WHERE'S WALDO: Cheaters are the WORST
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 03:00pm
By Aaron Waldron
If you Google the word “cheating” you’ll get 172 million results ranging from extramarital affairs to complicated test-tampering rings in education systems across the U.S. Call it a side-effect of today’s technological climate or an innately humane reaction to competition, but using dishonest means to achieve a reward seems more commonplace now than ever. When your crotchety, old great-uncle says that the world’s moral compass is broken, these are the kinds of behavior he’s talking about.
Cheating scandals have marred professional sports, with performance-enhancing drugs tainting the record books in baseball, American football, motocross, cycling, the Olympics, and more. “Deflategate” has torn a hole in last year’s NFL playoffs when the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots were found to be tampering with game balls, reducing the air pressure below the acceptable range according to the rules. Unfortunately, cheating is increasingly infecting RC racing.
Cheaters often defend their actions with deflection, trying to justify the unforgivable transgressions with a surprising amount of male cattle feces. Nothing in RC racing - not front straightaways, whining racers, IFMAR-style staggered qualifying, manufacturers cannibalizing the industry with sponsorships, or even LiPo fires - pisses me off more than racers who cheat.
These despicable cockroaches typically resort to saying things like “well, everyone else is doing it” and “it’s only cheating if you get caught.” One of the most well-known modern sports adages is the grammatically deplorable “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’” - which was first coined by a fictional rodeo rider on a TV show back in 1972. Now there’s a solid life motto!
RC racers cheat in a variety of ways. Back in the days of brushed motors, racers found ways to twist the commutator on fixed-endbell stock motors to advance the timing past the legal maximum of 24 degrees, or they’d open the cans to replace the bushings with bearings masked by bronze-colored washers. Nitro racers messed around with any number of dangerous chemicals in search of additional fuel mileage.
I once sat at dinner during a big race and listened as the intoxicated father of a racer against whom I competed talked about all of the armature-unwinding and other blatantly-wrong tricks he had done on his kid’s motors. If it hadn’t been a crime, I’m pretty sure I could’ve reached across the table and strangled him. This racer has made it further in this industry that I ever would’ve imagined.
Nowadays, it’s often done with running illegal stators or rotors in brushless motors, speed control programming that ramps up motor timing electronically, and dangerously heating and charging LiPo batteries past their maximum voltage rating. Even manufacturers have recognized there’s actually a market for this kind of nonsense, and many sell cheater products right off the shelf!
Just a couple of months ago, one of the largest and longest-running off-road RC racing events in the industry was tarnished by wild accusations of cheating. Due to concerns over health and the consistency of the truckloads of dirt paid for and brought into SRS Raceway in Phoenix, AZ, the staff instituted a “no tire sauce” rule to prevent racers from soaking and treating their tires with potentially harmful substances. It took less than a couple of hours for fingers to start pointing in all directions, while racers searched for every possible way to twist the track owner’s rules into whatever made them feel better about what they were trying to get away with.
“It’s not tire sauce, it says ‘tire conditioner!’” was one of my favorites, along with, “well, it’s just a cleaner - and no one said I had to clean my tires using only water” was another good one. Don’t worry, no one noticed when you went out to the parking lot and brought a zip-lock bag of clean, shiny tires back to your table…you despicable scum.
My local track instituted the same rule for their new facility, and I can’t begin to explain how furious I was to learn yesterday that at least one of the local racers whom I previously respected admitted that he had been saucing for months like it was no big deal - but didn’t tell anyone until after the “no sauce” rule had been lifted because it wasn’t fair to those who had at least a shred of dignity.
By far the worst justification for cheating I’ve heard, though, is when a racer smugly acknowledges that there’s no possible way he will be caught. Most of the time, he’s right - it’s not very often that local racetracks can afford chemical sniffing devices and dedicated personnel just to monitor the pit area for drivers that are cheating. Sure, the promoter of a big race might be able to get a couple of people to sit behind a table and perform thousands of pre-race checks over the course of a weekend, but even they’re relying on their attendees to be good people.
I simply don’t understand the thought process that leads an RC racer to cheat. Even if you’re one of the few professionals in this industry who has a paycheck banking on your race results, you run the risk of making yourself and the companies who administers those pay stubs look like complete jackasses in front of the entire industry. And if you’re a privateer, you’re spending your own money to compete against others - but then giving yourself an unfair advantage, ruining the entire spirit of the hobby itself. There are easier and less expensive ways to feel like a bigger fish in this glass of water we call a pond.
Whether it’s Olympic cycling or RC racing, rules are required not only to protect the spirit of competition but also the health of its participants - whether it’s preventing athletes from injecting anabolic steroids or toy car drivers from huffing diesel fuel. When Alex Rodriguez shot himself full of methenolone enanthate, known by its street name as “Primobolan,” he put an asterisk next to his 2003 AL MVP season, as well as every game he played in, that year’s playoff results, and - to some extent - millions of dollars in advertising, ticket sales, and hundreds of other revenue streams.
When an RC racer cheats, he or she alienates his competitors and risks driving them to never come back. Even worse, that driver may contribute to an environment in which drivers may feel like they must cheat or risk not being competitive at all. If you’re spinning out while someone with shiny tires is pulling wheelies, you’ve got three choices - suck it up and keep losing, start cheating as well, or leave.
It shouldn’t be those who want to play by the rules that are motivated to find somewhere else to race (or another hobby altogether). It doesn’t matter how stupid you think it is, or how difficult it will be for you to get caught - you’re racing a toy car, for crying out loud. Play by the rules or get the hell out.
And racetracks, this article is for you, too - if you catch someone cheating, have the self-respect to tell that racer to pack up and get lost. Yesterday, PC Gamer reported that Daybreak Game Company just banned 25,000 players of the popular zombie survival massively multiplayer online video game H1Z1 for cheating. That’s a model that our industry could only hope to follow. You might be losing a regular customer, but you’ll gain the respect of others who were trying to beat that racer fairly.
Cheating at RC racing puts you in the same boat as such pillars of moral fortitude as Ryan Braun, Tom Brady, Lance Armstrong, Mike Tyson, and Tonya Harding - except that they’re actually on the deck of that ship, as they were all professionals competing for more than just a self-esteem boost, while you’re buried down in the belly of the hull. RC racers who cheat are the scummiest of shock oil spills, the dirtiest of muddy tires, the lowest of the low.
The phrase “Gentlemen, start your engines!” is known as the most famous words in motor sports, but there’s nothing gentlemanly about cheating. Congratulations, chump - I hope that nonexistent trophy you got for last night’s club race was worth it.