John Brock: What's behind running up scores in high school football & other sports?
I cringe whenever I pick up the newspapers and read some of the scores of area high school football games. It's disheartening to see that someone has been defeated 65 to 0 or 54-0 and even some other lopsided score. Something is wrong here. The winning teams are either in the wrong conference or the victims of coaches who are failing to teach their charges the basic concept of good sportsmanship.
Don't get me wrong. Every coach wants to win and must do so in many cases to keep their job but there is a difference in winning and crucifying. And these coaches should take note.
Amateur sport was once played to teach about building strong bodies, concept of teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship. Players many times just played for the love of the sport but too often that's not the case today, I fear that super-sized visions of lucrative professional sports are dancing in their young heads — a dream that will never come to fruition for 99 percent of the players.
When a team is ahead by 25 points or more, it's time for the third-string players to get playing experience. You have to ponder if coaches are padding their own glory whenever an opponent is humiliated by an absurd victory. Every game has a two-sided participation. Think of the losing kids! Why humiliate them?
If coaches think they are running up scores to please and entertain the fans — think again. Consider the fans and families of the losing team. Why must their kids be embarrassed? Furthermore, runaway scoring produces a boring game.
One has to contemplate if coaches think that letting one or two players score so many points will aid them in getting better athletic scholarships. If so, what is this teaching their players? Some folks see little difference in running up the score to embarrassing margins and bullying. And we all know the current attitude against bullying.
Humiliate another student in school halls or on the school bus and you get reprimanded or worse. Humiliate an opponent on the playing field and you get praised. Have school officials ever contemplated a connection? Why does this kind of bullying concept escape our notice?
I fear that professional sports have affected the playing fields of amateur sports. Just watch a NFL game and you see an abundance of spiking, chest-thumping, chest-butts and trash talk. A player makes a tackle and you would think by his raised-arms antics and chest-thumping that he has just discovered a cure for cancer. He simply tackled an opposing player! That's what he is paid millions to do for goodness' sake! You see plenty of testosterone on the professional playing field but little humility.
I am afraid that too much of this rationale has invaded the amateur scene. And, it's not pretty. I hasten to add that not all amateur participants have fallen victim to this “I'm-something-special” attitude. Many coaches and players are quite humble and considerate of their opponents. God bless 'em.
I played football for what was then the largest high school in the Carolinas, albeit, most of my “playing” was done on the practice field and on the bench during games. We had difficulty finding opponents strong enough to face us on the gridiron. So, the powers-that-be scheduled games with distant schools in Miami, Atlanta and one season we even played Mexico City in our home stadium which was usually filled to its 12,000-seat capacity.
The Mexicans while proficient in soccer lacked equal skills on the football field. By the time we had shut them out by a score of about 24 to 0, the coach had unloaded the bench (I got to play in that one!). But third-string players continued to score and the coach told us to “let them score.” Which we did even though our high school All-American halfback had to take shorter steps to accommodate our slower opponent's open-field running toward the goal posts.
When playing for two years in college, winning by a large margin was never our main concern. We simply played to stay in the game and didn't win too many games. But we were not humiliated by an opposing team.
That's real sportsmanship. I urge high school coaches to follow suit. But I predict some won't.
John Brock is a retired college professor and newspaper editor/publisher who lives in Georgetown County. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper, or by Email at email@example.com.
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