Commentary

A guide to not getting caught

The X's and O's of getting away with violations on and off the court

Updated: May 23, 2011, 9:53 AM ET
By Morty Ain, Eddie Matz, Ryan McGee and Seth Wickersham | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the May 30, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Whether you're scuffing a baseball or breaking curfew, if nobody saw it, who's to say there was anything to see in the first place? And so we give you, ESPN The Magazine's Guide to Not Getting Caught:

How to doctor a baseball

By an MLB Pitcher

Knowing exactly where to scuff a ball is tricky enough. For instance, a scuff on top of the ball, in the middle of the horseshoe, will cause a two-seamer to sink violently, but a mark near Bud Selig's signature won't do a thing. Getting the job done without the umps noticing, however, is even tougher. Our master tamperer -- a veteran starter --offers three tried-and-true options:

The Ringlet. "There are only three ways to make a ball do something it wouldn't normally do: Cut it, scuff it or rub something slippery onto it. People think pine tar helps pitchers make the ball move; it doesn't. It just gives you a better grip. Albolene is our go-to lubricant. It's basically like Vaseline. When you rub it on the ball, instead of spinning out of your hand, it kind of squirts out like a knuckleball. I knew a reliever who used Albolene. He'd go to the mound with it on his glove handa clear, thin layer no one could detectand it would last an entire inning."

The Hole Punch. "On older gloves, there are metal ringlets where the front and back of the glove meet, at the wrist near the base of the palm. Back in the day, if you pried up one of them, then sharpened it a bit, you could cut the ball and no one would be the wiser."

Albolene. "Use a hole punch to cut a small circle of sandpaper, then glue the piece to a finger on your nonpitching hand. For obvious reasons, use a sandpaper that is close to your skin color. When you rub the ball between pitches, no one will see that you're also scraping it. The beauty of this method is that if someone is onto you, you can flick the sandpaper off quickly, and it will be near impossible to find in the dirt."


How to soup up a car beyond specs

By a NASCAR Crew Chief

TBD
Joey Richardson/Charlotte Observer/MCT/LandovNASCAR crew chiefs have had to find new ways to cheat.

"Since NASCAR introduced the Car of Tomorrow in 2007, we crew chiefs have gone from making big changes to microscopic ones. We used to slide and twist the parts of a car's body that weren't covered in the rule book, like picking up downforce or lowering the roof to make it more aerodynamic. But the digital devices NASCAR inspectors use to measure every millimeter of the new car have done away with that. Cheating has gotten a whole lot harder. These days, we alter the aspects of the car that can't possibly be detected in prerace tech inspections.

"Here's an example: The use of so-called exotic metals isn't allowed in the construction of a car, because they're too expensive for the smaller teams. But when NASCAR looks for, say, titanium, it looks for chunks, not traces. So we might mix a little into the iron when the engine block is poured, to lighten it up in the right places. We do the same with shocks and springs. They pass garage inspection, but we've modified those chassis parts with metals so they give and react in precisely the right manner during race conditions to put our spoiler in the right position. Sure, it's only fractions of an inch, but it's fractions the other guy doesn't have. When the car comes off the track, it cools and readjusts back to the prerace specs. You think NASCAR inspectors can find violations so tiny in a 15-minute inspection? Please.

"Now, if you win, there's always a chance they'll confiscate your car for a more thorough teardown back at their shop. Busted teams lose cash and points, but they never lose the win. So I'll continue to take my chances."


How to break curfew

By Recent College Stars

Senior leadership extends beyond the locker room. Figuring out how to party after hours and under the coach's nose is important to team-building as well. We asked three night owls from 2010 to pass along knowledge on beating bed check.

Know where to go.
"We had guys break curfew on one road trip, but they just hung out in the lobby of our hotel. Obviously, they got caught."
--John Graves, DT, Virginia Tech

Always add an hour.
"If curfew is at 10, you might think 11 is a good time to head out. But you should play it safe and wait until 12."
--Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

Go backdoor.
"When you return, don't use the front door. They watch the front door, and by 'they,' I don't mean the coaches; I mean the hotel staff. They're spies. If you walk through the front door, they'll note it and tell the coach just how late you were. The hotel staff is not on your side."
--Wayne Daniels, DE, TCU


How to get the jump under the boards

By Brandon Rush, Indiana Pacers

"Players step on people's toes. I thought it was an accident at first, but then the same guy did it to me twice in a game, so I knew he was doing it on purpose. He stomped on me right as I was about to jump for a rebound, so I couldn't get up for the ball. I won't name names, but it was definitely his move. It's probably a good way to cause an injury, but it does work because most refs look for fouls from the waist up; they hardly ever check what's going on with our feet. Anyway, I don't even think they have a call for stepping on toes."


