Thursday, June 15, 2006

Losers and Sportsmanship

Eugene Volokh points out this AP article which reports:
Any Connecticut high school football coach who runs up the score in a game now runs the risk of being suspended.
The football committee of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state board that governs high school sports, has adopted a "score management" policy to keep teams from winning by more than 50 points.


The rout is considered an unsportsmanlike infraction and, beginning this fall, the head coach of the offending team will be disqualified from coaching the next game, said Tony Mosa, assistant executive director of the Cheshire-based CIAC.

Volokh says:

The problem, it seems to me, is quite real: It is indeed dispiriting and embarrassing to be so badly beaten. One possible solution (which the story describes, but which wasn't adopted) is to stop the game when the score gap gets too large. Another is to split the league into divisions in each of which the teams would be more closely matched, though that might not work well for a small league. There are other reasonable alternatives as well.

But the solution of requiring the winning team to essentially stop competing effectively strikes me as worse than the problem.

I don't think that playing well is unsportsmanlike. I don't think that it is right to penalize a talented team and an effective coach. Lord knows the highschool I attended had an mediocre football team at best and there were times we were soundly trounced by more than fifty points. I recall pep assemblies where we would cheer our team but were also encouraged to be good sports to maybe win the "Spirit Award", the award for neither being braggarts for winning or whiney gits for losing.

The story references a powerhouse school and coach that precipitated the rule:

Still, some around the state have dubbed it the "Jack Cochran rule," after the New London coach of the same name.

During halftime of New London's 60-0 rout of Tourtelotte/Ellis Tech last season, opposing coach Tim Panteleakos was arrested on breach of peace charges. With his team sitting on a huge lead, Cochran called a timeout just before the half, and that apparently riled Panteleakos.

He allegedly hit a New London security officer and tried to hit a New London assistant coach.

Cochran's teams logged four wins of more than 50 points last year.

"It's basically the Jack (Cochran) rule," Hyde Leadership-New Haven football coach John Acquavita told the New Haven Register. "For one guy, you're putting the stress on the entire state. It's the most asinine, insane thing I've ever heard of in my life."

The asinine thing is that these people have lost sight of what sports are about: teamwork, exercize, healthy competition and fun. Sure it's no fun to lose but golly it's always a possibility. Don't tell me the kids have no idea that they are going up against the powerhouse school. Instead of penalizing the coaches and students that do well, the coach that is punching someone should have swallowed the bitterness and modeled sportsman like behavior for his team. He should have encouraged them to have fun while they played and commended them for playing hard.

My dad always says if it's not fun then don't play the game. Sounds like this coach needs to walk away for a while. Part of being an adult and something that sportsmanship teaches is that sometimes you lose big no matter how hard you try. You either learn, move on and strive to be better or you change the rules and throw a pity party.

1 comment:

WhidbeyIslander said...

"My dad always says if it's not fun then don't play the game. Sounds like this coach needs to walk away for a while."

Unfortunately, for the coach this is not a game--it's his job. I am not really aware of the pressures on a high school football coach in Connecticut, but in Texas wins equal jobs. A loosing coach had best brush up his resume.

But this problem is not isolated to (American) football, to high school sports, or even to the United States.

Remember the XIV Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo? Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean earned across-the-board perfect scores for their performance to Ravel's Bolero. They were so influential that the ISU enacted a series of "Torvill and Dean" rules forbidding such things as laying down on the ice.

Then came the XVII Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The judges were determined to keep T&D from going out with the gold. I watched to routines--T&D not only skated a conventional routine to perfection, they found ways within the rules to add a wonderful freshness and humor.

But the judges realized that the joke was on them. And as a warning to future skaters T&D were given bronze.

It was a real life "Strictly Ballroom."