Archive for Athletes/Coaches Who Cheat

ATHLETES WHO CHEAT: What Do You Tell Your Kids?


                        What to Tell Youth Leaguers When Pros Cheat

                                                       By Doug Abrams


By now, baseball fans know the story. On April 23, New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected in the second inning when Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell complained to home plate umpire Gerry Davis that the hurler took the mound with pine tar, a banned substance, visibly spread on his neck. After being cuffed for two runs on four hits in the first inning, Pineda explained that he sought a better grip on the ball on that chilly Boston night. The next day, he accepted a 10-game suspension without filing an appeal.

After years of illicit steroid use that rewrote Major League Baseball’s record book and shook the game’s integrity, cheating with a gob of pine tar seems like small potatoes. But cheating it was. MLB Rule 8.02(b) states, “The pitcher shall not . . . have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.”

“We All Know Everyone Does It”

To players and managers familiar with baseball tradition, Pineda’s real offense was not that he used a banned substance. The real offense was that his violation was so obvious that the Red Sox could not ignore it.

Big league teams rarely challenge opposing pitchers because they know that their own pitchers also often hide pine tar or other banned substances, sometimes under their belt buckles or sleeves. Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski says that “we all know everyone does it,” but that his manager had to object this time because “you just can’t do it so blatantly.” Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who doctored a few baseballs in his day, agreed: Pineda “didn’t try to hide it. He’s just learning a few tricks of the trade, but just not very good.”

“How Do We Explain This?”

In a Boston Globe column that condemned “open disregard for the pine tar rule,” Yvonne Abraham worried about the Pineda violation’s effect on youth leaguers who watched or learned about it. What, she asked, should she tell her six-year-old before he marched in his first Little League opening day parade that Saturday? “Always follow the rules, son, unless everybody’s breaking them, in which case you should feel free to break them too, as long as you’re not too obvious about it”?

A father of two Little Leaguers emailed Globe writer Nick Cafardo with a similar question: “How do we explain this to our children?” I accept here the writers’ invitation to suggest an appropriate explanation.

Teachable Moments

For parents and coaches, the most effective approach when a pro does something unsavory is to communicate forthrightly with their youth leaguers. After confronting National Hockey League fighting for so many years as a youth hockey coach, I am confident that most kids understand right from wrong when their parents and coaches actually take the time to talk things out with them. Like every other professional hockey fan, our youth teams certainly watched fighting on television, but they hardly ever fought because the adults kept the lines of communication open.

If a pro’s transgression is filmed (as Pineda’s was), why not even show the film to the team in the locker room, in a team meeting, or at home? Don’t try to hide the film because the players will have plenty of opportunities to watch it on their own anyway. Show it two or three times, then talk about it.

With proper guidance from the adults in their lives, youth leaguers are not more prone to cheating, deliberately trying to injure an opponent, charging into the stands, or committing acts of sexual violence simply to imitate a pro they might otherwise admire. I doubt that many well-guided youth leaguers will seek out pine tar in the near future just because a Yankee did it on national television.  

Parents and coaches serve their players best by capitalizing on “teachable moments,” opportunities to draw good lessons from bad events. Welcome the opportunity to teach because incidents like Pineda’s are tailor-made for constructive lessons. For the well-meaning parent who emailed Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo seeking advice about how to explain cheating to his two children, the worst explanation is no explanation at all. When adults explain and lead, most kids will “get it,” and the others may face the coach’s disciplinary action.

After the Pineda incident, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre promises post-season review of Rule 8.02(b) and its ban on foreign substances. Before MLB rulemakers return their verdict, youth league parents and coaches can quote Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild: Banned substances are “illegal, no matter how you do it. You want me to tell [pitchers] how to cheat better?”

Bonus: A Movie Review

In the wake of the Pineda headlines, the Washington Post observed that “[b]ending the many rules of baseball is commonplace, and the gamesmanship is often applauded as an almost romantic part of the game.” The off-hand comment reminds me of “It Happens Every Spring,” a delightful and thoroughly artful 1949 baseball comedy that I count among my favorite movies after watching it more than a dozen times since I was a Little Leaguer.

