Monday, July 09, 2007

The worst form of cheating in sport

The worst form of cheating in a sport is an action which leads to the key win-altering event in that sport.

A key event is a relatively-rare and win-determining event: in test match cricket it is a wicket (only 20 wickets per team per match); in baseball it is a run (most teams score just a few runs per match - 4-6 I guess; in soccer it is a goal (probably the rarest event in any major sport).

In cricket it has been noticed that cheating bowlers are criticized much more than cheating batters. So that a bowler who throws (rather than bowls), or a bowler that alters the ball (eg by scratching the surface) to make it swing in the air, or a fielder who claims a catch when he knows the ball has already bounced - all these are criticized much more than a batter who pretends not to have hit the ball when he is caught behind.

This is because cheating to get a wicket is a sin of comission, while cheating to preserve a wicket is a sin of omission. Cheating to get runs - eg claiming short runs, or leg byes, or pushing at the permitted boundaries off bat technology - these would hardly be regarded as cheating at all.

In baseball, by contrast, there are 27 'outs' per side, but just a few runs. A pitcher who alters the ball to get more outs (eg. by spitting on it, or scratching it) is regarded much more leniently than a batter who gets extra home runs by using a doctored ('corked') bat. A pitcher who used steroids to recover from injury or amphetamines to reduce fatigue is regarded much more leniently than a batter who uses steroids to increase power and bat speed - thereby getting more home runs.

In football, the worst kind of cheating is cheating to get a goal - handballing the ball into the net, or 'diving' in the penalty box and faking a foul in order to get a penalty. The worst-regarded defensive foul is a 'professional foul' used to stop a striker from scoring a near-certain goal.

So - in sport - some kinds of cheating are worse than others. Sins of commission are worse than sins of omission - and cheating to achieve the rarest form of win-altering event is usually regarded as the worst foul play.