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Is Winning 100-0 Bad Sportsmanship?

There has been quite a bit of buzz over Sunday’s firing of Micah Grimes, formerly the head girls basketball coach at Dallas’ Covenant School, for refusing to apologize for his team’s 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy.  CBS11 has the details:

The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper stating he will not apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity” and posted a detailed explanation on a hoops Web site.

[...]

Kyle Queal, the headmaster for Covenant School, said in The Dallas Morning News online edition that he could not answer if the firing was a direct result of Grimes’ e-mail disagreeing with administrators who called the blowout “shameful.”  On its Web site last week, Covenant, a private Christian school, posted a statement regretting the outcome of its Jan. 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 Queal and board chair Todd Doshier.

Grimes, who has been criticized for letting the game get so far out of hand, made it clear in the e-mail 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,” Grimes wrote on www.flightbasketball.com. “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.”

From one account, Covenant ran up the score:

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.

But Grimes disputes that charge:

After 3 minutes into play, we had already reached a 25-0 lead. Like any rational thinking coach would do, I immediately stopped the full-court press, dropped into a 2-3 zone defense, and started subbing in my 3 bench players. This strategy continued for the rest of the game and allowed the Dallas Academy players to get the ball up the court for a chance to score. The second half started with a score of 59-0. Seeing that we would win by too wide of a margin, running down the clock was the only logical course of action left. Contrary to the articles, there were only a total of four 3-point baskets made; three in the first quarter, and only one in the third quarter. I continued to sub in bench players, play zone defense, and run the clock for the rest of the game. We played fair and honorably within the rules and in the presence of the parents, coaches, and athletic directors for both Covenant School and Dallas Academy.

The game itself was a bit of a mismatch:

Dallas Academy has eight girls on its varsity team and about 20 girls in its high school. The team remains winless during 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.

Covenant is a private, religious school. It can fire Grimes for pretty much any reason.   Whether beating an outmatched opponent is “Christian” 100-0 is outside my expertise.   But is it unsportsmanlike? Spook66, titling his post “Only in America,” doesn’t think so.

Coach Grimes and his players have nothing to apologize for. True, some Covenant fans were still screaming for points late in the fourth quarter, but there’s no indication that the players or their coach broke the rules, or deliberately tried to humiliate their opponents.

In case you’re wondering, there is no “mercy rule” in the private school league that includes Dallas Academy and Covenant. There is a golden rule that discourages blowouts, by keeping the clock running or allowing the losing team to simply throw in the towel. To their credit, Dallas Academy decided to keep playing, despite the lopsided score.

From our perspective, the only “shameful” behavior in this matter has been demonstrated by Covenant administrators and the Morning News. Since the one-sided game became a national story, school leaders have actually tried to forfeit their victory and issued that feckless public statement. Somewhere, Vince Lombardi is spinning in his grave.

[...]

Unfortunately, the Covenant girls’ basketball team has become an unwitting victim of its own success. In a culture obsessed with “feelings” and “participation,” matters like winning an losing become trivial. That may be fine in tee ball, but at some point, kids must learn that life doesn’t offer trophies to all participants, and being the best at something does matter.

I tend to agree.  If Dallas Academy thinks its kids are too vulnerable to endure humiliating losses, it should disband its basketball team.  Or drop out of conference play and simply play intramurally.

At the prep level, where sports are supposed to be purely about teaching, I think this topic is at least debatable.  Oddly, however, it exists at the Division I and even professional level, too.  There is constant whining in college football about the best offenses continuing to score against outmatched opponents, even those within the conference.  On occasionally even sees the charge hurled in the NFL, although not nearly as often given the relative parity that exists.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    differences>On occasionally even sees the charge hurled in the NFL, although not nearly as often given the relative parity that exists.

    I think there should be sixteen NFL coaches fired for their lack of compassion for a team that attempted to compete at a high level with players that have strong “learning differences”.

