Deflate Gate: It’s just not cricket?

January 27, 2015

WG GraceIn the run-up to the Superbowl, New England Patriots stand accused of ball tampering. Cricket followers are also all too aware of the catalogue of dastardly tricks to claim a competitive advantage

American Football is shaken to the core by the discovery that match balls during a National Football League Game appeared to have been tampered with.

Shock horror. Accusations are made that The New England Patriots had deliberate deflated the balls. This gives more grip for a star quarterback like Tom Brady to make a winning throw. Cries of Deflate Gate are heard, followed by denials of wrong-doing from Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriot, Coach Belickick and players.

“It’s not Cricket”

On hearing the news, my first thought was the parallel with that most traditional sport of Cricket. Tales of ball-tampering to gain an advantage have periodically outraged the authorities, as bowlers are caught out doctoring the ball. “It’s not Cricket” is a cry which is used in England as a cultural short-hand for cheating in any walk of life. Playing cricket embodies a set of ancient and noble amateur values that are even more fiercely guarded as professionalism invades the sport.

The dilemma

The dilemma might be expressed as this: cheating in professional sport is unacceptable but necessary.

Staying with cricket, I can remember the various ways, some creative some crude, in which the bowler helps the cricket ball to spin, swerve, bounce so as to deceive the batsman. The captain of the England cricket team is regarded as the epitome of fair play, but one struggled once in recent times with accusations that he had led his team into play with a pocketful of dirt to scuff up the ball.

Dishing the dirt

A brilliant report for Hutchinson News [URL not available] starting with the NFL, goes on to dish more dirt on foul play in cricket (‘zipper gate’) rugby union, (‘Wilkigate’), Tennis (‘fluffigate’), and Baseball (‘spittigate’).

Does it matter?

Obviously it matters to those outraged or ostracized by a cheating scandal. And beyond the often pompous and self-righteous outbursts lurkc a cultural truth. Sport embodies ancient values of honestly and fairness that are tested by equally ancient human needs to win at all costs.

Update

In my research, I found the splendid image of W G Grace, an early heroic figure and superstar shown above. Gloucestershire archives tell of his blatant bad sportsmanship which seems to have been condoned.

See also the continued story of the NFL deflategate as Sunday’s Superbowl approaches.


Malcolm Gladwell attacks NFL as a ‘moral abomination’

December 11, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell displays considerable talent as a potential American thought leader in his analysis of the NFL as ‘a moral abomination’

Any lingering doubts about Gladwell’s intellectual weight are dispelled in this interview. Its primary focus is a considered response to a fine imposed on colleague Bill Simmons by ESPN for ‘calling the NFL commissioner a liar’

The wider issue The broader context was a report by the NFL on long term brain injuries sustained by its former players.

The interview by Emily Chang was reported in a video put out by Bloomberg [Nov 12, 2012]. Gladwell starts coolly, but then produces a coldly-calculated moral rant against the NFL, and secondarily against ESPN for their treatment of Bill Simmons.

I have little doubt the video will polarize opinions, and no bad thing either, but watch the three minute exchange. If you are a teacher, show it in class for discussion. You may find it has potential as an educational experience.


‘Getting in the room’

November 10, 2014

A new report puts pressure on football authorities and clubs to address discrimination in leadership appointments

The report is to be presented to MPs and Sports Minister Helen Grant today [10th November, 2014]. It gives clear evidence of institutional discrimination in the appointment to senior level positions in the 92 clubs of the football league.

According to the study, Of 532 top coaching positions, 19 were help by members of the black and ethnic minority [BME] communities. This 3.4% is from a representation of 25% of players of BME backgrounds.

The report was prepared by Dr Stephen Bradbury of Loughborough University, and funded by Football against Racism in Europe [FARE].


The language of institutionalized discrimination

The language of instructiionalized  discrimination is for some people contentious. It is better than the blunter term racism, and permits examination in terms of conscious and unconscious factors and consequences

Pressure on the Football authorities

The report adds pressure to the Football League and its chairman Greg Clarke. The FA is ‘looking into’ issues of diversity in appointments. It has also been criticized for delays in examining measures such as the Rooney Rule .

The Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule has nothing to do with Wayne Rooney, England’s football team captain. It was introduced into America’s NFA by Dan Rooney, anti-discrimination campaigner and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers

‘Getting in the room’

The remark was not the title of report, but it might have been. One qualified coach who has not reached interview short-lists was reported as saying he was not looking for favours, just an opportunity of getting in the room.

To be continued


NFL’s Roger Goodell in re-run of Custer’s last stand

September 24, 2014

The National Football League faces serious criticisms for its policy and actions against players found guilty of off-field violence. The specific case of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens has opened up the broader questions of the competence of Commissioner Roger Goodell

The elevator punch

Ray Rice was videod knocking his then fiancée unconscious in an elevator of an Atlantic City casino. The assault on Janay Palmer took place last February. Initially, Commissioner Goodell banned Rice for two games for his off-field actions.

When the video appeared on the Internet in August, there was a belated reaction from Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens. Rice was delisted from the club, and banned indefinitely from the league.

More abuse problems

More abuse problems were uncovered involving NFL players. Media interest in the story grew. Commissioner Goodell appeared to be ducking Press Conferences, and ‘went missing’ at a prestige event he was expected to attend.

The damaging press conference

When Goodell surfaced at a Press Conference, he was already appearing in the role of Colonel Custer with the Indians approaching rapidly. He appeared nervous and weakly apologetic. He is unable to explain his silence and unavailability for comment as the story developed. Videos of the event go viral.

The Media sound off

His conduct and competence become headline news. Rachel Nichols of NFL is among those in war paint. Goodell’s future as NFL’s chief honcho seems less than secure.

Leadership lessons

The conventional wisdom of Press Relations 101 is enough to start the discussion. Goodell allowed the story to build up by failing to make himself available to the Media. By the time he did face the press, he needed to have sorted out his symbolic acts of contrition. He missed his last chance to manage the dilemmas he faced.

Goodell could have taken lessons from the sad case of the even more beleaguered Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto, as he attempted to cling to power earlier this year. Ford, facing the media after his various misdemeanors had a wonderful line in self-criticism and contrition.

Acknowledgement

To LWD subscriber Mike Langley, who drew attention to the developing story.

The story will be followed

The story will be followed here in updates to this post.

26th October 2014

Goodell’s salary estimated at more than $200 million since 2007