and be considered successful. If you make enough mistakes in business, you will likely end up losing your job. If you cheat on tests and homework, you get A’s and go to the college of your choosing. If you make honest mistakes in classwork, you get B’s and hope the honest qualifications you put on your applications make up for it, which they probably won’t since they are competing, in many cases, with embellishments and straight fiction on the cheaters’.

And in case you think cheating doesn’t pay, try to come up with another explanation as to why governing bodies in sports spend millions of dollars each year trying to catch the frauds. Further, if you think we are really serious about putting an end to benders and breakers of the rules, why do we so often portray the drug testers and rules-committee members as meddlesome nerds wasting money because they don’t have anything better to do?

Deflategate was the biggest story in the NFL until Carroll dropped the ball and sent the play into the huddle that has been called by many in the know as the “dumbest call in the history of football,” which it arguably was. Nonstop speculation about this botched coaching decision and the excitement of a great game have relegated the controversy over flat balls to an amusing story about a wily coach who will do anything to win. He’s considered far more of a genius than a criminal. His Hall of Fame induction will prove this.

We can compare premeditated cheating to instantaneous lapses of judgment and brain-lock all we want. Examples of each are ubiquitous, and the controllable one is, unfortunately, not rarer than the accidental. They are clearly not the same thing. One thing appears obvious — cheating isn’t a mistake if the stakes are high enough.

Roger Marolt wonders what percentage of people who complain about the national debt cheat on their taxes, even just a little. Email roger@maroltllp.com.


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