    Signed
    The Detroit Lions

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  2. Boyd says:

    Dear Detroit Lions,

    Your poor skills at counting might have had something to do with your miserable record. You only played 13 different teams this past season.

    Signed
    The NFL Teams Who Can Actually Play Football

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  3. markm says:

    Dear Detroit Lions,

    Your poor skills at counting might have had something to do with your miserable record. You only played 13 different teams this past season.

    Signed
    The NFL Teams Who Can Actually Play Football

    …hence the “learning differences” part….my bad. But, it seemed like 16 different teams…so there’s that.

    Hmmph.

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  4. Steve Plunk says:

    To answer your question, yes, it is bad sportsmanship. No excuse.

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  5. Raoul says:

    Beating a bunch tards is not bad sportmanship? In what planet do you live? There goes your shot at NYT. Once in Pee Wee football, my team was destroying the opponent by a wide margin- and my coach called for a defensive play to allow the other team to score (and they never knew)- that -cold hearted people – is sportmanship. I have no respect for this coach.

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  6. JKB says:

    From the stories cited the only unsportsmanlike conduct, if any, was the continued cheering for more points.

    The stories do not mention anything about the conduct of the players. If Covenant players continued to play a strong game without taunting, then they showed respect to their opponents. Far worse to condescend against the Dallas Academy team by not playing them as a viable opponent. That would be unsportsmanlike and insulting.

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  7. Franklin says:

    First off, isn’t it obvious that these teams should NOT be playing each other? Either you’re going to force the superior team to play in an artificial way, or someone’s going to complain and get your coach fired. It’s just a stupid situation to put these people into.

    That said, it is still poor sportsmanship to run up the score. In all sports, it’s ripe for an incident – the losing team feels inferior, some players are letting up, and then BOOM some other player swats a ball back in somebody’s face, or delivers a crunching tackle, or a big hip check, and a fight ensues.

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  8. odograph says:

    It depends totally on what the social conventions are within that network. Yes, fairness transcends the species, but being a d*ck or not is situation dependent.

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  9. Ben says:

    Beating a bunch tards is not bad sportmanship? In what planet do you live? There goes your shot at NYT. Once in Pee Wee football, my team was destroying the opponent by a wide margin- and my coach called for a defensive play to allow the other team to score (and they never knew)- that -cold hearted people – is sportmanship. I have no respect for this coach.

    Say what? Intentionally letting the other team score is good sportsmanship? We obviously have WAY different definitions of what sportsmanship should be.

    You can’t tell players to not play. The coach specifically said that he called a 2/3 zone (the most conservative defense there is), and that they only took 1 three pointer after the first quarter.

    It sounds to me like he did all he could to NOT embarass the other team. But you can’t just give up and let them score. That’s more insulting to the other team than continuing to play. I played peewee football games before where my team was completely overmatched, and lost games like this (at least two I can remember that were in the 50-0 neighborhood), and I can tell you that the other team giving up and letting us score would have made me feel 100 times worse than just being shut out.

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  10. David Harris says:

    I had heard that the guy pressed and had his team jacking up threes late into the game. That’s truly awful. If his side of the story is true, though, then his school’s action are, in my opinion, unconscionable. However, in high school basketball, no shot clock exists, and passing the ball around until someone is shooting an absolutely wide-open layup is a great way to kill clock and keep the score down (relatively speaking, of course).

    Unfortunately, in high school sports, small private schools frequently end up in the same region and forced to play one another, regardless of how much emphasis they place on a particular sport. As a coach against a vastly inferior team, I believe you just grit your teeth and get the game over with as quickly as possible.

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  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Beating a bunch tards is not bad sportmanship? In what planet do you live? There goes your shot at NYT. Once in Pee Wee football, my team was destroying the opponent by a wide margin- and my coach called for a defensive play to allow the other team to score (and they never knew)- that -cold hearted people – is sportmanship. I have no respect for this coach.

