Tom Brady is arguably football’s biggest star. Winner of four Super Bowl rings and a three-time Super Bowl MVP, his team is the reigning world champion. He has been selected to ten Pro Bowls and has won more divisional titles than any quarterback in history.
Now he has been suspended four games. His team has been fined $1 million, and will lose two draft picks as well. He is the highest-profile player ever suspended by the league. All because of his complicity in the actions of two team employees who illegally under-inflated footballs during a recent playoff game.
A 243-page report has been issued on the “Deflategate” scandal. According to its findings, it is “more probable than not” that Brady knew the balls had been illegally modified. To you and me, that sounds like an educated guess. According to a former NFL executive, the phrase is “the standard of proof” used by the league to state that a person is definitely guilty.
To the rest of us, such cheating is incomprehensible. While scientists say deflating a football makes it marginally easier to throw and catch, Brady’s team was heavily favored and won the game 45-7. Now many will connect Tom Brady with Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and other athletes tied to cheating scandals. Each of them was already a superior athlete. What drove them to do it?
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban famously says that in the National Basketball Association, there is only one winner and 29 losers. Who remembers who came in second last year? The year before?
But the “win at all costs” pressure so dominant in our culture leaves wrecked bodies and reputations in its wake. We hear stories about athletes who play when they shouldn’t, risking their health and their futures. But the “nice guys finish last” mentality affects us all—from students who cheat on tests, to employees who lie to get promoted, to pastors who plagiarize sermons to impress congregations.
We’re all tempted, whether others know it or not. Lustful thoughts, deceptive statements and actions, anything that misrepresents the truth and violates God’s word—it’s all a form of cheating. In the moment, we think that the rewards of cheating will outweigh its costs. But whether we get caught or not, we’re wrong.
James J. O’Donnell observed that “we are all unreliable narrators of our own lives, none of us authorities on the things we know most intimately.” The best way to resist the culture’s pressure to cheat is to consider the end from the beginning. (Tweet this) Count the cost. Know that Satan will never tempt you to do something that is in your ultimate best interest. (Tweet this) Recognize that God knows your sin even if no one else does. And choose the eternal reward of personal integrity.
When we cheat others, we cheat ourselves. Just ask Tom Brady.