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Defending Against a Dirty Player

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 May 2023)

A dirty player is one that will try to eliminate you from competing through underhanded and often illegal means. That type of competitor is not trying to prove who is best in the contest, but instead is only seeking the reward of the victory. He wants to win by any means possible.

Often a dirty player has a reputation that allows you to be cautious in your interactions. If you are surprised by an attempt to injure you or remove you from competition, you can sometimes retaliate.

In many types of competition, you should always be aware of the potential of a dirty play.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Bad reputation

If your opponent has a reputation of dirty play and harming others as a way to win, you need to take precautions. Sometimes a competitor will purposely get a reputation of being a dirty player as a psychological strategy to intimidate opponents or make them change their tactics to counter potential dirty play.


In such a situation, you need to go in the competition with the expectation that the opponent may play dirty. You need to know what type of tricks this opponent may try and keep your guard up for them. That is why it is good to know as much about your opponent as possible before the competition.

You need to make sure you don't let your guard down and allow the opponent to harm you. Most formal competitions have rules against dirty play, so you can use those rules to expose it when it happens. Another thing to do is to avoid playing against dirty players or in such a game.


For example, if you had a business and your opponent was a criminal gang, you could either report it to the police or simply get into another business. There is no way you could win a fair competition against them.

Likewise, if you were in a political campaign and your opponent was know to "play hard ball" against other candidates, you would need to be alert to squelch any false rumors his group may initiate.

When I was a younger, I was playing basketball on the playground with some guys. One of the other players—a big kid who was known to be a bully—purposely tripped me when I went to score a basket. My leg was bleeding from the fall on the pavement. I couldn't fight him, since he was so tough. Knowing his reputation, I should have been more careful. So I took my basketball and said, "OK, the game's over. There's no more playing." And I left. He just snickered. But also, there was no ball, so he couldn't continue to play the game.


Sometimes retaliation is a way to defend against dirty play. Unfortunately, that could bring the competition to a different, lower level.


In past wars, certain actions like using poisonous gas in battle and torturing captured soldiers were deemed inhumane. One side did it and then the other side retaliated, perhaps with a more heinous attack. Finally, there was agreement by most civilized countries not to use those methods or dirty play in war. These agreements were stated in the Hague Convention and Geneva Convention.

Unfortunately, countries still violate those Conventions with the assumption they will win and the opponent will not be able to retaliate. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, used poisonous gas on Kurdish civilians. They could not retaliate. Also, the United States recently discarded the Geneva Convention and started torturing prisoners-or-war in their war in Iraq. Critics say that this opens the door for enemies to torture American prisoners.


Retaliation for dirty play is often seen in sports.

In baseball, if a pitcher purposely hits an opposing player with the baseball, he or one of his teammates may then be hit by the other team's pitcher. The baseball league forbids such retaliation to avoid the game getting out of hand. But "accidents" still do happen.

In American professional football, quarterback Bobby Layne was once roughed up by a dirty player on the opposing team. This happened in the years before player wore face masks on their helmets. Layne told his linemen to let this guy come to him on the next play. Just before the dirty player got a chance to tackle Layne again, Bobby threw the ball directly at the player's face, breaking his nose. Apparently, the player never messed with Layne again.

Always be aware

In many competitions, you need to be aware of the possibility of dirty play. If you know your opponents well enough, you can make assumptions whether they might try some stunt that could harm you. The bigger the prize, the greater the chances that even a nice opponent could do something dirty.

In certain competitions, such as politics, dirty play is not uncommon. When campaigning for a political office, you should assume that your opponent may try something to derail your campaign. In certain physical or violent sports, dirty play is easy to do, so you must be on your guard and ready to defend against it.


Dirty play is an attempt to eliminate you from competing through underhanded and often illegal means. Often a dirty player has a reputation that allows you to be cautious in your interactions. If there is an attempt to remove you from competition, you can sometimes retaliate. In many types of competition, you should always be aware of the potential of a dirty play.

Be aware of the dirty players

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