Ray Milland plays Vernon K. Simpson, a young, shy college chemistry professor and passionate baseball fan who, in a laboratory experiment, accidentally invents a liquid that repels wood, including wood baseball bats. With help from two varsity baseball players (including catcher Alan Hale, Jr., who later played the Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island”), Professor Simpson confirms that he is unhittable when he applies the liquid to the ball through a sponge hidden behind a small hole in the pocket of his glove. With a leave of absence from the college president, he tries out with St. Louis and pitches them to the World Series because the hidden liquid indeed keeps bats from ever striking the ball. (I won’t give way the ending.)

When you watch the black-and-white film, you might wonder why viewers never learn whether Vernon Simpson pitched for the Cardinals or the Browns, or why the other major league teams’ uniforms and stadiums are similarly identified only by their city, and not by their actual names and logos. You might also wonder why “It Happens Every Spring” did not feature cameos by actual major leaguers.

The answer is that Commissioner Happy Chandler refused to allow Major League Baseball to cooperate with the film’s producers because — you guessed it — he felt that the movie condoned cheating.

Watch “It Happens Every Spring” anyway. It’s great family entertainment, without violence, sex, or foul language. The film received two Academy Award nominations (for Best Writing and Motion Picture Story). And don’t worry that Vernon Simpson’s sudden stardom might prod your young ballplayers to ask for a chemistry set so that they can produce a liquid that repels wood. With today’s composite bats in youth games, what good is wood-repellent anyway?  

[Sources: Greg Schimmel, Cheat Sheet, Washington Post, Apr. 27, 2014, page D2; Pineda Should Be “More Discreet,” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 26, 2014, page D2; Yvonne Abraham, Why Stick to the Rules?, Boston Globe, April 27, 2014; Nick Cafardo, Time to Get a Grip On Rule, Boston Globe, April 25, 2014, page C1]

COACHES WHO CHEAT: Holding Coaches Accountable for Their Actions

Every coach I have ever had – whether at the elementary youth level, middle school, high school, college, or professional – has always hammered home the theme of “do the right thing… a man….hold yourself accountable for your actions.”

It is so basic and fundamental a theme in sports that it’s hard to comprehend how some coaches don’t seem to get it.

Witness the recent mess with Manhattan College men’s basketball coach Steve Masiello. No question that the 36-year-old Masiello has had great success at Manhattan over the last three years, culminating with the Jaspiers winning an invitation to the NCAA tournament this year.

The University of South Florida noticed, and offered Masiello a contract for five years for $5 million. Masiello agreed to take the job. USF then did a perfunctory background check on Masiello and found that he never graduated from the Univ. of Kentucky, even though Masiello said he did on his resume and on his bio on the Manhattan College website.

USF has a policy that no one can be on their faculty unless they have a college degree. They then informed Masiello that they were rescinding thier offer.

Manhattan College, which apparently did not vet Masiello’s  background when they hired him a few years ago, has now put him “on leave” as they try and figure out what to do with him. That is, do they bring him back as the coach, even though he jumped (or wanted to jump) to USF? Do they fire him for lying about his non-existent college degree? Or do they tell him to take some time off, do the right thing, finish up his degree, and then come back?

Sounds to me like a no-brainer as to what to do. But it’s now more than a week since the story unfolded and Manhattan doesn’t seem in a hurry to make Masiello do the right thing. Nor has he said anything that would suggest that he wants to do the right thing.


And here’s the stunning part. More and more, college coaches seem to not do their homework about their bio. About 13 years ago, George O’Leary was hired as the head football coach at Notre Dame until a local sportswriter in New Hampshire found out that O’Leary had embellished and exaggerated his playing career at the Univ. of New Hampshire, and that he claimed to have a Master’s degree from NYU when he didn’t.

Tom Williams, the head football coach at Yale a few years ago, claimed he was in the running for a Rhodes Scholarship when, in fact, he hadn’t even applied. At least Williams did the right thing: he resigned from Yale.

