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Bryan Fischer: A Christian defense of running up the score
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 10:35 AM

By Bryan Fischer 

Christian Heritage High in Utah is being excoriated for routing West Ridge Academy this week by the score of 108-3. They’ve been accused of being bad sports, of doing something ugly, and essentially of doing something un-Christian and thus betraying the very name of their school. 

Christian Heritage never used a full-court press during the game.They just played 32 minutes of aggressive basketball to the best of their ability. They should be praised not condemned.  

Plus, the Heritage coach had only nine players available for the game, so he obviously was forced to play at least one starter at all times, right to the final whistle. 

The winning coach has it exactly right. It would have been more disrespectful to lay down than to continue to play hard. He said: “I have been on the other side of this equation. It was very insulting when teams slowed the ball down and just passed it around. That's why I'd rather have a team play me straight up, and that's why I played them straight up. Because I didn't want to taunt them, I didn't want to embarrass them, I didn't want them to think we could do whatever we want." 

In other words, his coaching philosophy is based on the Golden Rule of Christ. “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).” He wants opponents to show him the respect of giving him the best they’ve got, and so that’s what he’s going to do for them. Not to do so would be to ignore the teaching of the Master. 

Now it’s certainly the Christian thing to be gracious in triumph and not gloat or rub defeat in the face of the opponent. After all, the next time you might be the one on the short end of the proverbial stick. 

But it’s an insult to an opponent not to give your best effort just because you’re sitting on a huge lead. Your opponents deserve the respect of facing the best you have to offer, and it’s up to them to rise to the challenge. 

That’s make this a character issue for the dominant team, and this coach has it exactly right. Defending his team, he said: "Too many people in the world right now allow the youth to not be as good as they can be, allow them to be lazy. Here, I'm giving them an opportunity to live up to the best of their abilities and be proud of what they're able to accomplish. If that's what I'm being blamed for, then OK, I accept it." 

It certainly makes sense to put your second or even third string on the court or field when you’re sitting on a large lead, and there is no reason not to do that for compassionate reasons. But if I’m a coach, I want my second teamers playing all out and to the best of their ability. It’s an insult to them to send them into the ring and then tell them to pull their punches.  

I send the second team out there to run the offense and play as hard-nosed a defense as possible, because that is in the best interests of my team. That’s how the guys riding the bench learn how to compete on the field of play and sharpen their skills for replacing an injured first-teamer or preparing to excel next season when they replace a graduating senior. 

The title of the piece on yahoo.comis “108-3 girls basketball rout raises questions.” The main question raised in the story is whether or not Christian Heritage did anything wrong by ringing up a hundred plus points on an overmatched opponent. Besides the oddity of a liberal reporter developing a sudden concern for morality, the only question that matters is the only one that’s not raised in the article: why doesn’t this league have a mercy rule? 

I’m all for a “mercy rule,” which ultimately sounds like the solution here. A “mercy rule” ends the game in football, basketball or baseball when one team has an insurmountable lead and is just pulverizing the opponent. In high school and American Legion baseball, for instance, from the fifth inning on, if a team leads by 10 runs at the end of an inning the game is called. 

A mercy rule allows a team to compete its hardest until the threshold is reached. They never have to lay down or give athletic competition lest than their best. 

So the problem in Utah, if there is a problem at all, is not with this school or its coach but with this league, which apparently has no mercy rule in place. And a mercy rule is needed particularly in girls’ basketball, when it is a common thing for two teams to be unevenly matched to an alarming degree. 

I remember reading a story about two prominent football coaches who met at midfield after a game in which the coach of the winning team kept his starters on the field until late in a lopsided game. The losing coach complained about his adversary “running up the score.” 

Replied the first coach, “Hey, it’s not my job to keep my team from running up the score. That’s your job.” The losing coach told the story years later, because even though the words stung, he realized his friend was right. 

Bottom line: respect your opponent by giving him the best you have to offer until the buzzer sounds. It’s the Christian thing to do. 

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.) 

 

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