Patterico's Pontifications


Poor Sportsmanship: Then and Now

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:15 am

[guest post by JVW]

This past Friday night:

Inglewood Morningside football coach Brian Collins did not have kind words for the Inglewood High coaching staff on Saturday morning when discussing his team’s 106-0 loss to the Sentinels in a game that saw Inglewood quarterback Justyn Martin throw 13 touchdowns passes, including a two-point conversion pass with a 104-0 lead.

“It was a classless move,” said Collins, a first-year head coach at Morningside. “I told them, ‘Go play St. John Bosco and Mater Dei.’”

[. . . ]

Both schools are part of the Inglewood Unified School District. A statement released by the [California Interscholastic Federation] Southern Southern on Saturday “condemns, in the strongest terms, results such as these.”

The full statement reads: “The CIF Southern Section expects that all athletic contests are to be conducted under the strictest code of good sportsmanship. We expect coaches, players, officials, administrators and students to adhere to the Six Pillars of Character – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. A score of 106-0 does not represent these ideals. The CIF-SS condemns, in the strongest terms, results such as these. It is our expectation that the Inglewood administration will work towards putting in place an action plan so that an event such as this does not repeat itself.”

And a statement from the Inglewood School District:

Contrast that with a similar event from thirty years ago (bolded emphasis added by me):

Lisa Leslie of Inglewood Morningside High School scored 101 points in only 16 minutes Wednesday night against South Torrance, but any opportunity she had to break the national record of 105 points was eliminated when the basketball game was called at halftime because the opponents refused to play.

Leslie thought that she had tied Cheryl Miller’s eight-year-old scoring record when she left the Morningside Gym because officials had allowed Leslie to take four technical foul shots at the beginning of the second half, charging South Torrance with a delay-of-game penalty. Leslie made all four, but the free throws were nullified later by a Southern Section administrative ruling.

“I was kind of heartbroken that I didn’t break the record,” Leslie said. “I asked the (South Torrance) coach before they left the court if they would let me score three more baskets, and then he asked his team, and they said ‘No.’ ”

The confusion began when South Torrance Coach Gil Ramirez did not bring his team back on the court to begin the second half with his team trailing, 102-24, the official final score.

After beginning the game with only six players, South Torrance was forced to play the final minutes of the first half with four players after two fouled out.

[. . .]

Morningside Coach Frank Scott was disappointed with the Southern Section’s ruling nullifying the record but added: “We will accept their ruling, but I am not very happy with the South Torrance people for taking their team off the floor.”

The Southern Section will recommend disciplinary action against the South Torrance coach.

“Removing a team from the court is a serious violation of our (Southern Section) sportsmanship code of ethics,” [Southern Section associate commissioner Dean] Crowley said. “We will contact South Torrance and expect the principal to remove the coach from his duties for the remainder of the season, if reports are true.”

Pretty amazing, right? Say what you will about participation trophy culture and coddling of kids these days, but back in 1990 the villains in the story were the team who found themselves down by 78 points at the half to a vastly superior opponent who was determined to let one of the greatest players of all time run up the score on them and thus chose not to risk injury or embarrassment (note that they were also short-handed) by playing a meaningless second half. And, incredibly enough, the CIF-SS was focused on punishing the losing team for not completing the game, not the winning team for making a mockery of the contest (other stories about the game which I have read through the years indicate that Morningside put on a full-court press against South Torrance the entire half and Lisa Leslie essentially stood under the basket and was fed passes for easy layups after each Morningside steal). Yet back then, in those glorious days of parachute pants and Doc Martens, blowing out an overmatched opponent was apparently considered just part of the game.

A similar event happened at the end of September in Michigan, when a high school soccer player set a national record by scoring 16 goals in a 17-0 blowout of an opponent who is in the first year of playing the sport at the varsity level. As with the Morningside-South Torrance game thirty years ago, all of this scoring came in just one half. In this instance, the coach of the winning team quickly apologized for the lack of sportsmanship exhibited in the lopsided contest. In an interesting twist, the football team from the school with the losing soccer team had whupped the football team from the school with the winning soccer team two weeks earlier by a 48-7 tally, so perhaps there was an element of payback in the soccer rout.

Mostly at fault in all of these situations are, naturally, the adults. In a perfect world a kid would be content to take a seat after throwing for four touchdowns or scoring 30 points in one quarter and letting a teammate have some share of the glory, but kids are kids and we can’t always expect them to behave in a selfless and altruistic manner, especially in our look-at-me narcissistic culture heavily driven by social media. Also in a perfect world, a team being thrashed would have the pride to continue until the end of the game (as Morningside’s football team did), understanding that there are valuable lessons to be learned in crushing defeat just as their are in obnoxious victory. But at the end of the day it’s the adult coaches who should be imparting the proper spirit of sportsmanship on their impressionable charges, such as how to win and lose with grace.


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