Despite the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I was prepared to root for the Patriots in this Super Bowl, for the first time of my life. I’m not that big a fan of the way the Seahawks play football (the American kind, with the diamond shaped ball), and I’ve always had a grudging respect for Tom Brady as a quarterback…until the details of Deflategate came out. And while it isn’t as critical a matter as ISIS, as Mr. Brady rightly asserts, it’s still important.
Because any sport, whether American Football, cricket, fantasy sports, or badminton, is about the triumph of the human spirit over difficulties. It’s about struggling against adverse circumstances—injuries, mismatched teams, or a lack of experience and expertise—to overcome. It’s about the possibility of victory in the darkest moments, and it’s why so many people are drawn to it.
We like the camaraderie, the chance to be part of something larger than ourselves, but we really like the rush of winning, of “our team” or even “our players” making big plays and getting the job done, refusing to be discouraged and standing strong. It’s why even the fantasy sports can be a positive experience, teaching people how the game works and offering them a chance to play at being a coach, to make decisions, and run a team.
And all this is lost when cheating gets involved. Suddenly, the game becomes a competition of treachery and underhandedness, asking who can best bend the rules to their advantage without being caught. When we try to make things harder for our opponents and easier for ourselves, the honor of the game is lost, and the glory that should surround the sport is wiped away.
Suddenly, football (or any sport, for that matter) loses it’s identity as a great challenge, a noble struggle for victory. It’s just another kind of war, where people spy on the enemy because nothing matters but winning. It becomes all about the money, the fame, and the attention, and those who participate in the game must choose to retain their self-respect—and possibly live and retire in obscurity—or bend the rules, living under the weight of a guilty conscience to reach the height of their ambition.
If the sports leagues wish to endorse and encourage a well-funded, highly-publicized gratification of human weakness, ambition, and lust for success, then they appear to be on the right track; they just have to turn a blind eye to such things as Deflategate. But when victory is attained by bending the rules, it’s cheap. It says you can’t really rely on your team. You can’t really rise over adversity. You aren’t good enough, and if you want to get anywhere, you have to cheat.
And that’s why a little air matters, Mr. Brady.
Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren Photo by GaborfromHungary, Creative Commons