McDaniel: Does cheating matter?

From SABR member Rachael McDaniel at FanGraphs on April 24, 2020:

Cheating is serious business. We know this, almost instinctively, from earliest childhood — the righteous anger one feels when you catch someone sneaking a peek at your cards, dropping a rock only after seeing you put down scissors, sticking out a suspiciously well-placed foot preventing your escape in a game of tag. That’s not fair — cheater! You appeal to others around you, trying to get them to see, to mete out justice. Something has been disrupted here; something is wrong that can only be righted with punishment. You entered into a contest with agreed-upon rules, and those rules were broken in favor of cheap victory. It is self-evidently outrageous, self-evidently cruel, and even if justice is not done — even if the false victory is upheld through deception, lack of witnesses, or negligence of investigation — the hurt is indelible. You will never play rock-paper-scissors with that particular kid again. You will tell all your friends, too, not to engage in contests with them. A cheater is a cheater is a cheater.

And yet we know, too, an instinct coming from a similarly primal place, that cheating, when executed for one’s own benefit, and especially when executed without detection, can be valuable, if a little guilt-inducing.

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Originally published: April 24, 2020. Last Updated: April 24, 2020.