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I Cheated; Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?

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Initially I posted this as and Off Topic forum thread. Because of it's length, I probably should have posted it as a blog. I hope this peice engenders some thought. In case you've been living in a cave, the Great Recession is changing fundamental aspects of American life, just as the Great Depression did. Is it time for us to question our preconceptions about the society in which we live? This blog is about something that has interested me for a long time, which is our wink-nod relationship with cheating.

In the wake of the Broncos videotaping a 49'ers walk through in London, Spygate returned to the news. Fines have been levied and it appears the story has been tamped down, but it leaves the question hanging, is it wrong to cheat in sports? And as far as that goes, is it wrong to cheat at anything?
We have in our society a certain ideal of fairness, but is that really practiced at all, or are we just trying to feel better about ourselves? It seems that fairness is something that is most important to children. They have a keen sense of getting the short end of the stick, but as they grow older that seems to fade away.
Most high school students cheat on their tests. You may have seen the parody of this, the movie Stand And Deliver, and Spygate on an episode of South Park. Undereducated inner city kids are taught by teacher Eric Cartman to cheating...and they are successful.
With cell phones and Google, there is no telling if a students grades mean anything. Are we wrong to not exert more control over these kids, or should we be concerned that inspite of rampant cheating, our kids lag far behind the rest of the developed world in education? Are we failing to teach our children the proper way to cheat?
As we get older we continue to find opportunities to cheat. Most people falsify information on job applications. We've all done it. I'm reminded of perennial candidate Christine O'Donnell. Running for Senate from Delaware it was revealed her educational credentials are bogus. Although she lost the election, tens of thousands voted for her anyway, and her fraudulent claims of an Oxford degree didn't seem to figure in her loss nearly as much as her claiming to have dabbled in witchcraft. Latest reports are she is going to be a continuing figurehead in the tea party movement, and is being considered for "Dancing With the Stars".
How about taxes? Who hasn't cheated on their taxes? Do you report and pay sales tax on items you buy on the internet? Many websites advertise "No Sales Tax" as a form of discount. In fact, there is a huge underground economy in the U.S.
Ever wonder how huge landcape maintanance companies can employ armies of Guatemalans (they work cheaper than Mexicans) to maintain the lawns and fairways of our golf course communities. This isn't some guys swimming the Rio Grande, but thousands of workers recruited in their home countries, brought into this country illegally, and working in plain sight. When my wife worked for Bank of America, they were coached on how to help these workers get neccessary ID to cash their checks. B of A also bought a bank in Mexico to expedite wire transfers of funds to families back home. Many of these workers get their paychecks cashed by their "padrone", who takes a big chunk for getting the checks cashed without ID, working with an unscrupless merchant or banker who is also cheating the system.
In fact, as was illustrated in the California governors race, the wealthiest Americans, the ones with the least need to cheat, routinely knowingly employ illegals in their homes. Do they really need to save the money, or is it just an indication of the systemic and widespread dishonesty in society.
You have to give some credit to those who are honest enough to say "If you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough." Just look at Wall Street. They in essence told the banks they would buy as many mortgages as the banks could write, regardless of the worthiness of the borrower. They converted them into another financial instrument, paid off the rating agencies to rate them AAA, and sold them to hedge funds and pension funds. Faced with the ramifications, the government was forced to bail everybody out. So far, only Bernie Madoff went to jail. Why? Bernie made the biggest mistake you can make, he stole from rich people.
In a communication to a member of Congress urging the non-enforcement of recently passed legislation to regulate Wall Street, an officer at Citibank informed the Congressman that enforcing the rules that would prohibit FDIC insured funds from being used for risky investments would only cause the banks to "game the system". In other words, if you try to regulate us, then we will just cheat, so don't bother.
How about members of Congress? Take Bob Dole. He got out of the service after WWII and was urged by local businessmen to run for office. He came out of the war wounded, and as broke as my dad and many others but with some local backing he ran and won. He left the Senate many years later after an unsuccessful presidential run a very wealthy man. How? Investments. When members of Congress invest their rate of return is spectacular. Their stock portfolios outperform the average investor by quite a bit. I'm sure as we speak, members of Congress are making piles of money in real estate even in this market. And this is all without taking a bribe.
Athletes invest their money and history shows how poorly they do. Congressman invest and never fail. Are they smarter than athletes? Have you heard Michelle Bachman?
I could go on and on but this is already a long post.
Let me close with this. I coached Little League for three years and had a ball. The kids were great. The adults not so much. My team was at a distinct disadvantage because I refused to cheat. With only one umpire it's not hard to leave base early and other teams clearly coached this. When that didn't work, some managers physically intimidated the umpires. The best players were placed on teams with managers who had pull with the league. New guys and outsiders were given rosters of full of kids that had never played before. They were alsogiven the worst practice times to ensure a low turnout, and often access to equipment like pitching machines and even bats and balls was limited to the favored teams so as not to engender open competition. The fact that I refused to let my kids break the rules was frowned upon by some of the parents. After three years, when my original kids moved on, I was only too happy to resign.
Really after all this I'm only scratching the surface of cheating in our society, but I'm interested to get your honest (?) input. Should we just quit pretending it matters, and admit who we really are. I have heard that the French language has no word for "fairplay".
It reminds me of the final episode of Seinfeld; as the plane was plummeting to the ground and it seemed as though it was curtains and it was time for a little soul searching...

