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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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