Bending the Rules
DOWNER: Dives are common in football

I love it when my opponents cheat.

I’m talking sports here, and please don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I think it is okay to bend the rules and try to win at all costs or that I would do that myself.

I’m just saying that when players I am competing against cheat, I take it as a compliment.

It’s an admission they don’t believe they could win a fair fight. Of course, it also pisses me off, focuses my mind and makes me determined to overcome the unfair advantage.

That kind of thing happened quite often on the tennis courts in Francistown, especially when I played singles against one particular opponent.

He was younger, faster, taller and stronger than I was, but I may have had better eye sight.

I say that because every ball he hit that landed anywhere near the line he called in, and every ball I hit in the same region he called out.

If he hadn’t done that, he probably would have taken me in straight sets every week, but his bogus calls inspired me to raise my game and we each won a similar number of sets over the three years we played.

That’s an example of how cheating can backfire.

Another is what happens to football players who try to win penalties for their teams by running into defenders or falling to the ground in the penalty area when they have not been fouled.

After a few dives, they get a reputation and over the course of their careers they can miss out on more legitimate penalties then they win by diving because referees stop giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Cheaters can also provide some good laughs.

Cycling has plenty ofexamples of that. Right from the first Tour de Francein 1903, the sport has beenbent.

That year, the favourite was forced to retirewith stomach cramps aftera rival supporter handed him a spiked bottle of lemonadeduring the first stage.

That year’seventual winner was disqualified the next year, along with his three closest challengers, for dirty deeds that included putting itching powder in rival riders’ shorts,catching trains instead of riding parts of the course and inciting supporters to spread broken glass and tacks in the path of following riders.

The previous year’s poisoned favorite was also disqualified in 1904for taking a tow from a car using a piece of string attached to a cork that he gripped between his teeth.

Funny stuff, but I also think athletes who resort to cheating are a bit sad and that they are missing the point of competitive sports.

The point is not simply to win. If it were, we would be content to compete against inferior opponents all the time.

Most of us don’t like to do that, probably because we instinctively know the true value of competition comes when our opponents provide obstacles that force us to raise our game.

That often allows us to tap into skills we didn’t know we had and do things we didn’t know we could do.

I love it when that happens.

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