Magi Mike's Blog

Another WordPress blog about politics and religion

Philosopher, Peter Singer, asks, What About The Cheating?

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Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. He is a controversial philosopher, but not in an article, syndicated by Project Syndicate, he has written about cheating in soccer.

In it, he draws attention to the disallowed goal by Frank Lampard in the World Cup match between England and Germany on 27 June. Lampard’s shot at goal hit the crossbar, and bounced down around two feet (60cm) over the goal line. The German goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, ignored the goal, grabbing the ball, and carrying on as if it had not crossed the line. Neither the referee nor the linesman signaled a goal, and play continued.

The Germans won convincingly in the end, but the disallowed goal which would have made the score 2 – 2 at half time, seemed to demoralize the English team. Neuer, later, said:

I tried not to react to the referee and just concentrate on what was happening. I realized it was over the line and I think the way I carried on so quickly fooled the referee into thinking it was not over.

Neuer was boasting that he had successfully fooled the officials—that he had cheated. A large number of people, mainly older ones, will agree that modern soccer is a game for cheats, and worse, is teaching children that cheating is all right, and indeed proper. Cheating is all the more important in soccer because it is such low scoring game. A single goal allowed or disallowed can make all the difference, especially in knockout competitions like the World Cup.

But by any customary moral standards, getting away with cheating does not mean you are innocent. Why should players be allowed to get away with cheating regularly on the field—feigning injury happens about every two minutes in a football match—when they face severe penalties for taking drugs off the field, especially if it is to gain an on field advantage? Surely the game is seriously deficient in some respect.

Yet a game with a much seedier reputation than the so-called noble game has an excellent record for honesty. Snooker! Some readers might never have come across snooker, but it is a table ball game played with a cue, similar in some ways to pool, but played on a table four times as big. It is easy for a player to accidentally foul a ball when playing, yet they are remarkably honest at owning up when the referee has not noticed, even to their own detriment.

I speak of the “reputation” of snooker because it was played by young men in the depression years of the nineteen thirties in seedy clubs when they could not find work, and often preferred playing snooker anyway. It thus became associated with criminals and gangsters. The saying was that being good at snooker was a sign of a wasted youth. Now the snooker players are the noble ones, and the overpayed purveyors of a once noble sport are the crooks.

Among soccer players, a culture of partisanship has crushed sportsmanship, common decency and fairness. Fans too are utterly biased in favor of cheating by their own team, yet outraged by cheating by the opposing team. They seem no longer to notice their own partisanship, or think it is natural. Perhaps it is in the primitive tribal way they incline to behave.

How would soccer fans have reacted if Neuer had acted like a snooker player, and admitted that the ball was a goal? Fair minded onlookers would have been full of admiration, but it is unlikely that fans of the German team would have been, and those hoping for a German defeat would have been gleeful but would have considered the goally a wimp and tosser for owning up, even though, morally, he had done the right thing.

As Singer says, Neuer could have set a positive example to millions who are young and impressionable. He could have been a hero, standing up for what is right. Instead he is just another clever cheat. We should not make excuses for intentional cheating in sport.

And, I admit, while I have watched the World Cup on TV as avidly as any fan, I would not dream of spending a penny to go see a match. Who wants to pay people for being shockingly bad moral exemplars. Not me, for one.


Written by mikemagee

16 July, 2010 at 1:17 am

One Response

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  1. Wonderful site and theme, would really like to see a bit more content though!
    Great post all around, added your XML feed! Love this theme, too!

    the Success Ladder

    26 July, 2010 at 10:38 pm

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