Survivor: Was It Wrong for Richard to Be Deceptive?by David Bloomberg -- 07/10/2002
But why were there such complaints? Why did so many people seem to hate him for his manipulations and deception? Why didn't they instead realize that he came into this contest with a game plan and he enacted it masterfully (with one major exception -- he should not have allowed his arrogance to show). "Survivor" should be a contest of skill, and Richard showed that he had the necessary skills to play it right down to the end.
Let's look at some other contests and see what they have to say about deception.
In baseball, when a pitcher strikes out the opposing batter, we cheer his abilities. But if it had been Richard doing that, we might have heard the following:
"Jeez, that pitcher shouldn't have thrown a curve ball. Why does he have to lie like that, making the batter think the ball is coming straight down the plate and then, BAM, it moves just when he swings his bat. That's just not fair!"
Or if Richard had been the batter instead, somebody might have said:
"Oh, look at that. That's not fair. He stood up there like he was going to bunt, and then when the infielders ran in, he pulled back and took a full swing. How could he be so manipulative like that?"
The fact is that, in baseball, pitchers try to deceive batters. They even occasionally pitch-out or do a quick throw to first base to catch a runner off-guard. Batters fake bunts. Runners have even been known to do something that even Richard didn't do: they steal.
Looking at football, we see a similar phenomenon. When the quarterback fakes a hand-off, fools the defenders, and then throws a pass, we don't complain because he deceived the other team; we applaud his abilities! When a receiver pretends to move one way and then jerks back the other way to throw his defender off guard, we marvel at his talent. And there is even a play specifically called the "quarterback sneak" (though, admittedly, those often aren't too sneaky). Nobody complains that any of these are deceptive and should be stopped. But when Richard made similar moves, half the show's viewers were up in arms about it.
There are, of course, some games in which deception plays no role. We don't see fake putts in golf, for example. But even in non-sports like chess, you may see a good player acting like he is using a standard maneuver, only to surprise and counter-attack the opponent who makes that assumption. So why shouldn't the same be true in a game like Survivor?
Perhaps it's that many people forget that it is, indeed, a game. To be precise, it's a game show, with a million-dollar prize (not to mention possible advertising deals and the like). As a game, it has certain strategies, and one of those strategies is to fool your opponents. In this area, it is similar to many other games.
In all of the cases I mentioned, there are certain rules that must be followed, even as the players engage in deception. Corking a bat or making certain kinds of false moves on the pitcher's mound in baseball is illegal. Some types of blocks in football are illegal. But just as players in those games can use deception and still be well within the rules, Richard did likewise.
Richard did some things worthy of criticism, such as being arrogant and throwing the occasional tantrum. He also continued some of his "game behavior" into the real world. But we shouldn't criticize him for playing the game well, we should applaud him.
Check out what Richard's thoughts are on a variety of topics in this review of his book, 101 Survival Secrets.