Ethicality of flopping

I read this article today, “Guide to Not Getting Caught: The Xs and Os of getting away with violations on and off the court,” by By Morty Ain, Eddie Matz, Ryan McGee and Seth Wickersham for ESPN The Magazine. The issue coming out May 30th is dedicated to the year’s best, worst and juiciest scandals.

US National Soccer Team player Jay DeMerit contributed his commentary on how some teams try to get away with flopping. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s when players fake injuries to take up time. One of the first flopping incidents of the year to be address? Aaron Tipoti, a Cal defensive linesman who tried oh so hard to stop Oregon’s uptempo offense. DeMerit gives the player two stars out of ten explaining:

Timing is everything, and he got it all wrong. It’s five seconds after the play, he’s walking back to the line of scrimmage and he seems fine. Then, he looks to the sideline, and all of a sudden he’s rolling on the ground, grabbing his knee. It’s like a sniper in the stands hit him. When you’re standing up and you’re all alone like that, you’ve got to go for the calf cramp, because you can slowly limp into it. This move was totally obvious. There wasn’t one iota of believability to it.

I remember this game. I remember, like most other Ducks out there, how frustrating it was that this was so blatantly going on without penalty. And worse, it was kinda working. Cal held us to our lowest score of the season; a mere 15 points gave us the win by two points.

But there’s no preventing this. How can you really be sure a player isn’t actually injured. How can you differentiate between a faker and an actually injured player? Sometimes, like in this case, it’s easy. But in other cases it may be a lot more difficult. Hands are tied when it comes to rule-making.

However entertaining this article may be, it got me thinking, “how ethical is it to tell athletes how to cheat?” Because of the Ducks’ high speed offense, flopping is seen all the time. And the worst part is, sometimes it’s affective. It slows or stops the game and disrupts the rhythm of the offense. I remember specifically the discussion during and post game of Tipoti’s glance at the sideline and subsequent fall. It was so obvious what was going on; this particular incident was the tip of the iceberg in this game (for me at least). Yet commentators were still saying, the coach was encouraging a hurt player to go down if he was really hurt. The problem was, he clearly wasn’t.

But back to my question. The cheating and lying in NCAA sports is ridiculous. This past school year is my case and point. So is it unethical to teach kids how to win by twisting the rules? Or are we so far beyond that point we can just shrug and say, “Everybody’s doing it…”

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