"Jerry, remember the contest? Well, I cheated."
"Yea, I won. But why did you cheat?"
"Because I'm a cheater!"

Well played, Mr. Peanut.

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  1. FessJL0861's Avatar
    First off, great post man. The first thing that comes to mind is "thought-provoking". You know, I always say in the world of sports that, "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin"". When it crosses over to real life though, you have to stop and reevaluate. I try not to visibly cheat on anything. If I can't do it to the best of my abilities, then I don't need it. As conservative as I may be (and you know I am buddy), I can't help but think that the likes of Perez Hilton, Bristol Palin, and Christine O'Donnell will just fall fall by the wayside. Life has a natural thinning of the heard that takes place during put up or shut up time. The people that you named won't be on top in 15 years. That's just the way this thing works. With the blaze of social media and the 24-7 news cycle, we get bent out of shape about everyone else. The audible cry of "what about so and so, and why can't I have that" grates on me. We worry about everyone else to much, and not enough about ourselves. If the next guy needs to cheat in life to get where he needs to go, then ok. That just means that when I get where I'm going, its going to taste even sweeter. I know that I may sound like an oxymoronic conundrum when I say this, karma is a biznitch. The cheaters are going to have to atone at some point.

    I guess what I'm saying is that cheating in sports is acceptable, but when the game is over, you have to experience real life. There isn't any room there for that.
  2. bluestree's Avatar
    I'm less interested in the famous people who get caught and more on the institutional gamesmanship that goes on at all levels. And in case there is any question, I'm no goody twoshoes. I'm (was) a contractor. I had perhaps some higher standards than some of my competitors, but I did what I had to do. And if I buy something online, I may neglect to voluntarily contact the govt. an pay my 7%.
    The big subject in the news today is Don't Ask Don't Tell, which is also about institutionalizing dishonesty. I didn't get into it because my post was already long, but regardless of how you feel about the issue, here is a case when the most conservative among us are preaching a wink-nod with the truth as a means of dealing with an institutional problem.
  3. FessJL0861's Avatar
    I don't think I would describe it as wink-nod, more of turnaway-ignore. That's the last thing YOU and I need to be debating in here. Perhaps the next time I'm drunk in Florida....

    I don't know man, gamesmanship is the key to business. You do what you have to do to succeed. If you can sleep at night and not worry about your name or jail time, I say go for it. But then again, I'm against rigid regulation too.
  4. bluestree's Avatar
    Yeah, there's other places to debate the policy, I'm just interested in our relationship to truthfulness, and what, if any, ramifications that might have. For instance, we talk about the problem with the deficit, but we don't bring up the contribution of the underground economy on that debt. We really have no idea how large it is, but just in my experience in the business community, it is billions if not trillions of dollars.
  5. Pruitt's Avatar
    Good post.

    Most of us grow up believing that honesty is the best policy, nice guys finish first, good will triumph over evil and many other myths that are central to our idea of society and civilization.

