Running Up the Score?

Found an interesting blog with several good posts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back in February, I last wrote a blog about the blowout basketball game in Dallas where one high school team ran the score up on a weaker team. The losing team received national attention including being treated to a NBA game courtesy of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Why so much attention over some damaged pride?

Two weeks ago, the So Cal Pumas 18u fastpitch softball team was a runaway locomotive, demolishing opponents by a cumulative score of 51-9 and an apparent championship match at the ASA 18A Nationals in Las Vegas. At around 6:20am this train was derailed by a drunk driver who ran a red light and plowed into the team van at an estimated 60mph. Luckily nobody was killed. Four of the girls and the head coach were treated at a local hospital and released. The coach has a broken hand which now has three screws in it. One of the girls had braces which cut open her mouth, on brace poking a hole through her skin under her lip. She has nerve damage that may never go away.

After forfeiting their semifinal game, it appeared that the Pumas were finished. The coach had told the tournament director that they were done because of the coaching staff’s concerns for the girls health playing injured in 100+ degree heat. The girls had other ideas. The persuaded the coach to let them finish what they had started. They were guaranteed third place, even if they would forfeit their loser bracket game. (It’s a double elimination tournament.) Today I interviewed some of the girls and they said even if they lost, they wanted to go down fighting. They didn’t just want to be handed 3rd place and go home. They called the tournament director who then went to the Elyria Sundogs, who had already been told they would be in the championship game. The Sundogs had the option of enforcing the forfeit (The Pumas couldn’t be ready to play until 10:30am, game time was 10:00am.) or allowing the game to start late and give the Pumas a chance to compete. The Sundogs did the right thing.

The Sundog players voted 100% to allow the Pumas to play. In so doing, they not only put a shot at the championship on the line (they had already lost one game early in the tournament and had won 11 straight in the losers bracket,) but also an automatic berth into next year’s championship tournament. The Pumas jumped out to a 4-0 lead. One girl was crying as she rounded the bases after hitting a home run. But the Sundogs came back and won 5-4.

The Pumas had a very strong chance of being ASA National Champions. For many girls this is a once in a lifetime experience. Their chance for stolen from them by a drunk driver. The Pumas have not received any national attention; no professional sports games; no talk show appearances (except on Kidz “n” Sports®,) no public outcry against the driver who slammed into their van. Had he been a spit second earlier he would have hit the side of the van and most assuredly would have killed somebody. The Sundogs have gone quietly back to Ohio having finished in 2nd place. They may have done better in the championship game if they had forced the forfeit and had been a little fresher. Few people are patting them on the back for their fantastic character and positive sportsmanship. As their coach, Duane Sunagel, told his girls, what they did will be remembered for years. Even if only by them and the Pumas.
I’ve tried to contact two professional sports teams to bring this story to their attention. I asked to see if they could provide some tickets for these girls to celebrate what they did accomplish and to honor their determination. One team may be able to do something. The other has not responded at all.

Is this where we are today in our society? Do we value our self-esteem more than justice? When I was a teen if you had a chance to run up 100 points in a basketball game you went for it. You weren’t trying to embarrass the opponent (ok, maybe a little) but there was something special about “turning over” the scoreboard. It was about how good your team was; not how bad your opponent was. And while it might not have been the best sportsmanship, good sportsmanship was everywhere around. Because you know the other team would look to be able to return the favor. And there was the awareness by all around that this was just a game. Your ego would recover from the beating. And you would be fine.

The Pumas cannot “return the favor.” They aren’t going to go out and get drunk and get in a car and go look for that driver to hit him back. 2009 Nationals are over. There are no do-overs. The Tampa Mustangs are the champs. They won fair and square. Short of some evidence that the drunk driver was related to the Tampa coach, (sorry conspiracy theorists), all consciences are clear. The Pumas finished “that close.” We will never know what might have happened and any two teams played. That’s sports.

So what now? How about looking up the Puma’s web site and the Sundogs’ web site and sending both of these teams an email praising the character of all of these girls. If you can’t find their sites send the emails to me and I’ll surely pass them on. The Puma girls I spoke with today are satisfied that they did all that they could; that they left it all on the playing field and were able to walk away from Las Vegas with their heads held high. There are no ill feelings and no regrets. Their original goal was to end up in the top five and they did just that. And the Sundogs. These girls also deserve a lot of praise and honor for their character and sportsmanship. They had no 2nd thoughts about their decision to let the Pumas play. They knew that was the right thing to do. They too are real champions.

