All this business with the Patriots getting caught cheating makes me wonder about cheating in other sports (in particular basketball).
Baseball is famous for cheating. There has always been the stealing of signs and doctoring bats and baseballs. Most recently we’ve seen players caught using steroids and HGH. The sport seems to have a reputation for trying to get an edge any way possible.
Football seems less obvious, but it is still there. There's a reason why coaches take a military-like approach to protecting playbooks and injury details. They hold their secrets tight because they know what they would do with that kind of information.
But what about basketball? Do you ever hear about players or coaches caught cheating? How do you cheat in basketball?
Steroids don't seem to be much of a public problem (yet). The thinking seems to be that there's little to gain from bulking up to pro-wrestler sized proportions. It would limit your flexibility and agility. However, I'm sure there are some players taking illegal substances in order to recover from injuries faster. If sprinters take steriods, why not basketball players? Still, I can't think of a single NBA player or coach caught in a performance enhancing drugs scandal.
Stealing signs? The point guard will often tell everyone out loud what play they are going to run. It still has to be executed and it is still up to the defense to stop it.
There is a good amount of shoving and elbowing and kicking going on under the basket. There are sometimes accusations of players (like Bruce Bowen) playing downright dirty. But there’s a blurry line between aggressive and dirty and to a certain extent that stuff happens in every sport.
There is plenty of flopping going on, but if the ref is going to buy it, the players are going to keep doing it. And that’s the thing. What ends up happening in basketball is that fans and players end up turning on the officials and blaming them (fairly or not) for costing them the game.Now, with the Donaghy scandal, that feeling is going to get ratcheted up several degrees. Fans will blame the ref and the mob for costing them the game. Fingers will be pointed at innocent refs just trying to do the best they can to call a fair game. An already thankless job is going to be even more painful for them. And we wonder why we can’t get any "good" refs.
Still, that is the refs. The players and coaches can’t cheat by using the refs unless they have their own mob ties.
There was the case of Kevin McHale's wink-wink deal with Joe Smith that cost him several draft picks. Still, somehow when GM's cheat it seems like a white collar crime. Still bad, but it doesn't strike home at the integrity of the game as an on court infraction might.
Actually, the best examples of coaches and players getting an extra edge is the history/lore of our Boston Celtics. Red was famous for making the visiting team's locker room as uncomfortable as possilbe. Bird and others admitted to steering ball handlers to dead spots in the Garden floor to pick up a steal. Still, with better facilities and more restrictions on conditions, that seems to be a thing of the past.
Is there cheating by players and coaches in basketball? Maybe. I just don’t hear about it much.
Update: Jack MacCallum actually wrote on this subject a month ago, but the examples he points out seem pretty tame.
Update 2: Poster hankfinkle reminds me that "tanking" games for a better draft position is a kind of cheating.