Athletes, their wives, and infidelity

In a world seemingly full of athletes who are cheating on their wives, people wonder how this happens. A sociologist who has been studying this for years sums up some of his research:

None of this surprises Steven Ortiz, an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State who has spent nearly 20 years studying the wives of professional athletes and what he calls “husband-oriented” sports marriages. In one study, Ortiz interviewed 47 wives married to men in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

He chalks up the pattern of behavior to a patriarchal society and what he calls “spoiled-athlete syndrome.” Since childhood, he says, athletes are enabled because of their obvious talent. And in the same way the culture of celebrity is celebrated, athletic heroes are worshipped.

Ortiz says he observed three ways in which the issue of infidelity is handled in these marriages: one, with humor, and two, avoidance of the subject. The third, he says, typically occurs when the wife searches for evidence in laundry, e-mail messages or phone calls.

“A major stressor is the fear of infidelity,” Ortiz says. “[The wives] have no control over the situation.”

According to the rest of the ESPN story, a number of wives know this is a possibility while they are married. It sounds like others had no idea that athletes behaved like this before getting married. Could there be some sort of athlete’s wives support group that would help those who are currently married and counsel those who are about to get married?

A few other questions I had after reading this:

1. How much do teams support, overtly or covertly, this behavior on the parts of male athletes?

2. Does this sort of behavior occur among female athletes? If not, why not?

3. Why do some male athletes not fall into these traps? What factors influence the decisions of male athletes to cheat or not to cheat?

4. How common in this behavior? Are the stories we see in the news, such as those about Tiger Woods or Brett Favre, the norm or are they outliers? Would fans pay less attention to sports if they knew all about this area of life?

5. How does this all affect athlete’s children?

The story behind those who write papers purchased online

Cheating is common in schools and the opportunities to purchase papers online seems to be on the rise. The Chronicle of Higher Education features a testimonial from a “shadow scholar” who tells his story of writing dozens of papers and theses:

You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.

I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I’ve worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

In the midst of this great recession, business is booming…

Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it. Last summer The New York Times reported that 61 percent of undergraduates have admitted to some form of cheating on assignments and exams. Yet there is little discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more-detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place.

Sounds like we need some more research and figures about how often this particular type of cheating occurs.

There are some interesting thoughts in the comments about who is responsible for all of this and what professors can do about it. The “shadow scholar” suggests that certain segments of the college population are let down by the system and faculty must be burying their heads in the sand when a student can’t express themselves coherently in class and then comes up with an excellent paper. Some of the solutions presented in the comments: get to know your student’s writing very well so you can spot the gaps between their in-class writing and their suddenly strong papers; have students go through a number of drafts that theoretically makes it more difficult to purchase a paper (though “shadow scholar” gives some examples of writing and then revising papers); emphasize writing in schools so students aren’t put in this position where they can’t write.

Discussing academic cheating

The New York Times holds a discussion about the epidemic of cheating that includes two teachers (one college, one high school) and a recent college graduate. Interesting perspectives.

More from the college professor in the discussion at The Chronicle of Higher Education.