On Cheating

(As you might imagine, Jim reads the sports pages pretty thoroughly. Sometimes he writes in response. The following opinion appeared in USA Today…)

In NFL, cheating is for losers, not for winners

Former Atlanta Falcon Tim Green is a talented, forthright sports commentator. He riled me, though, saying “you cheat to win and because you can” in the National Football League “Cheating to win is rule of thumb for teams’ survival,” Commentary, Sports, Nov. 9).

Did Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Roger Staubach, Merlin Olsen cheat to win? Did Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh or Don Shula cheat to win? How many Hall-of-Famers should I list?

Green says that when Rod Woodson, San Francisco cornerback, interfered with Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin near the goal line Nov 2 to beat the Cowboys, he was “cheating to win.”

Green is wrong on motive and rules interpretation. There was no defensive pass interference. The flag initially thrown by the back judge was picked up because The Official Rules say, “Inadvertent tripping is not a foul.” Unless the contact is a material restriction or impedes the opponent, all contact is incidental. The NFL officiating department upheld the no-call through unanimous review by the eight supervisors. There was no interference.

Indeed, Woodson and every self-respecting corner would be embarrassed for Green or anyone to suggest that they couldn’t defend Irvin or any receiver without “cheatin’.”

Green quotes his old coach at Atlanta, Jerry Glanville, as insisting, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin.’” If this is true, I better understand the Falcons’ win-loss record during Glanville’s tenure.

Further, I’ve known the current coach at Atlanta, Dan Reeves, for more than 25 years, from his days as a player for Dallas and coach for Dallas, Denver, New York and now Atlanta. Trust me on this: Reeves doesn’t buy into Green’s cheatin’ stuff. He knows football, how to coach skills and motivate toward excellence. These get you into the end zone a whole lot faster than yielding penalty yards to the opponent.

Tim Green missed this tackle. Skills, commitment, talent, training and team work are game-winning skills in the NFL and at every level of athletics. Cheating does not fool officials, fans or coaches. It is not a tool for success. Ever.

Jim Tunney, NFL referee 1960-91

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