Why Do We Cheat?

Baseball is in a state of uproar over Ryan Braun and A-Rod and the rest of the alleged steroids cheaters.

But the sad reality is that cheating is not such a rare behavior, at least not in America. (And I have to assume most anywhere else.)

I don’t even need to back it up with specifics when I say that we’ve recently seen a lot of high-profile cheating on Wall Street, in famous marriages, in politics… basically, in every sphere of our culture.

And we ourselves cheat on a smaller scale, almost every day.

We speed when we’re driving.

We cheat ever so slightly on our taxes and expense reports…you know how it is.

We cheat on our resumes.

Our kids cheat in school. Maybe most of them don’t cheat on a massive scale, but I’m sure there’s just as much small-scale corner-cutting and honor code-fudging as there ever was.

So what I’m wondering is: With all this cheating in so many facets of our lives – why do we get so up in arms about baseball of all things?

The easy conclusion is to say, “Well, baseball is a game of well-defined rules. It’s one of the only parts of our world that has such well-defined rules. In that way, it's a refuge for us, where truth is always supposed to win. So when people flout the rules of sport, it’s all the more upsetting."

That might be true, but I think it’s deeper than that.

In older times, English princes used to have “whipping boys” assigned to them; when the prince misbehaved, his whipping boy would be punished, since only God and the King were thought to stand above a prince.

I think we all do feel guilty about the many ways we cheat, and I think we use people like Ryan Braun as our whipping boys.

We don’t want to face the full assault of our own guilt about cheating, so we take it out on baseball players, politicians, and other public figures.

I’m not saying that punishments aren't deserved.

I’m saying I hope that, in addition to doling out punishment, we make sure to look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we all cheat in the first place.


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