Flops and Dives II

by Ben Perreira

This morning I came across an article on cheating in sports: http://www.psmag.com/culture/defense-diving-flopping-cheating-sports-66007/

The author assesses the differences between how fans treat the different ways athletes try to win. His examination mostly covers the objections many of us have toward flopping or diving to get foul calls. He cites three possible motives for this: xenophobia, insecure masculinity, and disrupted authenticity. They are all well thought out, but I think they mostly miss the mark.

Fans know that athletes will do whatever they can do to win, and we generally have a team we want to win in a given match. We also expect a certain amount of honesty about how they will play the game.

Player A intentionally fouling his opponent and Player B flopping to get a foul called against his opponent are far from morally equivalent. Player A is knowingly putting himself at risk of being called for a foul; Player B is trying to make it look like his opponent has hindered his ability to perform fairly. Fouls are in place to promote fair play. Flopping exploits the spirit of these rules, rewarding inferior performance.

The position is not without precedent. We hold those who try to cheat to win in a different category than those who commit all other offenses. A few examples:

– PED offenders (Lance, A-Rod, Braun etc.)

– Bankers who find loopholes in SEC regulation to create new products (Wall Street)

– A company lying about the merits of a product (Sketchers)

– Using chemical weapons against your own people rather than traditional weapons (Syria, it now seems)

– Hiring someone to take out your close competitor’s knee (Tonya Harding)

You could make the argument that all offenses are created equal, as the author of the above cited piece seems to do. You would be, indeed, making a weak argument. We love sports in part because they simulate war in many ways. But we also show an overwhelming preference for fair over deliberately cheap competition.