Your taxes. Your spouse. Your diet. Your résumé. Your handicap. Your death?
Chances are you've cheated on one of them.
If not, how about the time you scurried across the street instead of using the crosswalk? That day you sneaked 12 items through the 10-or-fewer grocery line? The iPod music pirated off the Internet? The MENSA test answers impatiently pilfered from the back of the airplane magazine? The 79 mph drive home in the 65 zone? Alone, in the HOV lane, with beer open and seat belt unfastened?
It's OK, you can't help it. You're a living, breathing, cheating human hard-wired with an insatiable hunger to get ahead and stay there. Cutting corners is ingrained in our society.
Cheating is why our prisons are full and our presidents are so full of shit.
Welcome to sports' golden age of cheating, where Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds are nearing pharmaceutically enhanced home-run milestones, Alex Rodriguez is closing in on an unofficial record for RBI (raunchy blondes inspected) and none of us fans should utter a peep, lest we spontaneously deteriorate into full-blown hypocrites.
Sosa, one of the few positives in the Texas Rangers' disastrous season, will soon become only the fifth player and the first Latin American to hit 600 home runs. Sure, he plays for a shady organization that once employed suspected steroid users Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez, Gary Mathews Jr. and Ken Caminiti. And sure, in 2003, while with the Chicago Cubs, he made a premeditated decision to get more boost in his bat by illegally filling his wood with cork.
But Sosa what? In the summer of 1998 he helped save baseball, matching homers with Mark McGwire in a mesmerizing dinger duel that rekindled fan interest waning after the cancellation of the 1994 World Series. Doesn't that triumph trump his transgressions?
Especially in a sport whose Hall of Fame includes Ty Cobb's sharpened spikes, the 1919 Black Sox betting scandal and greaseballer Gaylord Perry's 314 victories? Especially in a sports world that tolerates the Denver Broncos' chop blocking, Maradona's "hand of God" World Cup goal and Michael Jordan illegally—although deftly—shoving his defender to get off the clinching shot in the 1998 NBA Finals? Especially in a screwed-up society that forgives Martha Stewart, covets Xbox "cheat codes" and shrugs when several Dallas-area schools, ahem, "help" their students pass the TAKS test?
Especially when everyone from Ashlee Simpson to James Frey to magician Criss Angel is, let's face it, cheating? Especially Bonds.
You don't have to love the San Francisco Giants' slugger. But you must respect his accomplishment. Sometime before the Fourth of July fireworks Bonds will break Hank Aaron's all-time record with his 756th homer. Sure, he wears more body armor than Marty Turco. And sure, he wants us to believe he added two hat sizes, 35 pounds of muscle and 40 feet of might because he took flaxseed oil or a clear topical cream or something he mindlessly grabbed out of a teammate's locker. Baseball's Frankenstein is an asshole anti-hero who has allegedly cheated on his taxes, on his wife and under oath, denying he ever knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
But consider this before you staple-gun asterisks and syringes to his hallowed record: Bonds isn't baseball's only cheater, merely its best.
We can groan about Bonds or the dirty pitching palm of Kenny Rogers or George Brett's pine tar or the 1951 New York Giants' sign-stealing scheme or 14-year-old Little League pitcher Danny Almonte's 12-year-old's birth certificate, but baseball will survive. Because history says we will posture faux disgust of athletes' behavior but never materially diminish our passion. Because although we're aware of the side effects of steroids, we're more fascinated with the bigger, faster, stronger results.
We're attracted not despite the cheaters, but because of them. Right, A-Rod?
Morally, Rodriguez is one of sports' all-time worst bush leaguers. In a 2004 playoff game against the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees' star tried to bitch-slap the ball out of a pitcher's glove while being tagged. Last Wednesday he ripped the script from Bad News Bears, violently yelling at a Toronto Blue Jays infielder attempting (unsuccessfully) to catch a routine pop up. And, undeniably, no one's image is more disingenuous.
Last week The New York Post—not exactly known as a bastion of morality policing—ran photos and a story detailing A-Rod gallivanting around Toronto with a blond bombshell under the headline "Stray-Rod." The two had dinner at a restaurant, went to a strip club and eventually retired to the former Ranger's hotel room, miles from the Yankees' hotel and a country removed from his wife, Cynthia, and their 2 1/2-year-old daughter.
But if you remember Bobby Collins (SMU football death penalty) or Tommy Lewis (Cotton Bowl sideline tackle) or realize that even the Dallas-based TV show Cheaters is fake, you aren't surprised by another superstar cheating. Or by revelations in the following days that A-Rod visited a Dallas topless bar three weeks ago and frequented a Dallas swingers bar three years ago.
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While in 2004 Rodriguez was telling national magazines fibs such as "I'm not a nightclub guy," his pattern of behavior sans wife was already in full bloom. According to multiple eyewitness sources, A-Rod made two trips to the Dallas lifestyle club, Iniquity. Sources who saw, sat with and talked to A-Rod said he visited the club—where "playful behavior between women and couples" is encouraged—without his wife during separate 2004 trips to play the Rangers.
To be clear, the Iniquity sources indicate A-Rod was a spectator and not a player. Still, it's evident his "milk and cookies" image was merely masking a "MILF and nookies" reality.
So A-Rod's a swinger and Bonds a juicer and Sosa a corker and I'm a nefarious night owl, and you're the one who spews sanctimonious jeers at all of us before going home and, more often than not, doing the easy thing instead of the right thing. Which is all perfectly OK.
Because by denying that we're all cheaters, wouldn't we be cheating ourselves?