Scout’s Take: Cheaters Never Prosper?

With the passing of former college and NFL head coach Ron Meyer, we are reminded of the “not so nice” part of the big time sports world. Meyers had been part of the biggest cheating scandal in NCAA football history when it was discovered that his SMU success was partially built on a system that paid recruits. Boosters and assistant coaches were paying players, and coaches knew about it, as did high-placed administrators. Five years after Meyers left the program, SMU was given the “Death Sentence” by the NCAA and suffered for many years as it tried to put their program back on track. 

Cheating in sports is never a good thing, yet there are times when it is almost laughable. Well, as long as your team was the beneficiary of the crime. Case in point, Meyers went on to the NFL to coach the New England Patriots where he was involved with the famous NFL, John Deere field goal snowplow game inn1982. The Pats and Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins, were scoreless with less than 5 minutes to go in the 4th quarter during a snow blizzard, Meyer sent his field goal team onto the field. They should have been called for 12 men on the field because the squad included a snow clearing machine driver who was serving a prison term and was on a weekend, work release program. He was told by Meyer to clear a spot for the kicker. The kick was good and the boys from “Beantown” won. A tradition of cheating in New England that continues to this day I have been told.

Were the New York Giants stealing signs from the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds? Was it really necessary for Sammy Sosa to cork his bats when he was already corking his body with steroids? Doping in the Olympics by sprinters, jumpers, pole vaulters, wrestlers, swimmers and weight lifters is so common among these participants that it seems to have leveled the playing field.

The doping and cheating in bicycle racing takes the cake. Not only do these people infuse their bodies with everything from steroids to “moonshine” but now it has been uncovered that some of them have been installing tiny motors in their bikes to help them climb mountains. Are you kidding me? I think that whole sport should have to put baseball cards with close pins on their spokes if not as a punishment but to at least add some panache to the sport. 

All of these examples of bending the rules, to down right cheating in sports, is not always laughable. We all remember the 1994 Tonya Harding’s complicity in the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan as they competed for a spot on the US Olympic Figure Skating team. That was not only cheating but a vicious crime. When a little league team from the Bronx lied about the age of their star pitcher Danny Almonte in the 2001 Little League World Series it triggered a series of mixed feelings among us. We were angry that they cheated and yet saw the disappointment and pain in the eyes of these kids who went from being heroes of the city, to a forgotten group of exceptional athletes. Having a bogus power hitter at a company picnic softball game is one thing but this took the term “ringer” to a whole new level.

The fact that aside from the fantasy players and Vegas gamblers, the bulk of sports fans are either amused or somewhat disappointed by the cheating that goes on in both professional and amateur sports. Ron Meyers was an exceptional head coach at every level. He was able to do things in coaching that 99% of us could never do for his players. Unfortunately cheating was one of them and he will always be remembered for that. Lets face it, he was not Charlie Manson, just a sports guy trying to give his team an edge albeit sometimes in an illegal way. We mourn his passing and hopefully down the road he will be remembered as just a true caricature of the game.

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