Do Cheaters ever Prosper?

6 Feb

Apparently Alberto Contador didn’t really win the 2010 Tour de France. I know, I know, in other news my trash is now collected on a different day of the week. But I find this especially interesting when you look at the larger picture. Supposedly, Lance Armstrong may not have won any either, and we’ve already heard that Floyd Landis was a non-winner. So, what does it accomplish for a fringe sport when you declare that every memory fans have is actually not true?

I also feel that this subject cannot be adequately addressed, in my mind, without talking about the recently deceased Joe Paterno. He is the all time wins leader in college football in part because Bobby Bowden had wins taken away. The very next season, his school felt holding on to him was no longer in its best interest. Of course, we must state that any record today must be asterisked. Did Reggie Bush win a Heisman? Has John Calipari coached in the Final Four? Did Ben Johnson win a gold medal? Did Pete Rose have a good career?

The reason this is even talk-worthy is because it pits the two biggest attractions to sports in general. On one side, we have the integrity of the game. We value that integrity as we always want to think that what we’re seeing is as fair as can be. On the other hand, we have our memories. If we could not remember what we saw, noone would watch sports!

So, when we put these interests against one another, we are all left with mixed emotions. This is one of the best days for sports pontification as it is the day after the Super Bowl and the game was pretty good. But immediately after a Patriot loss, I am reminded of the game that started it all-when the Patriots beat the Rams. Afterward we heard that Bill Belichick illegally taped the plays the Rams had pre-planned. While noone can be sure what effect this taping had on that game, the fact that the Rams gained 10 more yards per play on the “off script” plays than on the scripted plays certainly adds fuel to the fire of those against Bill Belichick.

The NFL decided, however, that they would honor our memories. As much as we may feel that Bill Belichick’s reputation was build illegally or that the greatness of players like Mark Gastineau was through illegal substances or that Shawne Merriman should have been excluded from Rookie of the Year voting, they retain what they had. Rules may change going forward, but your memories are always true. On the other hand, college football has determined that the integrity of the game is paramount, as they have taken away wins, national championships, Heismans, and anything else they can get away with.

So, that necessitates the question, which is the better way to go? I still have memories of Reggie Bush dominating! I still remember Bobby Bowden doing some things. I still think of USC as the best college football team when they were. My memories of the college game are certainly not gone. And it just makes me think that these crazy asterisks in record books are laughable. By the same token, I do not think the NFL game seems less legitimate. The NFL will punish you going forward, as Belichick was fined and the Patriots lost draft picks. Yet the fact that 40 million people saw it and remember it is safely embedded in our memory.

Now, to the original point, what difference does it make that the Tour de France has or will disqualify Armstrong, Landis, Contador, and others after the fact? They are deceiving themselves if they think the memories of people will be dissuaded or altered by disqualifying someone afterward. And, I believe, they risk complete obscurity if people think that what they watch and/or pay attention to will be taken away down the road. So, I believe they should run tougher tests, kick people out when they catch them, and just let it be. Not trying to reward cheaters, just trying to keep a fantastic tradition to have SOME meaning.


One Response to “Do Cheaters ever Prosper?”

  1. Jenni May 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Interesting perspective. (That is the type of comment that spammers make on blogs, but I am not a spammer. I really think it is an interesting perspective.)

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