Is lying in baseball a virtue?

“Part of baseball, like much of war, depends on deception and raises ethical questions.”

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's like every other sport out there... and most board games too (chess!). Everybody participating knows that feints are part of the strategy. And if everybody knows, it's not "lying." It's just part of the game.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ethics in sports is always an interesting conversation. However, I think there are better starting points than this. For instance, is it right for a Christian to deliberately break the rules in basketball by fouling to stop the clock? 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yes, because you do it openly, expect to be caught, do not lie about it, and are fully prepared to take the consequences.  As such, it is legitimate strategy.

That's not the same as doping, which is done secretly with the expectation of not getting caught, and if caught, usually results in lies and protests in the face of stipulated consequences.

If an athlete took drugs openly, he would be disqualified from playing.  End of game, end of season, end of career, end of story.

G. N. Barkman

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

So the ethics are relative? It's justifiable to break the rules sometimes? He's still disqualified from playing for fouling - he can foul out for repeated offenses.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Of course he can foul out.  It's the risk he takes for playing aggressively.  Should he pull back and let the other team score without having to overcome his team's defense?  Or should he play defensively and risk committing a foul?  (Doing so openly, and understanding and accepting the consequences.)

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

If someone fouls intentionally to stop the clock it is, by definition, an "intentional" foul and calls for two shots and the team fouled retaining possession. Few officials have the chutzpah to call it.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Wayne Wilson's picture

Deception is part of the game, as in war.  More interesting questions to me involve hurting people, such as cleats in the face when you slide, beaning a batter intentionally, or clearing the bench with the other fellows to avenge a wrong. 

Pastor Doug H's picture

The problem of using this is that the umpire still has to make the final call (ball/strike), as well after the game MLB evaluates every play/pitch with the umpires and gives them a grade.  their calls have gotten a lot better with the advance in technology.

Now last year Jeter was clearly not hit by the pitch, but the umpire was "conned" into it by Jeter putting on an act...that is cheating/lying/deception...after the game Jeter as much as admitted it.

 

Deception within the rules is one thing (hidden ball trick), but breaking the rules on purpose lends itself to situational ethics, as Charlie suggested.

 

 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Pastor Doug H wrote:

The problem of using this is that the umpire still has to make the final call (ball/strike), as well after the game MLB evaluates every play/pitch with the umpires and gives them a grade.  their calls have gotten a lot better with the advance in technology.

Now last year Jeter was clearly not hit by the pitch, but the umpire was "conned" into it by Jeter putting on an act...that is cheating/lying/deception...after the game Jeter as much as admitted it.

 

Deception within the rules is one thing (hidden ball trick), but breaking the rules on purpose lends itself to situational ethics, as Charlie suggested.

 

 

 

Doug,

 

What's the difference between deception within the rules and breaking the rules? 

 

I keep going back to the basketball context. Not talking about playing aggressive defense and being ruled to have broken the rules, but about making a conscious decision at the end of a game to foul the other team in order to stop the clock and get the ball back (other team has the ball and a 1 point lead with 10 seconds on the clock. No foul means they run out the clock and win; foul means they shoot free throws and may go up by 3 but have to give the ball back to you). The point is that a Christian is faced with a decision to clearly break the rules and defy the authority of the governing bodies (those who made the rules and those refereeing the game). 

 

This is analogous to a gentleman on the radio just this morning. He argued that telling a credit card company you were no longer going to try to pay off your credit card debt was not a moral issue because the credit card company had written procedures for how to handle nonpayment before the transaction ever took place. This was simply a part of the contractual agreement. Seems like exactly the same issue. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Darren Mc's picture

Andrew Comings wrote:

...and then there's this.

 

Nonsense like that is why I hate international soccer. That foolishness would stop if they started handing out bans for taking a fall like that that causes a player to be ejected. The NBA is trying to cut down on flopping, but it is still so bad I consider it practically unwatchable.

Legitimate, accepted strategies such as fouling to stop the clock in basketball, are part of the game. The fouling rule in basketball is one that is meant to be broken. That's why you get 5 or 6 per game. 

No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. Proverbs 21:30

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Sounds very relativistic, that rules were meant to be broken, that's why they have written procedures for when they are broken. I guess the guy I mentioned earlier was right about the credit cards. Everyone accepts that not paying the credit card back i part of the contract, so it's not really a moral issue of making a promise then breaking it. Rules are relative, as long as everyone agrees it's ok to break them, oh wait...

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastor Doug H's picture

Concerning the hidden ball trick:

"In professional baseball, under Rule 8.05(i), a balk occurs if the pitcher is standing on or astride of the pitching rubber without the ball. As play after a foul ball, hit batsman, or time out, must not resume until the pitcher is on the pitcher's mound, the infielder cannot use these times to obtain the ball."

