On cheating, cheating, and more cheating.

Everyone seems to be cheating these days. Even I feel like I’m cheating my boss somewhat when I surf the Internet for blog material in the middle of a lazy Thursday.

Last night, I caught a political roundtable on “MSNBC live with Dan Abrams” featuring Log Cabin Repblican Dan Sammon, Salon.com editor Joan Walsh, and my father’s best friend, Patrick Buchanan. They were talking about Republican congressmen cheating on their wives. Seems to be happening a lot lately.

Then I read this sprawling report in the San Francisco Chronicle about how cheating in schools is no longer eminent domain of the Spicolis of the world. It’s for the world’s especially competitve nerds, those in the 4.0-plus-GPA category, and jocks.

But alas, the jocks do not stop cheating once they’ve matriculated from college. You know by now that the New England Patriots got caught “cheating” in their Week 1 game against the Jets. (More on this later). Then today the punishment came down on McLaren for cheating in Formula 1: 100 million dollars (sounds best in a Dr. Evil voice) and a bunch of points in the manufacturer’s standings.

The McLaren case is funny. If you’re not familiar with Formula 1, McLaren and Ferrari are to akin to Coke and Pepsi in the world of European auto racing. Anyway, McLaren admitted to a judge that it came into possession of a large document containing technical specs for the Ferrari car, but denied using the information to their advantage. The biggest discredit to their argument: The document was provided by a Ferrari employee (who was subsequently fired), not stolen by one of McLaren’s own. So what is the greater sin: Paying someone to rip off your competitor’s secrets, or using said trade tricks to your advantage? The former is what any dirty cheat would do, the latter what a logical person/company would do. Sounds like the judge agreed. Not only does McLaren lose whatever technical secrets it supposedly didn’t gain, they’ve lost $100 million and whatever they paid the nark from Ferrari. So what if McLaren’s two superstar drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, escape unpunished? The punishment isn’t light, and it fits the crime.

Determining an appropriate punishment for the Pats is the challenge facing NFL commish Roger Goodell, and it’s a sticky one. Goodell has to untangle, among other things:

a) Did the Patriots do anything that violates any of the NFL’s written code of conduct?
b) If so, who is directly and indirectly responsible for said violation?
c) How much of a competitive advantage was gained by these actions?

Like the McLaren-Ferrari dispute, it’s possible (if not probable) that the Pats broke every cheating rule in the book and didn’t gain a thing. Seems to me it’s pretty easy to videotape signals being thrown from an NFL bench. Any team with a cameraman can do it. It’s much harder to decipher the signals, and use them to your advantage, within the same 3-hour game. The NFL goes to great lengths to level the playing field before every game, literally down to the height of each player’s socks. Can the league effectively monitor if and how each team uses its game-filming equipment? If I’m Goodell, I’m taking my time on this one. Investigate how much game film each team is taking, and where those cameras are pointed. It could be that most teams are doing what the Pats did to the Jets last Sunday on a week-to-week basis.

I’d like to see Bill Belichick and whomever was holding the camera suspended for a couple games, only because I don’t like the Patriots. Seriously, though, Goodell should wait until all the facts emerge, then levy a nice, harsh punishment, one that rattles Republican Congressmen, high school AP Physics students, and NFL coaches alike.

Now, to get back to work…

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.

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