“I will compete within the spirit and letter of the rules of my sport.”
Someone cheated. So far, no one knows who deflated the balls of the New England Patriots, but it was done. The rules are clear, and a violation of the rules is cheating. It’s not gamesmanship, it’s cheating.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Rafael Nadal was desperately trying to win: it was 6-5 in the fifth set against American Tim Smyczek. As Nadal tossed the ball to serve a spectator screamed out, and the serve was no good. Rather than have Nadal then serve his second serve, Smyczek held up play and held up two fingers – the tennis sign that he wanted to let Nadal have his first serve over. The referee yielded to the wish, and Nadal proceeded to serve, and eventually to win the game. After four hours of play, when Nadal prevailed in the end, the first thing he said after the win was a word of praise for the good sportsmanship Tim had demonstrated.
There is a difference between the “letter” of the rules and the “spirit” of the rules. Good sportsmanship means living by that higher standard. When footballs are deflated, it is not just the rules that are broken; it is the integrity of the game that is at stake. When we live by the spirit of the rules, we will inevitably represent the best in ourselves and in the game we love. What are some ways the rules are compromised in your sport? What do you think about it?