Why so few? Because everyone in sport – whether player or coach, commissioner or owner, broadcast partner or team coach – knows that fraud, fraud in public, affects the existence of their business.
The stakeholders struggle to keep their game clean, not because they are classy, but because it is deeply in their own best interest. It’s a matter of persistence.
A normal person can easily understand how many “eyes” are constantly on both teams in any high stakes game. The referees are paid to enforce the rules. The opposition team has every incentive to discover and expose fraudsters. All sport has to defend its integrity if it is to resell its product. The media would give their eye teeth to crack open a major scandal.
Ever since the 1919 Black Sox fixing scandal (which was quickly exposed), the sport has been obsessed with preventing fixes – a team trying to lose a World Series, which is far easier than one Finding a way to cheat and win one. Pete Rose, the Hit King, was banned for life for playing on the team he managed – to win. That was enough. Integrity of the game is the third rail.
When it’s incredibly hard to throw or cheat on a series of titles to win one, when a star of the sport can’t get away with playing on their team to win because of so many eyes and the jobs and interests of so many people How inscrutable would it be, then, to orchestrate large-scale presidential election fraud with large numbers of guilty parties to keep the game clean?
But the human mind works in a strange way. We’re reasonably good analysts of events that happen on the scale of our own lives – like cheating in a game. We can imagine how it could be tried. But as knowledgeable sports fans, we also know how many levels of “cops” are built into the structure of the institution.
But the human imagination also has limits – different limits for different people. Some topics seem too extensive for many people to believe they can grasp for themselves. They are paralyzed by their size and no longer rely on their own judgment, right when they should rely on that common sense most.
Yes, a World Series and a presidential election are similar – except in size and importance.
America’s entire political system depends on the credibility of the end result of its elections for its viability, for its life as a democracy, as it does for sporting events on the integrity of its end results.
And everyone in politics, just like everyone in sport, knows it. From inside and outside the system, they have been watching and watching since the maturation of our modern political enterprise – detecting fraud and fraud, catching dead voters, and duplicate voters, checking the accuracy of machines and checking that could be tampered with.
That’s not new. Each generation improves the methods of watching and catching the other side when trying to play outside the lines. This is not about tactics – some legal, some not – like the suppression and redistribution of voters. This only counts votes.
And America is damn good at it. Because at every level down to the smallest county, for every Republican who is near a ballot – to make sure his or her side isn’t cheated out of a single vote – there is a Democrat nearby who does the same job.
At the heart of our elections are hundreds of thousands of people – normal, decent people – keeping the honesty of the process. They are very proud of this job because it is their personal contribution to democracy, regardless of who wins. Because they are healthy, they know that sometimes their candidate wins, sometimes loses, and sometimes Uncle Ned writes in the dog catcher for the president. We have 200 years of experience.
In sports and politics, only one thing is unthinkable, so destructive that it constitutes some kind of ultimate vandalism against the game or the country: to claim that you have been massively cheated of victory without solid evidence to prove it.
Imagine a coach at the Super Bowl claiming before the game that his team is either winning or being defeated by cheating. He says there is no third choice. We think it’s “game art” – getting into the other’s head.
But then he loses and makes conspiratorial tirades for a month about why his team didn’t lose with the clear lead on the scoreboard. The referees were crooked, his players were drugged, the balls were slippery when his team had possession, and so on and so forth. He demands repetition and gets it, but the decisions are as stated. After all, his allegations, based on nothing but his anger and dishonesty, are so bizarre that even many of the coach’s closest allies, members of his own organization, admit they lost The 306-232 final score was not only accurate, but also just right.
“Come on, coach,” they say. “Don’t be a sore loser. Don’t damage the game. Because you are famous, some people may genuinely believe that you lost because of a conspiracy so perfect it leaves no evidence. “
In sport, such a coach – and there has never been one in any major sport – would be told to accept defeat or find a new job. In fact, only such a false fraud charge could fire a Vince Lombardi with no evidence.
Millions, whose common sense has been numbed by the size and bile of the lie they are given, now doubt the integrity of the game. If that happens in sport, the game dies.
Now the “game” whose integrity is being attacked and whose justification for existence is being undermined every day by the President of the United States is democracy itself.
If this happened in sport, we would have no problem analyzing the problem. We wouldn’t bother to give the coach’s problem a technical, psychological name. In sport you can say the obvious.
My grandfather Joshua and his brother Rollie, born in the 19th century, would have kept it simple while rocking tobacco and spitting into their coffee cans on a porch in a farm town of 1,500.
“This guy is crazier than a chicken with a cut off head,” you would say. They had chopped off chicken heads.
You couldn’t have fooled my grandfather and his brother. You had common sense. And they knew crazy.