Super Bowl 2015: To Cheat or Not to Cheat

Feb. 1, 2015, marks Super Bowl XLIX. An ending to another year of football, keep in mind it all began in 1892. America's favorite pastime, according to Neilsen ratings. Last year's Super Bowl telecast of the Seattle Seahawks' victory over the Denver Broncos was the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing 111.5 million viewers on that Sunday night.

So, let's review this past year and see how our gladiators have done on the social level. Well, the kickoff to the season was the Ray Rice assault fiasco, alongside the Adrian Peterson child abuse charges, the Atlanta Hawks owner's racist email, the Redskins' team name controversy, and to top the list... Roger Goodell and the NFL "get it wrong." Socially, this was a tough season.

On the field, what more can I say as we end the playoffs with... our beloved Patriots once again being accused of cheating. Under-inflated footballs is the poison going into Super bowl 2015. Is it possible? Sure. The better question: To cheat, or not to cheat?

Why do some athletes and coaches cheat? The quick answer: Because they can. Research on the psychology of cheating suggests "a desire for fairness" is a common rational among some cheaters. It's that childish statement, "Everybody else is doing it."

The various ways that athletes can cheat, on and off the field, are many. Unfortunately, the resources and means to enforce the rules are lean, thus leaving the door open for unsportsmanlike behavior. Professional sports involve big money and a lot of careers ride on games like the Super Bowl. Professional athletes are always looking for an edge to beat their opponent. Whether a superior work out, an out-of-the-box diet, or even the superstitions that find their way into the locker rooms, all athletes are looking to push their bodies to the limit. Steroids were big, now its gene doping. Whatever can make our gladiators bigger and stronger, and end in taking home the final victory will catch a player's eye and cause them to pause and ask, "Well, is it really cheating?" The rationalization to cheating begins with a discussion of whether the behavior is actually cheating. And then of course is the notion that asking for forgiveness is better than asking for permission.

Ironically, one of the most powerful motivations for cheating, according to scholars who study decision-making, is a desire for fairness. In the past the most widely heard justification for the Patriots cheating was that other teams in the league were almost certainly doing the same thing. In a way, this makes sense: If my opponent has some sort of advantage over me, I'll want to balance things out. That would suggest that most athletes who feel that no one else is cheating would not look to cheat.

There is a defensive stance when cheating especially in sports: while players and coaches don't know what their opponents are doing they assume that others are thinking and doing exactly what they are doing. They know they are doing something for a reason and assume others are doing the same thing for the same reason, in this case cheating.

The "fairness" explanation makes sense for athletes at the pro level as the win can often come within fractions of a second. With the millions of dollars and athletes high profile in the forefront it is no wonder why cheating can be so tempting.  That being said, it is my opinion that while there is certainly those who seek to cheat to get the advantage they don't deserve, there are many who don't.

Sports psychotherapist, Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, as seen on the Dr. OZ Show, The Today Show, ESPN's Crowd Goes Wild, TMZ Sports, Bloomberg News, Flipping Out, and was the inspiration for USA's hit show, Necessary Roughness weighs in on social issues that raise their head during NFL season. Read more about Dr. Donna on her website at