Look out: The cheaters are back in pro sports.
On Thanksgiving, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, was standing on the playing field as Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones was racing down the sideline for a touchdown. Football coaches are not supposed to be on the field.
Tomlin jumped back at the last moment. Jones, however, had to break his stride to avoid Tomlin. The Steelers caught Jones and tackled him. The Ravens scored a field goal instead of a touchdown. So Tomlin saved his team four points — the difference between a field goal and a touchdown (with an extra point).
Pretty smart, right? Maybe not: On Wednesday, the National Football League announced that it has fined Tomlin $100,000.
Last week, the Brooklyn Nets were trailing the Los Angeles Lakers by two points with time running out in the basketball game. The Nets didn’t have any timeouts left. So the Nets’ head coach, Jason Kidd, spilled ice and soda on the playing floor. During the delay that was needed to clean up Kidd’s mess, the Nets coaches drew up a last-second play.
Like Tomlin, Kidd claimed the spill was an accident. I guess the National Basketball Association didn’t believe that explanation: The league fined Kidd $50,000.
These two tricks bring up an interesting question: What is cheating in sports?
There are lots of close calls. For example, is it cheating to try to get a foul call by flopping to the ground in soccer or basketball? When a baseball catcher moves his glove to get the umpire to call a strike, is that cheating? I think these moves are pretty close to cheating.
But I think Tomlin and Kidd were definitely cheating. Like too many professional athletes and coaches, Tomlin and Kidd were doing anything they could — even bending and breaking the rules — to help their team win.
The important thing for kids to remember — and for their parents and coaches to remember, too — is that none of this has any place in kids’ sports.
The whole point of kids’ sports is to give kids a chance to work on their skills, learn to be good teammates and have fun. Hopefully, the kids will have so much fun that they will stay active and keep playing sports.
Everyone likes to win, but winning is not that important in kids’ sports. When everyone remembers what is important in kids’ sports, no one will think about bending or breaking the rules.
By the way, the Steelers and the Nets did not win those games. Maybe Tomlin and Kidd should have remembered an old saying: Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.