How to make a mismatch

By an NFL Offensive Coordinator

"NFL rules state that once players coming from the sideline approach the huddle and communicate with a teammate, they can't return to the bench. But refs never call that. So what we do is this: We send five subs -- slowly -- onto the field in a cluster, and tell them to barely pass the numbers. Then, we watch for the defense to make its substitutions ... and pull three guys back. It happens so fast, most outsiders don't even notice. But it keeps defenses from identifying our personnel, and that gives us matchup advantages."


How to steal a faceoff

By Ryan Kesler, Vancover Canucks

Winning faceoffs and winning a playoff series go hand in hand. And that inevitably leads to rule-breaking. "On faceoffs," says Kesler, "you want to bend the rules as much as you can, because the more you have the puck, the better your chances. The tough part is not getting caught by the linesmen."

Here is our guide for making the most of faceoff opportunities:

1. Hover your stick just above the ice. It's illegal, but from where he's standing, the official can't see it, and you get a quicker jump on the puck.

2. Hit the other guy's stick right as you line up. It forces him to reset as the puck is dropped.

And if you're not the one taking the faceoff ...

3. Shove a hotheaded opponent just before the drop, to bait him. The retaliation rarely results in a penalty, but the ref will often force the guy's center out of the circle.


How to flop

By Jay DeMerit, U.S. National Soccer Team

After logging all those minutes against international players as a starter in America's 2010 World Cup games, and in a six-year stint with England's Watford FC, DeMerit knows a good dive when he sees one. We asked the 31-year-old defender to critique the forms of some other notorious drama kings.

TBD
Thomas Boyd/The OregonianCal's football team put their flopping skills to the test against Oregon.

Aaron Tipoti, the Cal D-Lineman Who Tried to Slow Oregon's Offense -- 2010.

"Timing is everything, and he got it all wrong. It's five seconds after the play, he's walking back to the line of scrimmage and he seems fine. Then, he looks to the sideline, and all of a sudden he's rolling on the ground, grabbing his knee. It's like a sniper in the stands hit him. When you're standing up and you're all alone like that, you've got to go for the calf cramp, because you can slowly limp into it. This move was totally obvious. There wasn't one iota of believability to it."

Rating: 2 stars (out of 10)

Derek Fisher's Pick-and-Pirouette Vs. Jazz -- 2010

"Fisher absolutely nails the timing. He knows the pick is coming, knows exactly when to jump in -- and exactly when to flop. Now, the flailing that follows is a little hard to swallow given Fisher is built like a bulldog, but arm waving is always a nice accessory. And Fisher uses his arms very well here. He's not quite as theatrical as Manu Ginobili is, and that's a good thing. Subtlety goes a long way toward selling a quality flop."

Rating: 9 stars

Sean Avery's Swan Dive Vs. Rangers -- 2006

This was, by far, the most comical of all the dives you asked me to review. Avery looks like he's trying to do the worm in midair, and he goes down a full second after he gets hit. It's almost like he's going for a diving header. This would've looked great on the soccer pitch. On the rink? Not so much."

Rating: 1.5 stars

Derek Jeter fakes a HBP Vs. Rays -- 2010

"Jeter definitely made a meal out of this one. He bends over and grimaces, really puts on an Oscar-worthy performance. I have to give him credit; if you're going to fake it, you need to sell a place that guys normally get hit, and he went right for the elbow. What makes this one especially impressive is the guy is a superstar, so all eyes are on him -- and he still nailed it! Then again, guys like him do tend to get the calls."

Rating: 7 stars


How to date a player

By a Cheerleader

Most NFL teams that have cheerleaders forbid them from fraternizing with their players. Christy Oglevee, for one, was booted from the Redskinette squad soon after she started dating tight end Chris Cooley in 2005. Today, the two are happily married. Because we don't want to see any other potential unions squashed, we got one former Falcons cheerleader to dish on down-low dating:

"Contrary to what people think, most cheerleaders aren't trying to reel in a player. Lots of us already have boyfriends or husbands or just want to stay single. But if you're a cheerleader looking to meet or marry an NFLer -- and I'd estimate that's about 10 percent of us -- here's the best advice I can offer: Make sure he's not on the team you cheer for. There are 31 other teams, and they're all coming through your city sooner or later. My first go-round in Atlanta, I got into a relationship with a Falcon and thought nobody knew. But another cheerleader reported me and I lost my spot on the squad. A few years later, after I finally made it back onto the team, I made sure to date only players who weren't Falcons. Girls who can't help from fishing off the company dock, though, have to know discretion is key. You pretty much have to ignore your guy whenever anyone else is around. And even then you can get into trouble. Players tend to be loose with their dating histories, and once word leaks out, it's a game of telephone, and someone you don't want hearing about the relationship is going to."

Seth Wickersham | email

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine after graduating from the University of Missouri. Although he primarily covers the NFL, his assignments also have taken him to the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.