Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: SHENANIGANS!


by wwtb?, Pacifist Viking

Discussion of cheating in professional sports has for many years focused on individuals cheating. Players cheating by using illegal performance enhancing drugs have dominated the discussion, to the point the problem is seen as a trend, as an epidemic, as a specific and consistent issue. Individual athletes cheating has been portrayed as a larger issue that needs to be dealt with.

When teams have cheated, the incidents have generally been viewed as isolated incidents. The Denver Broncos were penalized for circumventing the salary cap, and the Minnesota Timberwolves had draft picks stripped because they cheated in signing Joe Smith. These incidents weren't treated my fans, media, congress, or commissioners as indicative of a larger problem.

But now we are seeing news items about teams cheating more frequently. Of course there was Spygate, which led to a season of discussion about the way teams cheat. And this week the 49ers were punished for tampering. Are we seeing a trend of team cheating incidents dominating media and fan discussion of cheating in professional sports?

It's worth monitoring. In particular, we'll want to see how fans, media, congress, and commissioners react. So far, the reaction seems similar. Compare fan reaction to the New England Patriots and Barry Bonds. Fans that already dislike the Patriots/Bonds used cheating (or in Bonds' case, allegations of cheating) as an excuse to criticize them (and that criticism even takes similar form in the asterisk), and fans loyal to the Patriots/Bonds will find ways to defend their side against all criticism. The media has harped on the Patriots' cheating all season long, and even some members of congress want to get involved. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, most publicized for his implimentation of punishment to individual players for off-the-field conduct, seems intent on stifling team cheating before it turns into a larger story. The NFL has given serious punishment to teams for cheating, seeming to make the proverbial statement to other teams that such behavior will not be accepted.

And then there are blogs. In my estimation bloggers have devoted as much attention and derision to Spygate as they have to issues of steroids and HGH.

But which deserves more attention? Is it worse for an individual player to take performance enhancing drugs than it is for a team to illegally videotape opposing teams, circumvent the salary cap, or tamper with another team's players? I'm not sure. The media has covered performance enhancing drugs pretty heavily, making it seem like a worse offense; but then, the media has the ability to make something a bigger deal than it is simply through overcoverage.

Are you more bothered when an athlete uses illegal performance enhancers, or are you more bothered when a team cheats (in any form)? And why? Exploring this question might get perceptions and portrayals of athletes and teams.

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