No one knows exactly who coined the phrase, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”
Clearly, the New England Patriots buy into the adage. But in light of recent events, one can’t help but wonder how many other NFL organizations buy into it, too.
New England, after all, ain’t the only one tryin’.
In the past year alone, overshadowed by Deflategate, two other NFL franchises — Cleveland and Atlanta — have been sanctioned for tryin’ a little too hard.
Three years ago, New Orleans was slapped down for tryin’ way too hard.
Even the Indianapolis Colts have been accused of it, but nothing has ever come of it.
So why all the cheating? And accusations of cheating?
Because the NFL is big business. Huge business. Serious business. A virtual win-at-all-costs business. Sportsmanship and playing by the rules are nice concepts, but in a multibillion-dollar industry, where winning is the bottom line, well, a little (or in some cases a lot of) cheating is bound to happen.
Jobs are at stake. In small markets, the future of franchises are at stake. Winning makes everything right. Losing wrecks livelihoods, careers and perhaps even fortunes.
How can that not foster a culture of, to put it charitably, an occasional bending of the rules? To say the pressure to win is pretty tough is like saying Mount Everest is pretty tall.
For coaches, general managers and everyone else below the owner, the pressure to win in the NFL is a constant, relentless year-round pursuit. It’s a simple matter of win, or else.
Cheating? Of course it’s going to happen.
Which brings us back to the Patriots. Permanently stained not just for cheating, but for being repeat offenders. Or at the very least, for being the first convicted repeat offenders.
This is, after all, the NFL. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
And if you ain’t cheatin’, in some way shape or form, you probably ain’t tryin’.
Rick Morwick is the sports editor of the Daily Journal in Johnson County, a sister paper of The Tribune. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.