Playbook: A Culture of Winning and Cheating

By Fraser Lockerbie

Winners always prosper and there is something about cheaters and how they never do but sometimes the two are mutually exclusive and what happens then?

Okay, folks. It’s time to talk again about the crude nature of winning and the importance of being earnest, and wild and free and young, like a thunderstorm holed up and waiting to crack over a dead Texas sky. Up until last night we had no reason to believe the great ageless Spurs had any reason to worry about losing a game, about the wily, untamed brood from OKC, and why would they? They had won 20 in a row dating back to the regular season and swept two good teams clear from the postseason without ever missing a beat or a basket or a last-second blocked shot to seal the win. They were up 2-0 and they were good. They were the old boys looking to make one last run at immortality and we didn’t talk about age; we talked about experience. We didn’t say they were old; we said they were smart. They were basketball people with high hoops IQs. 

These are the things we will always say so long as the last basket falls and the score is settled comfortably at ten points above the spread. It is the language of winners, which the Spurs most certainly were until last night’s line score and 20-point drubbing at the hands of Durant and Westbrook and a relatively unknown little guard named Thabo Sefolosha, who had four steals in the first three minutes of play.

That’s not what you would call a wrench in the plans, it’s a rape of them, and Sefolosha didn’t get them because he’s a great basketball mind, two steps ahead of everyone else on the court, like Kobe or Michael or Magic or Bird. He got them because he is young and his bones don’t creak with every sudden move. He got them because he doesn’t wobble, he weaves, and he doesn’t worry, he wins, and winners take what they want. The Thunder are still perfect at home and are certifiable winners in most sports books taking bets on Game Four. 

Which is more than can be said for the Celtics, who head back home to the Garden in a hole after being handed two definitive losses by the traveling South Beach Circus. Another advantage of speaking the up-and-down language of winners is that certain words and motions are simply not part of the lexicon: words like travel, which is usually accompanied by a violent spinning of the arms, simply do not exist. Flagrant and technical and foul are words not widely associated with winners, which opens up the floor to a little more leeway and a little more winning. Why stop the play when LeBron takes three or four steps to the basket? He’s a winner and winners always prosper and there is something about cheaters too and how they never do but sometimes the two are mutually exclusive and what happens then? What happens when two incompatible worlds collide?

Nothing, really. In fact, this was a good week for cheater/winners. Roger Clemens and John Edwards are both walking on a mistrial; Barry Bonds showed his face at a baseball stadium and Manny Ramirez is done serving what was supposedly a 100-game suspension after only 50 days. Indeed the sporting gods are just, so long as you’re a winner.  


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