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Mercy Mercy Me.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Mercy Mercy Me....
Among all the noise of sports stories of the past few days- football teams advancing to the pre-Super Bowl weekend contests, the Sabres comfortably resuming their task of tanking, even some reminders of baseball being not too far off- came a story I heard earlier today about a girls' high school basketball team, of all things, and it stuck with me far more than any of the other bigger headlines:

A girls high school basketball game in San Bernadino, California, that finished with a 159-point margin of victory (161-2) for Arroyo Valley High School over Bloomington High School Jan. 5 led to a two-game suspension for its coach, Michael Anderson.

Troy Machir of Sporting News reports Anderson will be eligible to return to the sideline next Monday for one of the region's most talented squads. He's received plenty of criticism for running up the score against an obviously overmatched opponent....

The sports-talk honk I heard the story from? All for running up the score. His rant went something like this:

Those girls on the losing team weren't the ones who will be emotionally scarred. Either they'll forget the whole thing when the coach takes them out for Subway sandwiches after the game, or it'll motivate them to practice harder and score more points next time.  This is all about the parents crying foul on their behalf.

Said honk is not alone in this view: the Bleacher Report version of this story ended with a poll question:

Was Anderson's suspension warranted?

  • Yes


  • No


  • Total votes: 72,714

The 72,714th vote at that time was mine: I went with the minority on it. Because I think the honk was wrong.

I had moments like that in my un-illustrious athletic career. I once rolled a 7 on a Cub Scout bowling outing. Not a 7 frame; a 7 game. That I remember that almost 50 years later tells you how emotions can at least be burned, if not scarred, by the shaming that came with such a performance.  All it motivated me to do was to hide.

The story, and the reality, go on to address the discrepancies in talent, training and privilege that lead to such lopsided outcomes. Many are the result (and sometimes the fault) of league/conference scheduling rules that either encourage mismatches between Davids and Goliaths or at least permit them in some situations.  At earlier stages of competition, "mercy rules" are in place which stop play after a certain point when the embarrassment has reached a certain level.  Opponents of such circuit-breakers consider them "PC" or "nanny state" sops, which should be avoided in favor of the outright slaughter of the weaker team, "so's them kids will learn something about real life."

Well, guess what? One of the most important lessons you can learn "about real life" is when it IS time to give up. Not subjectively, in all cases, but certainly mathematically. There's somewhere, between the score being 0-0 and it reaching 161-2,  where the rules of basketball make it impossible for you to catch up. That point, obviously, gets closer to 0-0 as the time on the clock approaches 0:00. (Wow. I think I just did calculus for the first time in almost 40 years;)  Seems to me that someone in the math department could help out the P.E. by writing an algorithm that tells them, literally, when to stop. Not for the sake of the fragile egos, but for the sake of the science.

My feeling this way is, of course, entirely consistent by my having devoted almost 50 years of my life to being a Mets fan (total championships in that time: two) and about as many overlapping them, combined, rooting for the Bills and Sabres (total championships in that time: zero).  At least mercy rules for them would help cut down on the traffic jams on the way out of the games.

2 comments or Leave a comment
platypus From: platypus Date: January 17th, 2015 04:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I am not big on sportsy things, but it certainly strikes me as unsportsmanlike to humiliate your opponent. They should be able to concede, and you should be able to graciously accept. Once the conclusion is clear, there's no need to continue beating them into a bloody pulp and then pee on them for good measure.
shadowhuntress From: shadowhuntress Date: January 20th, 2015 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am also with you. When it comes to competitive sports, to me it's not just about winning, it's about how you win, with class or as a punk. ;-) You're not going to get a gold star or bonus cash on the score sheet if you beat your opponent by a hundred points. The winners may not remember in years to come, but the losers might, and the outcome may not be positive. They're kids, and to treat them like thick-skinned adults who will use this loss to motivate them to magically become WNBA stars isn't realistic.
2 comments or Leave a comment