November 02, 2006

Cheating Is Now The Competitive Edge

I was watching an NFL game Sunday and for some reason noted the head coach covering his nose and mouth with what looked like a program for the game. This wasn’t something out of the ordinary; I’d seen this before; a lot. You can see it on any given Sunday when the head coach is shown on the sidelines communicating with his other coaches who sit up in a box somewhere looking at films taken moments before.

Or maybe you didn’t realize that black and white snapshots are taken on virtually every play so that seconds later, formations of the teams can be viewed and weaknesses spied. Those weaknesses are then radioed down to the field and the proper coach makes an adjustment wherever necessary.

Like I said, none of this is out of the ordinary and all quite legal, even expected. Everybody does it; really.

But it was the program over the mouth that caught my attention this time. I remember someone explaining to me that the reason the coaches now hide their mouths when talking is because the other team used to hire lip readers to view the coaches with binoculars or spotting scopes and then tell the coach what their opponent was saying.

Now call me square but I don’t really see this being any different than someone using a mirror strategically placed during a card game to try and get the upper hand on the opponent. We used to call this cheating; now it’s called getting the competitive edge.

Why is it accepted? I suppose because everyone does it, or at least would if they had the opportunity and the coaches weren’t hiding their lips. But what I note is that these kinds of things were not in the playbook so to speak in days gone by. Honestly, even if the technology were the same, I’m not sure that someone in the days of Knute Rockne or George Halas for example, would have even thought to do such a thing.

The game was fought on the field by honing physical skills and teamwork not by figuring out someway to short cut the system and find a loophole to the norms of competition.

So as I watched, it just saddened me a bit to realize again, what we have become, in all spheres of life.


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