Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Someone Else's Fault

A Texas high school basketball coach has been fired after his team beat another team 100–0 on the same day that sent an email to a local newspaper saying he would not apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

On its Web site last week, Covenant, a private Christian school, posted a statement regretting the outcome of its January 13 shutout win over Dallas Academy. “It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition,” said the statement, signed by school officials.

The coach who has been criticized for letting the game get so far out of hand, made it clear in the email Sunday to the newspaper that he does not agree with his school’s assessment. “In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed. We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

A parent who attended the game said Covenant continued to make 3-pointers—even in the fourth quarter. She praised the Covenant players but said spectators and an assistant coach were cheering wildly as their team edged closer to 100 points. Covenant was up 59-0 at halftime.

Dallas Academy has eight girls on its varsity team and about 20 girls in its high school. It is winless over the last four seasons. The academy boasts of its small class sizes and specializes in teaching students struggling with “learning differences,” such as short attention spans or dyslexia.

Okay. I appreciate a school not wanting to run up the score on another team. Especially on a team that specializes in teaching students with “learning differences”—whatever that term is supposed to mean.

But wait a minute. What about teaching the girls another lesson—life is sometimes tough and stinks all the way to heaven! There are going to be blowouts in life. Blowouts happen! (I can see that on a bumper sticker now!) All of life isn't good and just because school administrators try to deny it or hide it or protect the girls from the truth, the truth is still the truth. Sounds like to me the girls handled the truth pretty well--it was the adults who couldn't handle the truth! What else is new! Kids have a great way of seeing life for it is. It's us old folks that struggle with make-believe!

What did the school think would happen? Only 20 girls in the entire school and only 8 girls on the team. Those 8 girls have “learning differences.” That team hasn’t won a game in 4 years! 4 years!

So, rather than teaching the girls the value of playing the game and accepting loss, the other team fires its head coach for not pulling back his girls. What lesson would pulling them back teach his team? Play hard sometimes? Play hard when the competition is tough? Play hard when you are told to play hard?

I know the score was very one-sided. I get that!

But, think about this. Maybe those girls were shooting three-point shots from way outside their normal range, just hoping to miss and every shot they made still found its way in the hoop! Did anyone think about that possibility? The winning team still had to shoot the basketball and even layups are not always going to go in--especially if someone attempts to guard you! Also, the winning team couldn’t score for the other team! Did you think about that?

I’m sorry if this post seems heartless, but I’ve played sports for many years of my life. I don’t ever remember any team, coach, or player “taking it easy” on us just because we were smaller, less experienced, or whatever excuse we could have come up with! We played to win. They played to win. And, most of the time, the best team comes out on top. Period. That's why we keep score, as Michael Jordan reminded us, even in practice. Because in sports, someone always wins or loses, except in soccer, but that's another rant for another day.

Friends, it’s not always someone else’s fault!


  1. If I am on the underdog team, I would want to know that I succeeded against you when you were doing your best.

    For you, the opponent to "hold off" or "hold back" because I am a lesser opponent is demeaning and demoralizing to me.

    Of course, my parents and older "siblings" never "let" me win, growing up; I had to work for it, and likewise, I rarely "let" my kids beat me, especially as they get older, so perhaps that is part of why I feel that way.

  2. As I mentioned over here, my daughter played against both of these schools' middle school teams.

    I, too, thought that maybe the girls were launching the 3-ptrs from way out and they were falling...until I read the original article, where the Dallas Academy coach described the point guard's "layup drill." Plus the parents and coaches shouts and hollers, pushing the girls to hit 100.

    Had Covenant used up the shot clock, made a shot and it fell - that's one thing. Even if the other team missed all their shots or turned the ball over with bad passes, etc. that's ok. The score would have been much lower, though.

    Please note that the box score in the paper (or online) does not contain any individual stats, as many other games do - just the quarter results were reports. But the Covenant coach said there were only four 3-pointers made in the game. I only mention it so that the "all through the game" aspect might be put into perspective (I don't know for sure that there were only four, I'm just saying).

    Yes, it is competitive sports. But why do pro football teams run out the clock when they're ahead, instead of working extra hard to continue to rack up points?? A "W" is a "W" for your record, no matter what the score.

    But please don't play the "learning differences" card, as it has no bearing on athletic ability. As I also mentioned, my daughter has dysgraphia, meaning she has a hard time physically writing the symbols she visualizes in her brain - as do many of the Dallas Academy kids. Her testing, when she was in 3rd grade, also revealed an IQ of 137 - these kids are not dumb or slow, they simply learn differently, and they've been tested to prove it.

    My daughter happens to be very athletic, unlike her older brother. She just had coaches (and/or my wife and I) to help instruct her in ways she could understand. Once she "gets it," she doesn't forget it, no matter if it's sports or school.

  3. "But why do pro football teams run out the clock when they're ahead, instead of working extra hard to continue to rack up points??"

    One of the reasons is risk management. When you're ahead by 10, you don't throw long passes or try 52 yard field goals - they are risky plays and the opponent could easily score as a result. The coach wants to make sure that he DOES win, rather than lose the ball and be scored on. 3 point shots are unnecessarily risky to most basketball coaches that are well ahead. Move the ball inside and take an easier two, simply because you don't NEED the three. But it's not that they don't do it because it's "unsportsmanlike" to shoot a three when you're way ahead. No, it's just that the risk is greater than the reward. A golfer that's ahead by four shots doesn't have to try to eagle the final hole - just par the darn thing, but if he is good enough to make eagle and does, that doesn't make him a poor sportsman. He's just that good. Should he miss a two foot putt on purpose to keep from blowing out his opponent? The USGA handicappers would have a FIT!

    Another reason is injury management. If you're way ahead, don't run plays that risk injury to your best players. Or, don't put them on the field. Either of these tactics tends to lessen the scoring.

    A third reason is keeping fans in the stadium. Blowouts cause fans to stop watching the game, which is bad for television, because the sponsors want the viewers to see the commercials, and for the stadiums, because concessions go down and people don't come back as much.

    Another reason is point shaving or simply controlling the game so that the point spreads are close to the advertised gambling lines. Yes, it's wrong, but it does happen. It keeps fans interested in the games and keeps public interest up if the games are close.

    I guarantee you "good sportsmanship" is not the primary factor in a coach's decision to run out the clock.

    As well, look at the Bowl Championship "style points" system - a bunch of junk - this year and you'll see more and more coaches "running up the score" so that they would get more style points.

    "Running out the clock", especially in football, is done more to keep the opponent from having enough possession opportunities to win than it is to prevent a blowout.

  4. Thanks, B - that's where my brain was when I asked that question - controlling the game to get the "W" without taking uneccessary risks.

    I guess by that statement, I was really trying to suggest something along those lines - that they should have been passing and dribbling to use up the shot clock, rather than run up the score.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I can't wait to read what you have written.