Most Americans won't recognize this image. Nearly all Europeans will instantly recognize this image. This picture was snapped of French national team member Thierry Henry taking part in the ultimate transgression - a handball to maintain possession of the ball. Henry then passed the ball to teammate William Gallas who scored the tying goal against Ireland, allowing France, instead of Ireland, to advance to the 2010 World Cup. Ireland sought all sorts of sanctions, including a replay of the game. Despite attempted bribes with pints of Guinness, the requests were turned down. France is off to the World Cup.
That's the back story. Is it over? No. Is it because Ireland continues to appeal? No. It is because FIFA, the International Soccer Governing Body, is opening an investigation into Thierry Henry for unsportsmanlike conduct. Sadly, this is not without precedent, according to ESPN:
FIFA rejected the use of extra match officials at the 2010 World Cup on Wednesday, instead opening a disciplinary case against France's Thierry Henry for a handball in the World Cup playoff against Ireland.... The independent disciplinary panel has the authority to impose a one-match suspension on Henry, which would take effect at the start of the World Cup in June. In a similar case last year, Italian authorities banned Fiorentina forward Alberto Gilardino for two matches after he scored with his forearm in a Serie A match. The league ruled that Gilardino was unsportsmanlike for not acknowledging the handball during a 3-1 win over Palermo.
About the only parallel to what soccer expects Henry to do is when the PGA expects golfers to turn themselves in for taking improper lies or signing defective scorecards. And big surprise, golf is at best a niche sport in America.
Americans don't expect Tim Duncan to tell the refs in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals that the ball really went out of bounds off him instead of off of Kobe Bryant, as originally called. Americans don't expect Derek Jeter, in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, to own up to missing a tag of second base on a stolen base attempt when he has been called safe. Americans don't expect Brett Hull to own up to the fact that in overtime of the deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals he knocked the game winning goal into the net while his foot was illegally in the crease. Americans don't expect Troy Polamalu to let the referee know that in the AFC Championship Game he actually trapped a ball against the ground on an interception when replay was inconclusive. Duncan, Jeter, Hull, and Polamalu are all generally recognized as upstanding sportsmen in their respective sports.
Simply put, the American sports creed is "Just win baby." We don't consider any of the above examples "bad sportsmanship," even if our favorite team is the aggrieved team. We are pissed off at the officials for missing the call. But we don't blame the offending athlete for not throwing his own teammates and fans under the bus, all in the name of some foggy notion of sportsmanship. It's not quite cheating and it's not quite honesty. And that's quite alright with American sports fans.