    The sad fact is that cheating and lying have always been with us, ESPECIALLY in the political arena and in the higher reaches of our financial systems. Yet so many people willingly swallow the garbage that is foisted on them. I don't think Sarah Palin can count to 50, yet she could be running for President in 2012. Why? Is it because she believes what she says, or is it because the people bankrolling her see a puppet willing to dance to their tune?

    And obviously, she's not the only facade in politics. I mean, what the hell was George W. Bush? And why is Obama laying down for the Wall Streeters who drove the western world into a recession?

    But it's up to us as individuals to try to live better, more moral lives than those who sell their souls for money and power.
  6. bluestree's Avatar
    But it's up to us as individuals to try to live better, more moral lives than those who sell their souls for money and power.
    I don't really believe in moral equivalency. If you cheat on your taxes, are you less guilty than a politician who lies?

    On a side note, there's been a rumor for years that George Bush started out as a presidential candidate not thinking he could ever win, but feeling it would give him more cred in going after the job he really wanted, Commissioner of Baseball.
  7. ScottDCP's Avatar
    [quote]Most high school students cheat on their tests.[/qupte]

    I attended easily the best high school in my hometown. Run by Jesuits, who tend to take themselves and their work somewhat seriously. Our 11th grade Advanced Placement History teacher had just finished testing us on WWII, and we sat down as a group of fine young men and future leaders to see hiim take an extra minute at his podium before beginning (a wondrous display of subtly capturing an audience). He lifted a manila folder holding a sheet of paper to the full extent of his reach, and intoned in his really really weird New Jersey/Irish accent "I have here a list of students who I know cheated on the exam you took Friday". You could have heard a hair drop. 30 guys in the room, among them future lawyers, teachers, financiers, doctors and such (plus me). Easily two thirds lost blood flow to the brains. Great intro to Senator McCarthy and the Red Scare, but a very telling moment for someone who paid attention to the emotions in a room. Not a one of us ever got caught, or at least had the issue addressed in any way I know, by the way.

    Not sure how or if it helps, but I get ya.
  8. Andy Freeland's Avatar
    Very cool post. The talk about cheating in sports and as it relates to life reminded me of 2 things:

    1. Sitting in the Football Night in America viewing room, a flag would be thrown and Sterling Sharpe (one of the funniest dudes you'll ever meet) would say, jokingly "Cheating, Steelers" (or whomever the flag was on, of course). Is jumping offsides cheating? Of course not, it's accidental. Is holding cheating? If you know you're doing it and just trying not to get caught. Not really, kinda, sorta.

    2. Several years ago someone who worked at the Metrodome admitted that, during the Twins '87 World Series winning season, they used to turn the air conditioner on when the Twins were batting and off when the visitors were (it was believed that the extra wind from the AC helped the ball travel farther). He dismissed it as 'homefield advantage'. Homefield advantage is when a ballpark is taylored to the abilities of the home team, but both teams play in exactly the same circumstances. Was that cheating? Absolutely.

    In the real world we would like to think that we all know the difference between holding and turning on the AC. That there aren't degrees of honesty. But is that really the case? Is it cheating to break the law? Yep. How about speeding? That's breaking the law. Who among us hasn't sped, or cheated on their taxes, or killed a hitchhiker? I've said too much.
  9. bluestree's Avatar
    Is it cheating to break the law? Yep. How about speeding? That's breaking the law. Who among us hasn't sped, or cheated on their taxes, or killed a hitchhiker? I've said too much.
    Don't sweat it Andy, nobody is going to read this. At least I don't think so, it's been over eight hours since I forwarded your comment to the FBI.
    We have a fairly broad and fuzzy line that separates cheating from gamesmanship. Getting the advantage on an opponent in a one on one struggle by employing gamesmanship is looked on with approval. It's savvy. Gaining advantage by manipulation outside the white lines is clearly cheating and nobody approves. Well almost nobody. Again that is relative. The old Boston Garden and the shaky rim in the fourth quarter. If you don't get caught, it becomes a fond memory.
    If you are aggressive in going after cheaters where cheating is widespread you have the NCAA example, trying to be a cross between one of those Indian goddesses with six arms and the little dutch boy, sticking fingers in holes in a dike that continues to spring leaks. Eventually it becomes a charade. Our sense of right and wrong engenders relativism. Like with speeding, if we know they're after the guys doing 90 in a 45, we set the cruise control at 52.