And then Eddie Jordan who starred at Rutgers some years ago and now is its head basketball coach, had to come clean and admit that he too did not graduate. But Jordan had the right solution: he’s still coaching the team, but also taking courses at Rutgers to finish up.

That, to me, is the best solution for Masiello. Take a page from Jordan’s playbook. Just apologize for the misleading bio, enroll in some college courses, and finish up and get your degree.

But first, you gotta do the right thing, Coach.

ATHLETES/COACHES WHO CHEAT: Varsity Coach Puts Herself into HS Soccer Game

Every HS coach wants to put forth his or her best line-up on the field. That’s only natural and to be expected. After all, it’s the nature of competitive sports.

But what about an assistant varsity coach who consciously decides that the team’s best line-up includes…her? Even if she’s ineligible?

Apparently, that’s what happened a couple of weeks ago at Desoto County HS in southern Florida when Juany Gonzales, an asst varsity coach for the girls’ soccer program, found herself playing in a game against rival HS, Lemon Bay HS. The media reports I read didn’t offer any reason or explanation for why this coach – who graduated from Desoto HS in 2009 – was participating in the game.

That is, it wasn’t as though her participation was approved by the opposing team, or that Desoto didn’t have enough players on its roster, or it was some sort of stunt. 

In fact, it wasn’t until the girls on the Desoto team reported the incident to the school authorities a day or two later that this matter came to light. In other words, if the girls hadn’t said anything, there’s a good chance that Desoto’s 2-1 victory would stand up. In other words, it sounds as though the girls on the Desoto team were just as perplexed as everyone else.

But when the school authorities did check on what took place, the events were confirmed – that Gonzales has played in the varsity game and also in the JV game. 

Not surprisingly, Gonzalez, along with the team’s head coach, Narcy Hinojos, were both fired. The school was placed on probation for a year by the league, and the school was fined $1000. Plus the 2-1 victory was forfeited.

This is still very hard to comprehend. Yes, many of us still pine for our glory days when we played HS sports, but then again, most of us also recognize that once your playing career has come to an end, you’re not allowed to go back and suit up again. And it’s not like Desoto hadn’t won a game all year. While they were only 9-15, they clearly had won some games.

The whole thing is odd. Very odd indeed.


Athletes/Coaches Who Cheat: Has the Time come to go to Zero Tolerance?

There’s a slight ripple of change in the air when it comes to athletes and cheating.

Maybe it’s because of the recent Ryan Braun controversy, where he convinced everyone from the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers to all of baseball’s fans that he never took PEDs – -only to do a major 180 and now confess, when he got caught, that he lied and cheated

Maybe it’s because of the all the swirling controversy surrouding Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis cheaters.

Maybe it’s because of the Lance Armstrong lying and cheating.

Or maybe it’s because fans have finally gotten fed up with athletes who cheat. And sports parents – who have to counsel their kids on why they shouldn’t cheat – have a difficult time in explaining why lying and cheating is bad, especially when Braun will only sit out the rest of this season and then go back to a huge multi-million dollar contract.

I just get the sense in listening to some of the callers on my radio show that more and more sports parents want their athletes to be held accountable for their actions. Get them to learn how to think first before doing something dumb or stupid.

One caller from upstate NY said that his local HS football team has instituted such rigid, zero tolerance policies that if a kid is at a party where beer is being served, if a photo of him appears being at the party online – regardless of his drinking beer or not – he still gets kicked off the team.

What’s been the result? The kids on the football have started to bond together, and now look out for each other – just so that no one is booted from the squad. That’s a good thing, and maybe it’s worth considering in your community.

Meanwhile, more and more major league players are saying that the time has come to totally get rid of cheaters by making the punishments strong enough so that players have to pause and think twice about taking a chance of getting caught. To me, that makes a lot of sense. Clearly in the current system, it’s just not working.

But for sports parent who worry about the impact all this is having on one’s child, do yourself a favor. The next time you talk to your son or daughter about the Braun situation, ask them what they think about Braun and athletes who cheat. Ask them about zero tolerance for athletes who cheat.

Just be prepared for answers that might surprise – and disappoint – you.