Cheating in Sports: Do Fans Still Care?


Close your eyes and think back.

You’re nine years old.  You’re playing Risk or cards or chess with a friend.  He leaves the room for a minute and you are suddenly left alone with the opportunity to give yourself a distinct advantage by moving a piece, changing the roll of your dice or switching cards without him ever knowing.  Something inside you tells you not to do so, that it’s wrong.  You make the conscious decision not to cheat and you eventually win the game anyway.



It is ingrained in most of us at an early age that cheating is immoral.  We are taught that breaking certain rules often has damaging repercussions.  This is why we as sports fans openly disapprove of such behavior and treat the cheating athlete with such scrutiny and disdain.

Examples abound.  Pete Rose, one of the finest and toughest competitors to ever play baseball, remains outside the walls of Cooperstown for one reason.  He cheated.

Years ago, Shawne Merriman, one of the more likeable yet feared linebackers in the NFL, was suspended four games for illegal drug use.  Despite still leading the league in sacks after seventeen games, many argued he should be left off the Pro Bowl roster.  Why?  He cheated.

Mark McGwire, who not long ago was widely cheered for reviving baseball with his chase of Roger Maris’ single-season home run record, was recently denied entry into the Hall of Fame.  It is commonly debated whether he’ll even make it in.  Similarly, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jason Giambi, once considered shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame, are routinely vilified for one reason alone.  They cheated.

Barry Bonds, arguably the greatest baseball player of all time was ridiculed, booed and taunted in every stadium save his own for one reason.  It’s not because he’s inaccessible or short with the fans or media.  It’s because we think he cheated.

Of course, aside from Giambi who’s openly admitted to using steroids and Palmeiro who failed a drug test, we still do not know for certain which players cheated despite the mounting evidence against them.  It is still unclear as to when, how and how often Alex Rodriguez used despite his interviews and press conferences ‘detailing’ his past.

Mere allegations of cheating are often enough to taint the common fan’s opinion of a star athlete.  Like it or not, fair or not, we tend to hold our athletes, our heroes, to a higher standard.  We put them on a pedestal.  Despite Charles Barkley’s warnings to the contrary, we still treat our athletes as role models.

Fans care when their idols break the rules.  We no longer need our sports leagues to police their own.  We do a perfectly good job of doing that ourselves.  We suspend athletes from our good graces, or sometimes worse in the cases of Rose and Bonds.  College programs can lose scholarships or television revenue if they violate set rules for establishing contact with young athletes.  Olympians are stripped of their medals.  Cyclists are removed of their victories.  Athletes deemed heroes one day, become condemned the next.  We as fans reserve the right to pass judgment because, right or wrong, we as fans care.

We laud the Jeters and the Mannings and the Jordans of the world who excel without having to resort to cheating and we banish those that don’t play by the rules.

It may be unfair to hold the modern athlete to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.  When they are caught cheating in any capacity, we talk about them, blog about them, disparage them for desecrating what we hold sacred, without once considering the pressures put upon them.  Unfair?  Perhaps.  Hypocritical?  Undoubtedly.  But it’s a fact.  Fans care when athletes cheat.  Otherwise, Barry Bonds’ historical achievements would be applauded rather than denounced. 



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11 Replies to “Cheating in Sports: Do Fans Still Care?”

  1. Pete Rose was my favorite player- I ws watching the game when he hit that home run right after getting shot up in the leg with numbers or what ever it was! awesome moment and truly the only one I remember. But here’s a question- it takes great skill to be an athlete at the highest level, so in turn even if runners use streroids, they had to be somewhat capabale of being great even with the use of drugs that are suppossed to give you a aboost. drugs or not to run, jump, swim whatever you have to have the talent beforehand regardless..

    you feel what I’m saying??? 🙂

  2. I could care less if athletes want to juice.

    If they’re willing to sacrifice their long term health for my entertainment, all the power to em. The HR chases involving McGwire, Sosa and Bonds were captivating…just have a separate record keeping system for before steroids and after…seems pretty simple to me.

    The thing that really pisses me off is that Congress is wasting time looking into the allegations….IT’S SPORTS….let the governing bodies worry about and let the U.S. government worry about more important things.

  3. Double D… Rose is an interesting case. Fans of his sand by him even though he’s had a serious falling out with some of his old Big Red Machine teammates. Bottom line is baseball’s rule book clearly state if you bet on the game, you’re out.

    Rose is having the last laugh now though with steroid scandal.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Hall of Fame voters handle Clemens, ARod, Bonds and the like.

  4. Elk… I couldn’t agree more. Great perspective on the juicing athlete.

    I too believe in separation of sports and state. We have more pressing issues at hand. Baseball got themselves into this predicament. Let them find a way out.

  5. The thing about sports is that “cheating” doesn’t always go hand in hand with success. Sure Roids helps guys hit further and recover faster, but it doesn’t improve hand-eye coordination or knowledge of the game. Good thought provoking piece man, keep it up.

  6. Genius… here’s the thing, man. Baseball is so full of itself that we’re going to have an entire period of REALLY good players whose accomplishments will not be recognized.

    A Hall with no Rose, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa or Palmeiro is like a Thanksgiving dinner missing half your family.

    I wonder what the admission price is for the Asterisk Hall of Fame.

  7. Like they say in NASCAR (and pro wrestling) “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t trying.”

  8. But Han, NASCAR, like other sports, is serious about penalizing its athletes for cheating. Often an infraction can cost a driver a season.

    Baseball now has no choice put to levy serious penalties in a feeble attempt to remedy its drug problem. It’s a long way from out of its hole.

  9. The fans care enough. But more to the point the
    question that ought ot be asked. Is do the players
    themselves or the hierarchy of baseball care at all ?

    And in the strictest sense of the word the answer is an
    emphatic No. They do not care
    one iota. If they did then there’d be more an outcry
    from the Players’ Union as well as the owners.

    Here’s my own take on the Manny debacle.

    It’s Just Manny Being Manny That’s All ………

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