In the game of life some - okay, most - will cheat sometimes

10th February 2018 2:25 PM

For 20 years, Informer and a mate enjoyed a weekly game of tennis. For the first five years, I held sway; in the final five years, he prevailed; during the decade in between, it was anybody's game. We played hard, fast and never cheated. The occasional bad call, sure, but never a dishonest one.

We also played in a mid-week social comp. Part of a six-person team, we won some, lost some and it was all good fun except for one opposing outfit so brazen in their cheating I cannot imagine what pleasure any of them took from the game.

The human propensity for cheating has been in the news of late, including ultra-marathon runners allegedly skimping on those pesky kilometres, US presidents purportedly peccadillo-ing with porn stars, and a new book about fake cancer pariah Belle Gibson.

While such stories make headlines, it's safe to say that in every moment of every day, someone somewhere is cheating someone else or something in some way. As we say: cheat happens.

Not that I'm taking the moral high ground. Informer has cheated. There was a college history exam I entered with forearms laden with dates and names. Battle of Bosworth 1485. Jacobite rising 1745. All Henry VIII's wives after Anne Boleyn lost her noggin.

I cheated at golf once, until realising it was pointless. In golf, every player knows exactly how many shots every other player has had, which is handy when one occasionally "loses track” of their score. Golf encourages honesty, if not trust.

Informer regrets these and other illicit incidents in my life. Strange then that I should remain such a sucker for a cheat, and I doubt I'm alone. We so want to believe. We crave for great feats to be real, for superhuman performances to still be human, and for success to come from aspiration and inspiration, not deceit.

That's why, when we suspect we've been cheated, we cling to belief for as long as possible. For while it's OK to play the fool, there's nothing worse than being made to look one.

Informer believed in Lance Armstrong's integrity right up to his confession to Oprah. Every time some illiterate Nigerian dude texts me to say I've won a squillion dollars and all I have to do is email him my bank details, I believe him for just a second. And yes, I'm sure Ed Sheeran really is writing all his own stuff.

It doesn't help that the saying "cheats never prosper” is in itself a deception. Some philanderers, plagiarists, insider traders, corrupt pollies, bogus business types and assorted other shonks, shysters and charlatans will never be caught.

Perhaps the one exception to the "cheating is bad” rule is cheating death. We do love a good survival story, don't we? Then again, as the aforementioned Belle Gibson's example confirms, some people will even cheat at that.

I suppose the greatest irony about cheating is the way we cheat ourselves, for no matter how much we condemn cheating in others, we generally find a reason to excuse our own.

Not Informer though. It doesn't take much to change "cheating” to "teaching” and the lesson I've taken to heart is that honesty is indeed and always the best policy. Now if you'll excuse me, that 2013-14 tax return won't do itself. Trust me.