Unlevel parquet at the Boston GardenThere are, in fact, no level playing fields. Football pitches have a camber– like roads– to allow runoff; baseball diamonds all have mounds and bases; basketball arenas have dead spots in the floor (the Boston Garden's parquet being the most infamous) and variable lighting. All games are rigged, even by the rules themselves (our checker and chess masters can tell us how much of any advantage there is in going first).

That should hardly be shocking news. Nor should it be surprising that regulation is as fallible as parenting; umpires can be inconsistent, biased, corrupt and stupid. Rocky's presumption that the "wise sportsman" refuses to participate in rigged games does not include anyone who actually plays sports for a living. As the folks at NASCAR– American's favorite sport other than shooting– put it, "if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'."

This may explain why Vic and Lack and others keep on. The Rule of Law can be a comforting abstraction, but what allows people to prosper in this and in any other society is the understanding that the lawyers make the rules for themselves; what keeps the game going is what Hayek called "our non-rational inheritance"– i.e. the sense of conduct that prompts individuals to continue to make a distinction between "cheatin'" and lying about the score.

Rocky Humbert retorts:

Football teams switch sides at half time and toss a fair coin to receive. Both teams pitch from the same mound. Basketball teams also switch sides at the half, and the knowledge of dead spots provides a home field advance which is eliminated over the course of the season when the home team goes on the road. Clearly there are moments that favor one side versus the other– but that is entirely different from systematic rigging. An analogy is when Democrats accuse the Republicans of being "more" corrupt. There is no dispute about the existence of corruption, however, over time, the corruption nets out– leaving the players without any lasting advantage. And that is why it's a level playing field over time.





Speak your mind

3 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Watson on July 17, 2010 12:21 am

    No where is the lack of a level playing field more apparent than in the surfing beaches in Hawaii. The locals have it all over visiting surfers, and can do anything they want, including kicking visitors out with the threat of violence or worse. The top pros all have some hui guy who’s an enforcer on their payroll to run interference. Plus, the top pros all kind of stick together and are hard to intimidate. It’s guys like me, very good surfer, old, respectful. that gets the short shrift especially on the west side. In my case, the waves are so good, that any changes in the playing field are just the cost of doing business. Needless tosay, I love my trips to the islands and always come back with a smile…..sometimes a fat lip and bloody nose, but it’s all good.

  2. Gary Rogan on July 17, 2010 12:34 am

    The biggest argument for as few rules as possible is that human beings have to enforce the rules. The reason we have 3000 page bills these days is that unequal treatment for different categories of people is being codified in great yet ambiguous detail totally open to the interpretation by the enforcers.

  3. danny a on July 17, 2010 1:32 pm

    There is no level playing field, though the pendulum swings back and forth each time overshooting.


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