FALCON POINTS

Sports - and life - are full of cheaters. It's time we accepted that

Photo by Fred Faour.

You might have heard a phrase growing up: Cheaters never win.

That was hammered to us as children. Cheating is bad. But as you get older, you come to a more cynical understanding: Cheaters win. A lot.

The latest Patriots punishment went largely unnoticed because of the signing of Cam Newton. The most successful franchise in recent American sports history has a long track record of breaking rules and getting punished.

There will likely be tons of cheating talk as baseball restarts because the social media warriors did not get the satisfaction of the Astros heads on a platter and will not let go anytime soon. And that's OK. They cheated. They got caught. They got off light.

But that is the history of sports.

Baseball's greatest era was fueled by performance enhancing drugs. Football teams have long tried to get as much information on opponents as possible. Basketball players flop to try and get fouls called.

And yes, sign stealing is as old as baseball itself.

How many times have you played golf with someone who moved a ball? Shaved a stroke? How many times have you been pencil-whipped in a scramble?

The truth is cheating happens. Sometimes it is lauded as just being more clever than everyone else. Remember when the Astros figured out a pitcher tipping his pitches in the playoffs? That was smart. But using technology to steal signs? EVIL!

That's not to excuse any of this behavior. But players are always looking for an edge. It has been something we have admired in sports for decades. Roger Clemens was lauded for his off the charts workouts. Then when it is suspected steroids were involved, well, he is evil and a cheater. Forget the fact that there was no real proof, or that many supplements were legal at the time. Mark McGwire used Andro when it was legal. It was later banned. Creatine. HGH. And there are new supplements out there that aren't illegal yet. So how do we judge these people?

The best players are more driven than everyone else. The best coaches are smarter. That means looking for every edge and sometimes crossing the line.

So what is the answer? Is Bill Belichick the greatest coach ever or the biggest cheater? Why can't the answer be both?

Truth is, this is how sports works. A "friend" of mine found this out at the age of 8.

He was playing pee wee football with a chance to win a state title. The other team had a terrific running back. His coaches told his team before the game exactly where and when the running back would get the ball, so they would be prepared. It worked perfectly, and he won a state title. Come to find out later one of the coaches had watched every practice that week from a nearby building using binoculars. Getting an edge? Or cheating? It's hard to know where the line is.

And that's why we collectively yawned when the Patriots got caught again. They just keep pushing the boundaries. But that is what the best do - look for every edge.

We celebrate greatness, then look for ways to tear it down. "Integrity of the game" is one of the most overused phrases in sports. Most games have little integrity.

The biggest debates and outcries have come over silly things like trash cans and deflated balls. Did they change the outcome of the game? Because that is the real question in any scandal. As sports betting becomes more mainstream, expect these issues to come up over and over again.

It's nothing new. George Brett's pine tar. Marty McSorley's hockey stick. Mike Scott's scuffed balls. Billy Hatcher's corked bat. Ben Johnson's steroids.

Horse racing has doping scandals almost daily. We all shrug. Fixed fights? That's the game.

The point is there is gamesmanship and there is gaming the system. And then there is outright cheating. And maybe the lines have simply become too blurred. Maybe the best in their sports find ways to get across that line without getting caught, and that brings everything into question. Is Belichick really smarter than everyone else? Is Brent Strom some sick genius who helps pitchers be their best or is there something else at play?

There's another phrase that seems to fit the sports world of today. "If you ain't cheating' you ain't tryin."

That's always been the case. Have you never played tennis with someone who calls all your close shots out? Have you not joked about Joe's "foot wedge" in golf? Ancient Astronaut theorists suggest that Babe Ruth's beer was spiked with a magic potion.

It's always been there. Now with social media we get to endlessly debate it. We build up accomplishments only so we can tear that person down. What we should never forget, however, is that cheaters do win. It's hard to be the best without gaining an edge.

That does not excuse cheating. But let's stop pretending it doesn't go on every day in every sport in some way. And it won't be going away anytime soon, because "winners never quit."

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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