I suppose some would say that I am one of those people addicted to rules. I would deny the addiction part, but I would confess to being very passionate about the framework of a competition.
And that framework is….The Rules!
There is no way to have a fair and equitable competition without rules that design, describe, organize, and create a field and accepted method of play – a de facto structure – within which the competition takes place.
A competition is a contest of skill that takes place within certain parameters -rules. These parameters are there to make sure the participants each have an equal chance of winning based on the rules, the venue, and the actual participation. The only thing that is supposed to make a difference is individual’s or team’s skill and abilities. Those that are able to participate at a higher level of proficiency will, obviously, finish high most of the time. And, that is as it should be.
About fifteen years ago I wrote a piece entitled “When Ego Exceeds Ethics”. The main thrust of the article was my disgust and disappointment with cheating that was occurring during redfish competitions and the lack of rules enforcement by the tournament organizers. However, the entirety of the piece, while well intended, was such a vitriolic rant that it made for painful reading and the point may have been lost.
I have aged a bit since then.
I have a great deal more experience in everything about life. Maybe I have mellowed a tad as well. But – I remain steadfast that rules are in place to protect the fairness of competition and to ensure that every competitor begins and ends the competition on equal ground. Rules should be an inviolate and immutable cog in the machine of competition. I still hold as truth that those who would warp or completely break rules just to achieve a false edge on their competitors are the worst sort of coward.
As I wrote in the original article:
“Ego exceeding Ethics - This occurs when the desire to be the hero, to bask in public acclaim, to finish high, to win, to be seen as one of the best exceeds the honorable action of playing fairly and by the rules.”
One of the most difficult things to swallow over all those years was the fact that the majority of honest competitors rarely knew who did what, or why, because the tournament directors seemed unwilling to call anyone out publicly for cheating. This behavior was likely due to fear of legal reprisals as well as our basic human reluctance to tarnish someone’s reputation without absolute proof and/or an admission of guilt.
This was my commentary on that stance:
“This “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy essentially protects the cheaters who are then loosed to ply their trade again at yet another
event on the same unsuspecting participants.”
I also offered a few definitions of the word cheater and then used those defining characteristics to further belittle those that would engage in such behavior. Here is that excerpt:
“Here are a few definitions of Cheater:
1.) To deceive by trickery; swindle
2.) To deprive by trickery; defraud
3.) To mislead; fool
4.) To elude; escape
5.) To act dishonestly; practice fraud
6.) To violate rules deliberately
The cheaters deceive folks into believing they have great prowess at the sport. They deprive honest competitors of their due. They mislead and fool the public into believing they are skillful. They elude detection over and over by deviousness and dishonesty. In fact, they act dishonestly in everything they do. Their entire lives are nothing more than a lie. They violate rules deliberately for their own dishonest gain. They are thieves!
Ego Exceeding Ethics!!”
SO, it is fairly easy to see from the tone of that excerpt that the rest of the article was likely just as acerbic. And, it was.
But, I stand by the fundamental belief espoused in the original article that deliberate rules infractions and those that engage in that type of behavior should be dealt with by the black and white of the rules page and not in shades of grey.
So, what are we to do? How can this challenge be met in an ethically responsible manner?
In the original article I called for posting the names, photos, dates, infractions, and penalties on the internet for all to see. Some of you, I am sure, would agree with this stance. Others would say that it is too harsh. I confess that I’m not certain anymore as to exactly what would be the best way to handle deliberate cheating.
Perhaps when there is incontrovertible proof that cheating did occur, these competitors should be forever banned from every tour and trail by the tournament organizers. This would require communication among the various tours and trails and I’m not exactly sure how to encourage that to happen. It is one thing to remove a competitor from your own events but far more difficult to communicate that to the others because of our innate fear of “legal” retaliation. It is a strange thing that our society has evolved into a soft place of such fear that it serves as protection for those that would behave in a less than ethical manner.
In this article I have tried to make the same points while toning down the rhetoric of the original, but rest assured that my belief in honest competition and the inviolable nature of The Rules have not changed.
I’ll leave you with the final quote from the original:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
…….and so is cheating!