Further from rule 8.05

"It is a balk if a pitcher does not have the ball but assists in a try to deceive a runner by:

    ...being on or astride the rubber, [8.05 Approved Ruling-a]
    ...feigning a pitching position or pitch [8.05i], or
    ...putting the rosin bag in his glove to make it appear he has the ball."

 

Now in basketball I've never been one to agree with the intentional foul at the end of the game.  Yes each player gets 'X" fouls, but the fouls are handed out for breaking the rules.  Using the basketball logic in driving ; you decide to speed, if caught you will get so many "points", pay a fine for breaking the law, buts ok because you won't have your license suspended until "X" is achieved.

 

The problem I have with the end of game fouls is you are 'breaking the rules" to gain an advantage.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Doug,

The driving example is another good analogy to the point I originally brought up about intentionally breaking rules in a game and accepting the "punishment" in order to receive an advantage. Another example would be the demerit system many of us experienced in Christian day school or college. For many students demerits became a kind of moral banking system. I "bank" good behavior all semester so that I have "x" demerits I can get at the end of the semester without really facing any serious consequences. Then, I figure I can cut up late in the year, because it will only cost me a couple of demerits, and after all, I have to get 20 of those before anything serious happens. So, it's not really wrong to intentionally break the school rules since it wont cost me anything serious, right? Of course not, none of us would ever counsel that. But many Christians would tell the basketball team during the final time out that they have a foul to give before the other team hits the bonus or to go ahead and deliberately foul the other team after we make a shot in order to stop the clock and get the ball back. Seems like the same thing - at least it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck. I think we simply do not realize how much our worldview and philosophy of life is actually influenced on a daily basis by the corruption of the world around us.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

A while back I needed to help my son understand the difference between a lie and a non-lie untruth. There are so many scenarios where non-truth is not lying, it's pretty amazing when you think about it.

A really common example is the garden variety jest. "Hey, your fly's open!!" Arguably a bit unkind, but is it a "lie"? But there are more clear examples. In several situations, I've wryly commented that I can't go do X because I've got some paint I really need to watch dry. Or because I'm expecting a call from the President seeking my foreign policy advice.

What do these have in common? Well, in most of them, there is zero chance of actual deception occurring. In the first example, there is deception, but if done in fun to a person who will get a laugh out of it, there's a kind of social convention that it's "within the rules." To say it another way, there's a tacit agreement that untruth will occur in jests, and since there is an agreement, there is ultimately not really a deception. It's a temporary game with truth and nothing more. (Also similar, the surprise party ruse: some pretense to get the "victim"/honoree to the right place and time w/o expecting what's really going to happen.)

So in sports, there are deceptive acts that are within the rules and deceptive acts that are outside them. The latter is cheating, the former is expected by all involved.

In the case of basketball fouls, you have a mixing of categories. A rule infraction is not the same thing as a moral wrong. Using the rules strategically is expected. It's not like the demerit system because there you have acts of disobedience to legitimate authority. In basketball, the authority is really a tacit agreement by all involved. And it's generally agreed that there is no evil in breaking a rule; it's simply something that has agreed upon consequences.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Aaron,

I see phrases here like social convention, tacit agreement, expected rule-breaking, agreed there's no evil in breaking this rule, simply agreed upon consequences, and it's all entirely relativistic - whatever we all decide is acceptable must be. I fail to see any difference in type between the two contexts, only in degree. After all, this is the exact same language/reasoning the world uses to justify everything from premarital sex and porn to speeding; meanwhile, professing Christians everywhere use the exact same language/reasoning to justify whatever "respectable sins" (as Jerry Bridges calls them) they don't want to eradicate, like discontent and lack of self control. (By the way, Bridges book Respectable Sins is an excellent read, as is most everything he writes).

 

You close by trying to show a distinction between demerit authority and basketball authority that I don't think exists. Perhaps a pick-up game at the park fits the parameters you describe, but a league game for a school or in the pros is different. There you have people who have joined together in community with established "legal code" and governing authorities. Again, really no different from enrolling in a school and accepting the rule book and demerit policy along with the headmaster or president; same type, just different degree.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastor Doug H's picture

I was watching a Dodger-Reds game Sunday afternoon.  A Reds player was at bat and there was a miserable called 3rd strike.  The Reds player could have beefed (within the rules ie., don't say the "magic words") instead the player turned around and Walked to the his dugout.

Sculley's words (that guy's voice hasn't changed) said "Votto just walks back to the dugout, because that's the type of player he is". 

