Today’s Washington Times has a sports editorial by Tom Knott discussing a move by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to limit the point spread of a high school football game to fifty points.
If a coach allows his team to defeat an opponent by more than 50 points, he will receive a one-game suspension and perhaps be ordered to attend sensitivity-training class.
This is a poorly conceived rule on so many levels, starting with a coach having his backup quarterback take a knee on first down in the fourth quarter in order to prevent his team from exceeding the 50-point rule.
Does this leave intact the self-esteem of the players on the overwhelmed team?
Do they feel better about themselves if the winning team has been required to take pity on them?
I hate to see teams run up the score, but I also hate to tell kids to quit playing. My kids have been on both sides of this equation and there is no perfect answer. In youth baseball there is often a "slaughter rule" that ends the game once a given point spread is reached. In indoor soccer the dominating team pulls a player and plays down a man once the slaughter rule goes into effect.
My daughter played soccer for the dominant middle school in the county. They had a game scheduled against a brand new charter school. This team routinely lost by scores of 20-0 when they played the other local schools. When it was my daughter’s turn to play this team, her coach played only the second string players during the first half. In addition, the defense played offense and the offense played defense. The score was 1-0 at half time. During the second half the starters got to play but again the defense had to play offense and the offense had to play defense. If you scored more than one goal, you came out of the game. The final score was 10-0.
In another lopsided soccer game, the team decided they would score in numerical order.
Some coaches have stated it is more humiliating to have a team play these kinds of games rather than just play and let the score continue to soar. Personally, I prefer to see a team adjust its game with self-imposed conditions to limit the point spread. This should be done as discreetly as possible to minimize embarrassment of the losing team. I don’t like to see a coach leave his star players in and keep his reserves on the bench when the score differential becomes obviously insurmountable.
Competitive sports are tough. Avoidance of excessive humiliation is not a bad thing. But in the end, there is a winner and a loser. That is why we keep score.