Games are a part of who I am. And that's not to say I'm ultra competitive. I am. But that's different. I love games even more than I love to win. I would rather play a game I knew I would lose than not play at all. I like to watch games, play games, make up games, turn things I don't like into games . . . even when they're not fun, games usually appeal to me more than the alternatives of life. If you see me, and I'm not playing a game . . . don't be so sure. I probably am.
So the whole, "It's just a game" thing just doesn't trigger feelings of dismissal and perspective. My internal reaction to that statement is typically, "It better be, or it's not worth the trouble."
I also tend to be a stickler for the rules, when it comes to games. In life . . . eh. But in games, the rules are essential. Because in games, the rules make the game fun. They make it fair. They make it work. If I see a rule being ignored or dismissed or misinterpreted, I will stop the game to straighten the situation out and bring all wrongdoers to funness. If I see a bad call by a ref, ump, or line judge, boils of outrage erupt on my skin. Thank goodness they're metaphorical boils, too, because they don't go away quickly.
You probably know where I'm going with this. Am I distraught about the A-Rod thing? Does the steroid era bother me? Is my sense of sporting and gaming justice shattered?
Not as much as you might think.
I'm actually okay with changing the rules if it makes the game more fun. And if fun wins out over fair . . . I'm okay with that. And if blatant cheating winds up making the game even more fun . . . yipee! And if at some point somebody feels the need to blow the whistle and put an end to the cheating, that's cool, too. Let's agree there will be no cheating and then move on.
I make sense of the apparent contradictions with semantics. I find them helpful. If cheating is recognized as cheating, it's fine. If someone cheats and insists that they're within the rules, I would sooner chew their ear off then allow the behavior to continue. See the difference? Let me put it this way: if a wolf sneaks into my flock, steals one of my sheep, and yells "nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah," I'll enjoy a good laugh with the remaining livestock. But if a wolf sneaks in wearing a white fluffy toque and saying, "Baa, baa" over and over, well . . . I'll shoot the huffin', puffin' animal.
You might understand if you ever played games with my dad. He never plays by the rules. Sometimes it's extremely annoying. (Like when he looks at the answer on the back of the Trivial Pursuit card and starts giving the opposing team hints like, "Adoooooooooolf . . . . Oh, give 'em the pie, they knew it.") Other times it's hilarious. (As it is when he lays down an enormous stack of random cards and yells, "Gin!" . . . when we're playing Uno and it's my turn. Or when, during Catch Phrase, he starts using charades gestures and rhymes to get you to guess "Iran-Contra scandal.") In one case, he's completely betraying the spirit and integrity of the game. In the second case, he's cheating with reckless abandon. See the difference?
From 1989 to 200?, baseball players cheated with reckless abandon. Sure, they weren't trying to be funny. And . . . maybe some of them will die because of it, we don't know that. Vaunted records crashed, as they were made to do. Do they mean nothing now? No! To me, the records are still a cherished part of the game . . . which, outside of the game, never meant anything to begin with. BUT WHO WOULD WANT TO BE OUTSIDE OF THE GAME, I ASK YOU!?!?!!? Watching the home run derby that was the 1990s . . . was a lot of fun. It's fun now. Heck, watching professional ball players squirm under oath and the glare of intimate interview lighting is pretty fun too.
I follow the game of baseball because it's part of who I am. Not because I think it's . . . real. It's a game. It is meant to be enjoyed. I do that. If people cheated, cheat, will cheat, so be it, amen, hallelujah. Just make sure it's fun and save me a cheap seat.