I Was a Childhood Cheater But I'm Over It Now

As a child, I cheated at Battleship. I also stole Monopoly money when no one was looking, “miscounted” spaces so I would climb up a ladder instead of sliding down a shoot, and opened my eyes during Marco Polo.
Publish date:
June 27, 2012
moral dilemmas, cheating, baseball, board games, joel peralta, rules

“E-8,” my brother guessed.

“Miss!” I sang happily, while covertly moving my submarine over a few rows in order to avoid a “hit.”

As a child, this was how I played Battleship. I also stole Monopoly money when no one was looking, “miscounted” spaces so I would climb up a ladder instead of sliding down a shoot, and opened my eyes during Marco Polo.

I don’t remember at what age this behavior stopped. I think it tapered off gradually, starting with not stealing from the bank when someone went to get a glass of milk and ending a few years later with finally being able to say, “You sunk my battleship” instead of moving it all over the board.

At some point, winning by cheating lost its appeal. It was no longer just about emerging victorious; it was about being the best at something. And eventually I realized in order to earn that honor, I had to play by the same rules as everyone else. After all, there’s no glory in beating your opponent if you look at his cards when he’s in the bathroom. I love to win, as any one who’s ever played Taboo with me will tell you; I just love to win fair and square. Which is why when you use the word lollipop and the word is popsicle, I’m going to press that buzzer so hard you’ll want to punch me in the face.

Not that a huge fight between two grown women ever happened over that or anything.

This is what I look like when someone cheats during Taboo.

ANWAY… Cheating!

Last week, Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from a game against the Washington Nationals after a “significant amount of pine tar” was found on his glove. Pine tar is a sticky material that batters are allowed to use in order to get a better grip on the bat, but is not allowed to be used by pitchers.

Some players take steroids, others use pine tar.

(Side note: The unfortunate part of this story is that the only reason that Nationals manager, Davey Johnson, suspected Peralta had pine tar on his glove was because Peralta pitched for the Nationals in 2010. Johnson gained that information when he joined the team in 2011 and then used it against Peralta when it was convenient. Not exactly sporting behavior, especially when one considers the rate at which athletes are traded. If pitchers assume their current managers might later share and use insider information against them, it creates a situation in which it’s difficult for players to be honest. And that creates a situation in which it’s incredibly difficult to win.)

Of course, the bigger issue is that Peralta was cheating. Pine tar isn’t allowed. Sure, now that he was caught -- and suspended for eight games -- it's being said all over the media that “everyone” does it because the players themselves are OK with it. In short, even though it’s technically against the rules, it’s basically an accepted practice. Nonetheless, cheating is cheating, right? Or is it?

Personally, I wouldn’t want to pitch a baseball game using a banned substance in order to get an edge up on my opponent, just like I wouldn’t want to play a game of Monopoly and steal money when no one was looking. I hold myself to high standards and would feel like I was playing without integrity.

However, that means I’d be at a disadvantage and possibly setting myself up for failure any time I was pitching against a player who did use pine tar. Or playing against someone who liked to pass “Go” and collect $300.

Luckily, most people don’t have jobs where cheating is an option. I literally have no choice but to do my own work to the best of my ability. But what if I could cheat? Even worse: What if cheating was “overlooked” by most bosses? If a rule is ignored, is it even still a rule?

I like to think I’m a good, moral person who plays by the rules and believes that is the best way to get ahead or win. I mean, I don’t even like Words with Friends because you can try out as many words as you want without consequence. (Yes, I am that competitive; it’s terrifying.) But I don’t know if I blame Peralta for doing what he did. Sounds like he’s not the only one with a little pine tar on his glove and that by not using it, he could be putting himself -- and his team -- at a disadvantage.

More importantly, did you cheat when you were a kid or am I just a horrible person?