That got me to thinking about this thread, we as Christians we have come to accept the world's standards in far too many things.  That is the world says it's ok to bend the rules to within the breaking point, just don't break them.  Or as Chip pointed out from Bridges' book so many things we accept because its easier to accept them (conform to the world's thinking) than be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 

Greg Linscott's picture

For those of you with an ethical problem with intentional fouls... Would you see any difference between that and an intentional walk or sacrifice in baseball, or faking a shot in basketball, or pretending to hand off the football to a running back...?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

For those of you with an ethical problem with intentional fouls... Would you see any difference between that and an intentional walk or sacrifice in baseball, or faking a shot in basketball, or pretending to hand off the football to a running back...?

Yes, I see a difference; I think you have two separate issues. The intentional foul is a deliberate attempt to break the rule, but the others do not break a rule. You could add deliberately missing a second free throw attempt when down by 2 at the end of the game in order to get a chance to rebound and make a basket to that second list as well. With some of these second list issues, there is a potential separate moral question about lying, but even that doesn't really impact all of them (like the sacrifice fly or the missed free throw). That's also an interesting topic in this vein, but I am focused particularly on the breaking rules question, in part, because I think it provides an interesting juxtaposition to another recent thread about the nature of human government and the Christian's responsibility to it. Many (most?) Christians take the position that it is never acceptable to disobey or defy government authority unless it directly contradicts God, but many (most?) of these same believers have no problem with "accepted" forms of disobedience/defiance of governing authority in sports. I personally do not see a difference in kind here, only in degree.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Linscott's picture

Many (most?) Christians take the position that it is never acceptable to disobey or defy government authority unless it directly contradicts God...

I wonder if Luke 14:5 has any bearing here... or Mark 2:23-27. There are times where Jesus actually defended lack of rigid compliance with rules and even established law. Another real-life scenario- would you break the speed limit to rush someone to the hospital? Is that morally unethical or Biblically forbidden? I think it is also worth noting that intentional fouling, even in the rules, is distinguished from flagrant fouling. Making inappropriate contact is placed in a different category than obvious intent to cause physical harm. Intentional fouling is not the same thing as determining who the opposing team's best player is and "taking him out."

Calculating risk and benefit is something you have to do all the time in real life (which sports are ultimately intended to prepare a person for). Accepting the consequences of an intentional foul seems to me ethically not much different than driving a vehicle that you know has a headlight out or something like that. If you drive the car, you are in known defiance of the law, but if you don't, you have to find an alternative means of getting to point "a" to point "b"- so many people will accept immediate defiance and risk a stop for a repair citation rather than considering the vehicle inoperable.

 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

Calculating risk and benefit is something you have to do all the time in real life (which sports are ultimately intended to prepare a person for). Accepting the consequences of an intentional foul seems to me ethically not much different than driving a vehicle that you know has a headlight out or something like that. If you drive the car, you are in known defiance of the law, but if you don't, you have to find an alternative means of getting to point "a" to point "b"- so many people will accept immediate defiance and risk a stop for a repair citation rather than considering the vehicle inoperable.

This is interesting Greg, and its really kind of what I was thinking about too. How do you think this applies to the student living under a demerit system (or any other quantifiable disciplinary process)? I know I was guilty of "calculating risk and benefit" and "accepting the consequences" regularly. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like I had earned the right to fool around because I had been so good up to that point. That's a lot like saving your fouls so you can use them to prevent an easy score or to gain an advantage latter in the game? I think your car scenario is an apt analogy, but you didn't indicate whether you believe this way of thinking squares with scripture for the believer.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Linscott's picture

...what about grades in school? Do you pick and choose your time, knowing that less effort in one class will result in a lesser grade? Many people do.

Demerit systems are difficult to comment on, really. I remember taking a group of teens on a college trip, and one of my students getting singled out by an RA because he had on a black polo shirt with a small Iowa Hawkeye Tiger Hawk logo on it. The RA thought he was a current student, and it was against the rules, apparently, to wear clothing that promoted other institutions. I've always thought the messages were mixed if someone got a similar penalty for chewing gum or failing to make their bed as they would some more clearly moral transgression. Calculating the risk of skipping church attendance, let's say, should not be on par with whether or not I turned my lights off 30 minutes later than I should have. But I digress.

At Faith, we had a fine system in place for some things. You had X number of skips for chapel, for example, and if you went over the limit, there was a fine. I don't think it was unethical to save your skips for later in the semester when you needed the study time, let's say.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Greg Linscott's picture

...you didn't indicate whether you believe this way of thinking squares with scripture for the believer.

Rules in an athletic competition are predetermined. I mean, if we are really going to wrestle with moral dilemmas, should any Christian ever enter into any kind of scenario where a fellow believer is seen as an opponent to be bested? We are supposed to dwell in unity, esteem others more highly than ourselves, turn the other cheek, and so on...