I always remember Sue Enquist, the great UCLA softball coach saying that there are only two things you can control; your attitude and your effort. You can’t control the weather, the umpires, or a drunk driver running a red light. The Pumas and the Sundogs would make Enquist proud. They controlled their attitudes and they gave the best efforts that anyone could have asked for.

I hope we can all learn something from these two teams.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When we consider any lopsided victory in any sport, we have to consider that there were a lot of factors adding up to the final score. But two factors almost always appear: You have a very talented team against a much overmatched team. Occasionally (on any given day) two fairly equal teams can produce a lopsided mismatch but that is not the norm. So why the huge media outcry over the Dallas Academy vs. Covenant game?

Of course, part of the outcry arises from the fact that Dallas Academy is a school that specializes in working with special needs kids. So the perception one is given is that there is this super team picking on a bunch of weaklings. Somebody kicking the handicapped. There is a little problem with that here.

I am sensitive to those people who have legitimate handicaps or disabilities. I really am. But I don’t like to see disabilities used as an excuse. I don’t think the school is doing that but some in the media sure have. Why do I say this? Because a few days later the boys team from Dallas Academy beat the Covenant Boys team. Are handicaps only applicable to girls?

And why do parents choose to go crazy in either direction? One article had a parent complaining that Covenant was just throwing up 3 point shots. If I was losing that bad, I would WANT them to throw up three pointers…..They’re harder to make. The problem I would have had was when Covenant was putting on a full court press, stealing the ball and making layups. But is it still that bad? At worse, it was poor judgment and poor sportsmanship.

Every young player on a good team at some time or another has one of those hyper team moments where they have everything going their way, usually against a weaker team, and they start thinking “let’s score 100,” or something like that. Nobody thinks that they may be hurting someone else’s feelings. They just want to “turn over the scoreboard,” or something like that. They want to send the message that on this day THEY are the best team. But sometimes that exhuberence gets carried away and trash talk ensues and then things can get out of hand.
Should the Covenant coach “clear the bench” and use all of his players? Absolutely! That is the one part of this that I totally agree with. Knowing that there was an obvious mismatch based on previous records and games, this is that game where everyone should get to play. Should he have been fired for not apologizing? I don’t know. That’s a school policy thing. But I can understand part of where he may be coming from.

In today’s society, we seem to want everything to be equal. We want moderation. And just like James Caan in the original Rollerball, we don’t want superstars. We don’t want people to be real successful because that means someone else must lose. Where did we get this message? How stupid is it to be thinking in such a manner?

Dallas Academy can definitely be proud of their girls for not wanting to quit. That should be proud of the attitude that they’ve instilled in these girls to give the best effort they could even under the bleakest of situations. Actually I’m a little confused by Dallas Academy’s actions. Why, after having said how proud you were of your girls, would you cancel the rest of your league games? What message are you sending there? I can see perhaps canceling the Covenant game because there could be some bad blood between players or parents. But why the rest of the League games? Your girls didn’t quit but now you did.

Sports are just that…competition. There is a time for just playing for fun and there’s a time when you keep score. Having coached at a small school I know how talent levels can fluctuate on a year to year basis. I’ve seen schools be almost unbeatable one year and within a season or two they are the worse team in their league. But so what? Sports is to teach our young players that you do the best you can in every situation. Attitude and Effort are the only things you can control. You didn’t have parents screaming that David shouldn’t have been battling against Goliath did you? Some days you win and some days you lose. The worse score I know of in organized sports was on October 7th, 1916 when Georgia Tech beat Cumberland 222-0. Cumberland’s guys were proud that they strategized a way to keep Tech from scoring 229. These guys even got together 40 years later in sort of a reunion to reminisce about the event. Nobody was crying poor sportsmanship there.

We should be teaching our kids that their value as human beings has nothing to do with the score of a game. It has to do with the effort they put into the game. As soon as we can get back to that basic we’ll quit worrying about what the score is. Would Dallas Academy’s girls felt any better if the other team only scored 30 but was playing on their knees? Give your best effort. One day you will be a winner.

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 5th, 2011 at 03:11 and is filed under Coaching. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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