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Faking Injuries

Can cheating be stopped?

by James Leroy Wilson
September 10, 2013

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Faking Injuries

College Football Crown Update: By thumping Wofford and Buffalo in the first two weeks, Baylor retains the College Football Crown. For the history of the Crown, go here.

On Monday, NASCAR handed down penalties to drivers of the Michael Waltrip racing team for alleging trying to "intentionally lose" with a spin-out and unnecessary pit stop to allow another teammate to earn enough points to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

This is serious business. The strategy mostly backfired as NASCAR came down with harsh fines and point penalties on the basis of radio communications.

The same day, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi angrily accused the Orioles 3rd Base Coach of stealing signs. This is unserious business, and trivializes actual forms of cheating.

Stealing signs isn't cheating any more than is counting cards in blackjack. Casino owners can escort card-counters away from their premises -- it's their right as property owners. But they can't confiscate the card-counters' winnings just because he or she was smarter than the game itself.

Similarly, if the coach can figure out the signs the catcher communicates to the pitcher, and can communicate them to the batter, more power to him! Baseball, along with all sports, is partly a battle of wits. If the defensive team's signs are read by the opposing team's 3rd base coach, they need to change the signs.

It really is that simple. There is no cheating with stealing signs.

Football coaches know this. That's why their hand signals and audibles vary from game to game. That's why, when they communicate plays to the quarterback, they cover their mouths with clipboards so the opposing team's coaching staff can't read the lips.

Football does, however, suffer from a very real form of cheating that's very hard to prevent or enforce. And it will likely get worse as up-tempo offenses like Chip Kelley's Philadeldia Eagles become a new trend.

The problem is defensive players faking injury, in order to stop the clock, rest the defense, and disrupt the offensive flow. It's been going on for years; Mike Golic of ESPN said a team he played for did it 20 years ago. I recall a Bills-Seahawksplayoff game in the 1980's in which the Seahwaks employed the tactic to stall the Bills' pioneering no-huddle offense.

I had been a Seahawk fan until that point, but that game left a bad taste in my mouth.

Faking injury is cheating in its purest form, for the simple reason that it's dishonest. It gives a team a rest from play that it didn't earn, giving teammates a brief breather that could help them when play resumes.

Is there a way to prevent it?

That's hard to say, because one can't fairly judge, during a game, who's "truly" hurt and who's faking. I see three options as potentially helpful and fair:

  •  An injured player must sit out a full fifteen minutes of game time, or in the fourth quarter, must sit out the rest of the game. This might be for his own safety anyway, if it's a real injury.
  • When there is an injury, the opposing team has the option of keeping the clock stopped until the next play starts, or of letting 35 seconds of play clock run down completely. That helps prevent the team with the fake or real injury from dicating the clock.
  • Perhaps extend the number of time out each team has to five per half, but charging each team with a time out for each injury. Penalize them if there are injuries after the timeouts are used up.

Do you have any other ideas?

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