Daniel Buck
Cheating that is against the rules but within the ethos
Thu Aug 12, 11:13

Cheating that is against the rules but within the ethos:

LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, Vol. 43 No. 15 · 29 July 2021

"How bad can it be?
John Lanchester on cheating in sport"


Does cheating in sport matter? It depends on what you consider to be cheating. Writing about literary magazines in the LRB in 1985, Clive James paraphrased an insight of Wittgenstein’s: ‘A game consists of the rules by which it is played.’ I’ve often thought about that remark since I first read it as a graduate student. I’m still not quite sure whether it’s a dazzlingly brilliant insight or just so incredibly f[******] obvious no one else had ever bothered to say it out loud. What else would a game consist of, after all? Is there some Platonic essence of a game, distinct from the activity visibly happening?


My main objection to Wittgenstein’s observation is that a great deal of what is important in a game isn’t actually in the rules. You see this most clearly in cheating, which is subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, different between games. I’m not talking about the universally banned activities around drugs and doping. These are damaging to the sports in which they happen for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is that the cheating is invisible. The spectators don’t know whether they can believe the evidence of their own eyes. That, for me anyway, ruins the spectacle in cycling, athletics and – unpopular opinion klaxon – tennis.

The cheating I’m interested in involves the things you see happen while you are watching or playing a game that are against its rules but sometimes within its ethos.

Fouls are against the rules but within the ethos of football [soccer to we yanks]. They’re just a fact of the game and all players foul, some better – more intelligently and tactically – than others. Simulation and shithousery are against the rules but the question of whether they are within the ethos of the game is more complicated. José Mourinho has said that simulation is widely accepted in football, but not in England. English fans do seem to hate simulation more than fans in many other countries, yet there is plenty of simulation in English football. Harry Kane, the England captain, is a master of the small simulations involved in manufacturing fouls, holding his ground so that it looks like a defender has barged into him, or going to ground in a challenge slightly more easily than is warranted. Harry Maguire, the other lantern-jawed stalwart of the national side, dived like Odette in Swan Lake when he made contact with a Czech defender in the group stage. The sprawling collapse might have made the referee think he was overselling things; he had a good claim that he had been fouled, but the histrionics didn’t help. If the ref had gone to VAR, he might well have given a penalty – but because he’d detected a dive, he didn’t.

All of which, to take us further and deeper away from Kid Curry's spurious Colt, reminds me of Jean Renoir's 1939 masterpiece, THE RULES OF THE GAME:



  • E. Dixon Larson & the Earle auctionDaniel Buck, Sun Aug 08 18:15
    A colleague alerted me to the inclusion in the sale of a "Colt Single Action attributed to 'Kid Curry'," lot 25, which per the Bonham's Catalog Jim and Theresa Earle had apparently purchased from E. D... more
    • E. Dixon Larson's 5 guns all soldDaniel Buck, Tue Aug 31 3:41
      All five of the guns at the 27 August 2021 Bonhams auction of the Earle collection that had been linked to E. Dixon Larson sold. The extremely dubious Harvey Logan Colt topping the totem at $62,812 i... more
    • Cheating that is against the rules but within the ethos — Daniel Buck, Thu Aug 12 11:13
    • Re: E. Dixon Larson & the Earle auctionPam Potter, Mon Aug 09 13:03
      Very interesting, Thanks, Dan. I am glad you posted it on the WWHA FB page well.
      • Re: Re: E. Dixon Larson & the Earle auctionWayne Sanderson, Mon Aug 09 19:39
        Ah, EDL... The wondrous discoverer of more heretofore undiscovered Wild Bunch guns than there ever were Wild Bunch guns... There's a rumor he faked his death, adopted a new name and now hawks newly... more
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