A Moral Lesson from World Cup Diving

This has been an electrifying World Cup. We’ve seen teams that weren’t supposed to win rise above all expectations. We’ve seen teams that were supposed to do well collapse (Spain and Brazil come to mind). We’ve seen individuals shine like the brilliant stars that they are and others stumble.

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen grabs, clutches, trips, tackles, and our (un)fair share of dives! As a Jewish cantor at Hamilton’s Beth Jacob and as a Jewish educator, I can’t help but ask what moral lesson I can draw from such dives. 

TOP 10 DIVES

The first thought I have is: if you expect justice, act justly.

However, as you can see from the video above (Top 10 World Cup Dives), sometimes the diver, the actor feigning injury or claiming he’s been wronged, actually gets rewarded. The ruse, at times, works!

But what if we behaved like that in the real world? Here is a hilarious video on that very notion:

The truth is that cheats of any sort sometimes get rewarded. There are students who get away with cheating on tests. There are petty thieves who get away with shoplifting something from a local convenient store. There are criminals who get away with serious crimes.

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the end of the day, you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself.

In next week’s Parasha, Matot, God says, “If a man makes a vow… or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.” The soccer player who dives may not have made an oath not to dive. He may not have made an oath of any kind. However, while it may not be explicit, when he plays the beautiful game, we expect him to carry that responsibility seriously; to us, it is as though he made a vow or an oath to uphold the magic and beauty of the game.

The bottom line is that the soccer (football) player who dives and gets away with it isn’t upholding his “oath”; he is not acting justly. And if he is rewarded for his stunt, then he is not getting justice. And the next time he gets fouled, he has lost the moral ground and shouldn’t expect justice. This is particularly true if he gains a reputation as a diver. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The moral lesson to be drawn from World Cup diving and soccer diving in general: if you expect justice, act justly. The beautiful game will be more beautiful for it.