This past fall, ardent supporters of the fast-paced Oregon football team began to allege that opposing teams’ players were faking injuries to slow down the frenetic tempo of the Ducks’ offense. A coach of one opposing team was boldly suspended by the school’s athletic director in December for instructing a player to fake an injury.
During the soccer World Cup last summer, new spectators of the world’s most popular game watched with wonderment as elite players took dives and rolled around on the pitch with fake injuries in attempts to draw penalties on opposing players. On some limited occasions a referee actually penalized a theatrical player.
All of which adds to our perspective of the small but chronic problem in high school wrestling when a participant will scream in agony in an attempt to obtain relief from an opponent’s hold that cannot be escaped, or will fake debilitating injury during stoppage following an illegal hold in order to assure himself victory. Concern for participant safety trumps all other considerations at the time; and neither mat officials nor meet management has an effective means under the rules to penalize the theatrics.
These are examples of the ugly side of competition. While it’s not like the dark side of the moon that we on Earth never see, it’s a side seen more often than we’d like in sports. More often than we’d like even in the lower stakes, higher values world of educational athletics.
I don’t suppose there is a way to eradicate this disease from educational athletics, nor a sure way to immunize the survivors and each newcomer to our programs. Perhaps the best we can do is counter the “bad actors” by promoting the positive examples that populate most of our school sports programs.