Since we all admire the qualities of creativity and daring in our athletic heroes, it’s a shame that there are no annual awards for the cheaters.
Especially this year, when there are already so many deserving candidates.
Take Alva D. Anding, a bass fisherman. Alva is innocent until proven guilty, so his nomination is on hold. But he is a strong candidate for cheater of the year, or at least rookie of the year.
Anding won a bass fishing tournament in Louisiana by turning in a 15.1-pound string of fish. He was awarded $105,000 worth of prizes, among them a new boat. Then he was stripped of his prizes, and arrested on felony charges of theft by fraud. Tournament officials charged that some of the fish Alva turned in had been caught before the tournament began.
Then there’s James Herbert Williams, a golfer. Williams plays the PGA seniors’ golf tour, but now he is under suspicion of being too young. He allegedly used bogus birth records.
If he should win the award, he’ll have to share it with Irene Huskins, a county government official charged with falsifying Williams’ records.
“I couldn’t have done it without the little people,” Williams would no doubt say in his acceptance speech.
Then there is Marie Evangelista of Pittsburgh. This is a city that is likely to be short on winners this year and is therefore counting on Marie.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon a week ago, Marie ran 15 miles, hopped on a city bus and rode 10 miles, then ran across the finish line and was honored as the top finisher among Pittsburgh area women.
“They just put the thing (medal) around my neck, and I kept walking,” Maria explained after she’d been discovered and stripped of the medal. “Now I realize it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
That’s an interesting statement. All through her 10-mile bus ride, it apparently never occurred to Maria that she might be doing something wrong.
When they slipped the medal around her neck, she apparently still felt no pangs of conscience. Only when confronted by race officials did it strike Maria that she might have somehow employed an unfair advantage over the other runners.
She certainly had time to think about it. Since very few marathoners go into a race carrying exact change for bus fare, there is the suspicion that Maria planned her race. Maybe her training regimen included 10-mile bus rides.
It’s possible that Maria, James, Alva and other alleged rule-breakers who are worthy of consideration for 1985 cheater of the year aren’t devious people. It’s possible they are just regular folks who have been caught up in the spirit of the times.
After all, this is the golden age of cheating.
In colleges, games are fixed, drugs are dispensed, and rules are broken. New cases pop up almost daily. The guilty rally ‘round their self-righteous battle cry: “Everyone’s doing it.”
In the pros, it’s anything goes. No harm, no foul. The rule of thumb, as expressed by a USC football player after he jammed a fistful of mud into an opponent’s face, is: “If the referee didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.”
In big-time sports, amateur and pro, steroid use is routine.
As Tampa Bay lineman Steve Courson said in a recent Sports Illustrated article on steroids: “They’re being used not only in the strength field, but also in track and field and in swimming. So you’ve got to get on drugs if you want to survive.”
Hear that, kids?
I’m not saying that what we’ve got here is a complete breakdown in athletic morality, although there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of remorse on the part of the cheaters who get caught.
Maybe it’s just that the temptations are greater than ever, the rewards bigger--$105,000 for catching fish?--the technology for drug cheating more advanced.
Even so, there seems to be a prevailing belief that when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, he’ll just wink and put a check mark next to either W or L.
He won’t concern himself with blood doping, bus hopping, creel stuffing and age fudging.
That’s why it would be nice to have an award, to recognize the innovators and risk takers in the field of sports cheating.
If the voting for cheater of the year ends in a tie, the one who offers the first bribe to the judges will be declared the winner.