Is Cheating Good for Sports?

Steven Dubner asks the question. I don't think a categorical answer can be given. Rather, I think the point is that cheating may facilitate certain kinds of things -- the setting of new home run records, or aging star players making amazing comebacks from injury rather than fading to black -- that we like to watch. What's more, some cheating plays as a kind of clever "gamesmanship" that attracts at least some admirers.

On the other hand, it's well-known that many sports restrict the quality of the equipment that can be used by high-level athletes in order to prevent the sport from becoming impossibly dull to watch. Cheaters who break those kinds of rules are almost certainly going to detract from the public's enjoyment of the sport. Somewhat similarly, it seems to me that many people actively prefer the inferior level of skill, strength, and athleticism on display in college basketball. Competitions deficient in top-notch basketball playing draw in fans who like to see lots of passing and jump shots. Under the circumstances, it seems to me that performance-enhancing drugs would probably make the NBA less popular (though not to me personally or others who find the college game stultifying) as the players get even stronger and faster.