Cheaters never win. It’s a mantra we Americans love to pull out of our bag of virtues. Except a lot of the time they do win. Bernard Madoff for one. Of course, rotting in prison is no picnic, but for two decades he won big when a lot of people knew he shouldn’t be. All too often people get away with it and earn a grudging respect from the rest of us.
But one place we Americans really do hate cheating is in sports. From the top down we all pretty much feel that, in the realm of sports at least, it should be based on skill and will. As opposed to subterfuge and chemicals. I firmly believe this is one of the reasons that soccer hasn’t taken off in the United States. It’s called ‘diving.’ Or in the parlance of FIFA, ‘simulation.’ Faking a foul be it a trip or a slug to the jaw. It’ll earn you a yellow card.
Except more often than not it earns you a goal and your team a win. It is rampant in South America, Mexico, Europe, Africa, England, Russia, and everywhere else soccer is played. Of those I’ve watched over the years the Americans, Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians seem to do it the least. Without a doubt the Italians and Brazilians are the worst offenders. And who has the most World Cups? Italy(4) and Brazil(5). And yes, it has made a difference.
This is part of the reason I so enjoyed the Women’s World Cup quarter-final match between USA and Brazil Sunday, July 10, 2011 – aside from the fact that it was some of the best pure soccer I’ve seen in a while. The Brazilian women have learned well from the Brazilian men. Not only do they have great skill, but they do more diving than Greg Louganis. And, at the end of the game, they were winning. To give the mostly German audience credit they were booing and whistling (bad in Europe) every time a Brazilian player touched the ball, but when time runs out the score is all that matters.
And near the end of the game not only was Brazil winning, but they were doing an egregious job of time wasting. Enough to earn two yellow cards from the referee. Which is a totally meaningless punishment since the game would be over. In this particular game, with only minutes left, a Brazilian defender actually wandered into her own goal box and promptly collapsed, ten seconds after the play! She lay there for about three minutes until they carried her off on a stretcher. Then the instant she’s off the field she sits up and leaps off the stretcher. She did get a yellow card but… so.
Now the game is into injury time, only three minutes long though the Brazilians have easily wasted five minutes and picked up two yellow cards in the process. Two minutes into that, Hope Solo, the American goalkeeper kicks a long ball down the field. It’s picked up by a brilliant, fiery midfielder, Megan Rapinoe – in my estimation, player of the match – who with a minute left puts a long, diagonal cross into the box. The Brazilian keeper made a valiant effort to punch the ball away but it sailed millimeters over her outstretched arms. Abby Wambach was waiting and crushed in a header that drew the Unite States level. Ten minutes later, after a thrilling penalty-kick shootout dominated by Hope Solo, and despite continual line-rule violations by the Brazilian keeper, the US women advanced to the semi finals.
The lesson? Do cheaters ever win? Well, sometimes they do. But not today. Virtue triumphed over deceit. Good old American values. And that’s always a better choice. Well done ladies. You have shown yourselves to be of the highest caliber. Not only earning the win, but doing it with American style.