I think that in these kind of things, whether athletics, table games, or what have you, understanding the limits of the event and working within those limits is what you must do. It is acceptable, to some degree, to commit a foul. It is unacceptable to intentionally injure. It is acceptable to employ a measure of deception like bluffing or secrecy as part of strategy. Even God's design in creation employs deception- look at leaf insects or walking sticks. It is not acceptable, on the other hand, to "stack the deck." 

Is it wrong to borrow money. Some have actually concluded that behavior doesn't square with Scripture. I have concluded that borrowing is not forbidden, so long as there is faithfulness in repaying as agreed upon by the parties involved. I think we are at a similar point here. There are occasions where a degree of relativism is a factor to be weighed out. Scripture doesn't clearly dictate where the limits are in sports. We have to make judgment calls. While I can understand the process by which you find intentional fouls to be problematic, I don't reach the same conclusion.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Greg Long's picture

Chip, I don't believe intentionally breaking the rules of a game and accepting the consequences is exactly equal to intentionally breaking the laws of the government and accepting the consequences. A game or sport is a unique setting. Like was mentioned above, I think the key is if it is part of accepted strategy that is acknowledged and openly used by both teams. Intentionally fouling at the end of the game falls into that category, whereas performance enhancing drugs do not.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I really can't figure out why this is difficult.

  • Baseball, football, basketball, chess, stratego = games
  • School with demerit system = not game

Isn't it also pretty obvious that this reasoning doesn't work...

  • Party A who is godless reasons like X
  • Party B reasons like X
  • Therefore party B is doing something godless

If you replace "reasons like" with "breathes like" or "walks like" etc. the problem is even harder to miss. Shared similarity in one quality simply does not prove a transferrance of any other quality.

When it comes to games and a host of other relational activities, there are shared commitments involved and it's impossible to hold to a consistent ethic while ignoring those. In games, the shared understanding/commitment is that the rules are part of the strategy and you use them wisely to achieve victory. Of course, people are free to try to not play that way, but the result will be lots of arbitrary exceptions. Nonetheless, it's possible to only play with folks who agree to make the same arbitrary exceptions and exclusions... and you'll get along fine. But the result is essentially a different set of rules: not only does a foul result in free throws, a stopped clock or whatever, but we now have an additional rule: it is not permissible to use the previous rule to intentionally stop the clock.

Nothing wrong with that, but let's be straightforward about what we'd be doing in that scenario--adding a new rule.

This is not adopting the standards of "the world" or anything like that. It's just recognizing what games and similar social interactions actually are.

Pastor Doug H's picture

Greg wrote: "For those of you with an ethical problem with intentional fouls... Would you see any difference between that and an intentional walk or sacrifice in baseball, or faking a shot in basketball, or pretending to hand off the football to a running back...

As Chip said above in those instances no rule is being broken.  A better argument (or similar argument) is intentionally throwing at/hitting a batter.  It is one thing to follow the rules and throw inside to back a batter off, those old enough as myself, think Gibson, Koufax, Drysdale those guys threw inside to back you off the plate and if you didn't like it they would do it the next pitch as well.  To me this is similar to the defender in basketball guarding the ball handler close w/o fouling.

But for a baseball coach to come out and tell his pitcher hit player "X" when he comes up or for the basketball coach to say intentionally foul "x" because ex: he is a horrid free-throw shooter, makes me ask are we teaching its ok to break the rules some of the times (because they hit our guy last inning, or we didn't shoot as well as we could earlier in the game)...which can very well be percieved as situational ethics is ok some of the times.

In both baseball and basketball (and other games) there might very well be some "acceptable" unwritten rules which do not contridict the written rules, but when the "unwritten rules" violate the written rules and just because they are aceptable is it right to violate the written rules to justify a potential good result?

 

 

 

 

Greg Linscott's picture

As Chip said above in those instances no rule is being broken...

Well, perhaps that's true, but no rule is being "broken" by intentionally fouling when one has X number of chances to do so, either- especially if you compare it to an intentional walk. A "ball" is essentially missing the target area. An intentional walk accepts the consequences of failure to meet the target, in a very similar way to an intentional foul accepting the consequences of a rule infraction. If we're arguing "sin," sin is not always willful disobedience, but is also a failure to meet the standard, right?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Pastor Doug H's picture

I don't think comparing intentional walks (written rules of baseball describe how it's done legally) with intentional fouls (which is a dilberate breaking of the written rules) is the right comparison. 

The apple to apple comparison is the unwritten rule to intentionally hit a batter and intentionally foul; both violate the written rules.  (I'm not talking about even distinguishing between throwing at the head vs the rump or flagrant vs nonflagrant...just the strategy to purposefully tell a player to violate the written rules.) 

The reason I think its important is because its often stated how sports can be teaching moments.  Well if we're telling players to intentionally violate the written rules, to gain an advantage (IMHO) we're teaching a life lesson that situaional ethics is ok.

 

 

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