    I disagree. By not playing your best you disrespect the other team. You are treating them as inferiors.

    If you are not as good as the other teams in your league/division/section/etc. then you should move to one where you are competitive. There is no shame at not being the best, but expecting others to offer you freebies is not good sportsmanship. And neither is handing out freebies.

    Personally I think too many sports have gone the route of giving everyone ribbons, trophies and medals. It cheapens the medals won by those kids who have worked hard and take their sport seriously. I’m glad this kind of nonsense isn’t at all common in competitive swimming.

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  12. Rick Almeida says:

    I had heard that the guy pressed and had his team jacking up threes late into the game. That’s truly awful. If his side of the story is true, though, then his school’s action are, in my opinion, unconscionable.

    For whatever it’s worth, ESPN’s commentary on Mike & Mike in the Morning pretty clearly stated that the team was pressing, stealing, and shooting 3s after the team had a 89-0 lead in the 4th quarter.

    I am all for learning to lose with dignity, but winning with dignity is important as well.

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  13. Bithead says:

    Mmmpppfffhhhh.

    Sport is the last meritocracy. Are we going to invade that now, too?

    Reports I saw suggested the coach dropped the full court press in the first quarter. Even the opposing coach can’t understand the big deal; There is only so much you can do to carry a bad opposing team.

    We just got through ruining the world economic system in our attempt to make housing ‘fair and affordable’.

    You’d think we’d stop trying to regulate outcome, at some point.

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  14. Michael says:

    I disagree. By not playing your best you disrespect the other team. You are treating them as inferiors.

    That’s it in a nut shell.

    Yeah, losing 100-0 sucks, but I bet the players on the losing team would prefer that while being treated like equals, than to have a closer game because the winning team though they weren’t worth competing against.

    Sportsmanship would have been to call the game early, but that has to come from the losing side, not the winning side, and evidently the losing side wanted to play.

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  15. Michael says:

    Holy Hell, Bithead and I agree on something.

    Not the housing part, mind you, just the meritocracy of sport.

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  16. Steve Verdon says:

    For whatever it’s worth, ESPN’s commentary on Mike & Mike in the Morning pretty clearly stated that the team was pressing, stealing, and shooting 3s after the team had a 89-0 lead in the 4th quarter.

    If there is video this can be settled pretty quickly and objectively, but so far all I here is what people think they saw. Anything on youtube.com?

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  17. sam says:

    I’d just ask all of you who think the outcome was just peachy keen to imagine your daughter being on the losing side and being humiliated like that. What would you say to her?

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  18. Michael says:

    I’d just ask all of you who think the outcome was just peachy keen to imagine your daughter being on the losing side and being humiliated like that. What would you say to her?

    How about: “You played well”? Or is that poor sportsmanship? When I was a kid playing little league baseball, we often lost, sometimes by a lot, that’s what my parents told me, along with “Win or lose doesn’t matter, it’s how you play the game”. I suppose they were poor sports too.

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  19. Brett says:

    Anyone find a video, yet? I mean, if the team had switched in the bench and was playing only basic defense for most of the game, then there’s not a lot they could do otherwise – they’re giving the losing team everything.

    Although, I admit it is sometimes hard to do. I remember one time in Little League Football where we were up 35-0 in the first half. The coach swapped in pretty much anyone who wanted and was able to run in the backfield, but I remember him saying that while he was going to do that, he would still have the team try to score, even if it meant another 35 points in the second. He said something like “I mean, if they can’t even stop basic plays with our third-string offense and defense . . “

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  20. G.A.Phillips says:

    Yeah, losing 100-0 sucks, but I bet the players on the losing team would prefer that while being treated like equals, than to have a closer game because the winning team though they weren’t worth competing against.

    Sportsmanship would have been to call the game early, but that has to come from the losing side, not the winning side, and evidently the losing side wanted to play.

    Yup.

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  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    Now can we get back to trying to beat our enemies 100-0 without half this country whining about how it’s not fair?

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