STUPIDITY SATURDAY Bonus: The Deflategate Deniers, Excusers, Rationalizers and Corrupters

dumb football fan

[This post took so long to write that I am posting it on Sunday. Pretty stupid.]

Every few months an ethics story erupts that convinces me that I’m wasting my time. I started writing about ethics online in disgust over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which revealed to me that no politicians, few journalists and a tiny minority of the public understood the difference between, right, wrong, and a desperate rationalization. I was aghast at the vigorously nodding heads on talk shows when some ethically-challenged dolt would say that “everyone lies about sex” (so it’s okay), or that because other leaders may have had illicit sex, that made it acceptable, or that Clinton deserved special dispensation because he was an effective and popular President, or that he and Lewinsky were consenting adults, or that personal conduct was irrelevant to the job, or that other Presidents had done worse. These were all just lazy, poorly reasoned and culturally corrupting rationalizations, but nobody except a derided few seemed to know it.

So I’ve been writing about these and other ethics issues, including rationalizations, for about 15 years, and nevertheless, when something like the Patriots cheating scandal arises, I hear the same unethical, ignorant crap, as if nothing has changed. And, of course, nothing has. All I can hope to do, in conjunction with others who don’t want to see society devolve into a Hobbesian Hell, is to try to convince enough rational people that we can, by constantly explaining, arguing, and pointing the way, just keep things as barely endurably corrupt as they are now.

I got depressed just writing that last sentence.

The issue regarding the New England Patriots giving their quarterback an edge by cheating—deflating the balls so he could throw more accurately–isn’t controversial or hard to understand. If the team broke a rule that relates to sportsmanship, the fairness of the competition and the integrity of the result, and it is hard to see how it didn’t, then the NFL should punish the team severely. [ The NFL, true to its black heart, has made it clear that its investigation will not allow a resolution of this until after the Super Bowl, meaning that it hopes the controversy will deflate. I’m sure it could resolve all questions and identify the accountable parties faster if it wanted to—it doesn’t want to.] To do otherwise essentially endorses cheating. Moreover, since the team involved has a head coach who has made it clear that he is willing to cheat (having been caught before), that coach must be held accountable for the unethical culture he has nurtured whether he was directly involved in this particular episode or not. This is truly Ethics 101, Management 101, Culture 101, Sports 101—let’s just call it “101.” Yet so many, from the elite among sportswriters to the public that devotes an obscene amount of their passion, time and money to following football just don’t get it. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethical If We Want It To Be: NBA Flopping and Fooling the Ref”

This is a wonderful comment by Dwayne N. Zechman, which goes to the heart of what makes sports ethics so perplexing. Let me leave it to Dwayne now, and I’ll have some comments at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post Ethical If We Want It To Be: NBA Flopping and Fooling the Ref:

“I admit I’m having a little trouble with this one.

“If I understand correctly, your premise is that each sport has its rulebook, and what’s ethical or not is mostly determined by what’s in that rulebook. The outside margins of “mostly” come from long-standing traditions, and de facto rules related to safety or practicality. The game isn’t life–it’s a distinct “closed system” if you will, and the rules about life might not apply. Or perhaps it’s better to say that we can choose to declare (in the rulebook or through tradition) that certain rules of life do not apply within the game and that’s okay. Doing so diminishes neither the ethical rule nor the game itself.

“So the beginning of my trouble is that this smacks a little of a combination of “Everybody does it”, “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical”, and The Compliance Dodge. Okay, I can accept that, though, because we’ve already stipulated that specific ethical principles can be exempted from a game/sport.

“Next comes my own dissonance in trying to reconcile this article with other recent articles here on Ethics Alarms about pro football, where the same exemption of ethical principles is applied, but somehow shouldn’t be. Okay, I can accept this, too. There is a distinction in that an ethical principle shouldn’t be exempted from the game when there are clear, demonstrable consequences to the player that persist after the game is over and the player’s real life resumes. In a situation such as that, it’s impossible to exempt an ethical principle JUST for the game because the exemption itself renders the game no longer a “closed system”. Continue reading

Ethical If We Want It To Be: NBA Flopping and Fooling the Ref

“And in the category of Best Feigned Foul in An NBA Play-Off Game, the nominees are….”

Once again, the issue of players in professional sports intentionally deceiving the referees is enlivening the sports pages. I welcome it: the intersection of sports and ethics is always fascinating. This particular intersection is as old as sports itself. Is deceiving the referee (or umpire) for the benefit of one’s team competitive gamesmanship or cheating? Is it an accepted tactic, or poor sportsmanship? In short, is it ethical or unethical?

The current version of this controversy has broken out in the National Basketball Association, where  Commissioner Daniel Stern  has declared war on “flopping”—the maneuver where a player draws an undeserved foul on an opposing player by acting as if minor contact or even no contact at all was near-criminal battery. Stern has suggested that the NBA needs to start handing out major fines for these performances, which in the heat and speed of the game are often only detectable with the aid of slow-motion replay after the fact Continue reading

The Democrats’ Fake Tea Party Candidate

Gamesmanship or cheating? In everything from baseball to trial litigation that involved competition and adversaries, there is a large gray area where the distinction between clever tactics and dishonest manipulation is a source of continuing controversy. No arena is so rich with a tradition of dubious maneuvers as the political one, and when a campaign season is especially intense, as this one is, there are certain to be strategems that cross the line.

When the mysterious Alvin Greene won the South Carolina Democratic primary to run against Republican Jim DeMint, some Democrats cried foul, claiming that the Forrest Gumpish Greene (though Forrest never was charged with showing pornography to a student, or they cut that sequence out of the movie) was a Republican plant. Not a shred of evidence ever surfaced to support that accusation (the unsubstantiated accusation is itself an old campaign trick), and it never made much sense, either. Greene barely campaigned and his unfitness for office was blatantly obvious if anyone had bothered to pay attention to him; if he was a plant, he was a spectacularly bad one.

The decoy candidate device is being used this campaign cycle however, and it is being used, ironically enough, by Democrats, marking another instance of the useful principle that the people who are most suspicious of cheating are often the ones who are most likely to cheat.  Continue reading