Last week we New England Patriots fans learned that Bill Belichick, our team’s wildly successful head coach, cheats. Turns out that in the first game of the season, one of Belichick’s assistants improperly videotaped the defensive coaches of the opposing New York Jets, trying to steal their signs. As punishment, the Pats were stripped of future draft picks and fined, as was Belichick. Across the nation, sports writers wagged their fingers. Editorials called Belichick a disgrace. And us fans? Well, when Belichick’s mug appeared on the video screen just before the Pats’ second game, the hometown crowd cheered so loudly and so long that Belichick actually waved. Some diehards unveiled a banner reading in bill we trust.
I wish I could say I was surprised. In truth, Pats fans already knew that Belichick doesn’t play by Marquis of Queensberry rules. This February former linebacker Ted Johnson alleged that Belichick made him practice even after he suffered a concussion and that today he has brain damage so severe that he can barely get out of bed. But in Boston those earlier revelations–like these new ones–haven’t hurt Belichick’s popularity a bit. And there’s only one thing that could: losing.
That’s the dirty little secret about sports fans. We’re basically amoral. Kant said that acting ethically means treating other people as ends in and of themselves, not merely as means to our own desires.