Then Have A Mercy Rule

If my client could get a possible verdict of $1,000,000 at trial, it’s not “bullying” for me to ask the jury for the full amount instead of “only” $900,000. In fact, if I were to do something like that, my client would sue me for malpractice. Trying to win as decisively as you can is part of competition.

Lawsuits are not quite the same thing as high school football. Still, via memeorandum and Outside the Beltway, I see an accusation that the coach of a very good high school football team in Texas is accused of “bullying” because he did not let up against a less accomplished team, resulting in a lopsided 91-0 score. And I’m taken aback because in this way, football and litigation are alike.

One way they’re alike but maybe ought not to be is because they seem to both involve splitting hairs with definitions. According to the Texas Education Agency:

Bullying occurs when a person is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

To me, the critical word here is “unwanted.” Seems to me that those kids on that other team wanted to be out there, they wanted to play football. Inherent in the nature of playing football is incurring the risk that a better team will defeat you, sometimes decisively. That’s why you practice and work out and play the game hard. If it were easy, anyone could do it and everyone would have a 50% win ratio. And sometimes you don’t win anyway because the other team had practiced and worked out and played harder and just plain has advantages you don’t. Inherent in the nature of competition is that you try as hard as you can to get the best result that you can.

Another way football can be like litigation is that while there are rules, those rules can be changed if there is consensus that it’s important enough to change them. In law, the legislature or the court can be persuaded to adopt a new rule, or the parties can agree to contract around most rules that the government won’t change. In football, the teams can adopt whatever rules they want within their leagues. If 91-0 seems like a ridiculous, awful score, demoralizing to the point of being damaging to the other team, then have a mercy rule. If one team gets, for instance, 70 points ahead of the other, the game ends. Or don’t have a mercy rule. After all, winning a game is only fun if there’s a risk of losing.
I tell my clients — all of them — that nothing I or anyone else does can ever eliminate the risk of loss, and if that happens there will be negative consequences. I wouldn’t have thought that football players needed to be told the same thing, but it seems that there are some of their parents who do need that reminder. If you don’t want to risk losing and getting your feelings (or your body) hurt, then don’t play the game.

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63 thoughts on “Then Have A Mercy Rule

  1. One way they are unlike is that winning a $1,000,000 lawsuit is in all ways superior to winning a $900,000 lawsuit. Winning a game 91-0 is little different than winning 70-0. Or even if you think there is a difference, you could at least have a discussion as to whether winning 91-0 is better than winning 70-0 and expect someone to put up a strong defense.

    Also, as a workaround, is forfeit allowed? If it is, that that is one way to effect a mercy rule without having to make the change. Coaches could assess for themselves whether their teams are being bullied and exit accordingly.

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  2. The coaches on the winning team had choices. They could have tried to avoid doing what really looks like humiliating the other side. Good sportsmanship and all that. If you are up by a good 50 or 60 points, the game is won. Let everybody play, even the 7th stringers, and try to avoid being a jerk.

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    • This coach did. The whole bench played. He said he was afraid they would score 100 points. They also didn’t stop the clock from the 3rd quarter on. The bullying charged was levied because they didn’t kneel every play.

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      • I agree the bullying charge is silly. Beating another team isn’t bullying. The margin of victory for that team in every game this year is ridiculous so i wonder why they are so much better than everybody else. Are they in an inappropriate league? I’ll they have some JV kids who would enjoy planing in a varsity game. If they really are that better than all their opponents then that isn’t much good for the victors either, they aren’t being challenged or pushed to be better.

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  3. I am always reminded of a basketball game I co-coached the first year my son played ball. It was a competitive CYO tournament. Most of the kids on our team had never played organized ball before, and we faced a team that was far superior, had been together for 3 years, and (because of the age range brackets) were a year older, bigger and faster than any of our guys.

    Midway through the second half they were up by about 40. The other coach called a time out, huddled his players, and for the rest of the game they didn’t take one shot. The just passed, basically playing keep-away. The score didn’t change for the rest of the game.

    It was one million times more humiliating than having the score run up on us.

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      • Sometimes parity is hard to accomplish. If you live in a rural area, there are only so many kids of a certain age. And even if you’re not in a rural area, all the competitive parents might find out which is the best team and sign their kids up for that team and push them to succeed there while the other parents are left wondering why their kid’s team is 0-9-3.

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      • I’ve told this story before. One of my fonder memories of childhood was my last year of little league in a small town. The new high school counselor was a former minor league pro player who volunteered to coach. The organizers offered him an existing team and he told them no, just give him all of the players the other coaches didn’t want. He taught dads how to teach; under his supervision they taught the kids what to do and why they were doing it; he figured out ways that everyone could contribute (our lead-off batter was like four feet tall, and crouched at the plate — he finished the year with a batting avg of zero-for-zero, and an on-base percentage of 1.000, walking every time he was up). We lost in the playoff finals to the team with all the jocks, 3-2.

        Wouldn’t have worked in a sport like football where you can’t make up for spotting everyone on the other team 30 pounds. But he got an amazing amount out of a bunch of misfits just by convincing them that they could play the game well.

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    • With youth leagues/amateurs, I think teams that are up huge ought to use the remainder of the game as more-or-less scrimmage. Focus on process, not product. Maybe you’re team is up by 50, but they are still struggling with their zone D. Work on that. Or maybe the big guys still can’t figure out the pick-and-roll. Run that. Make the time productive while still working within the spirit of healthy competition. There might be some things to avoid… it’d probably be inappropriate to work on your full court press during the end stages of a blowout. But the idea that either team should simply lay down is dumb. Sports at that level is as much about learning as winning. If you’ve secured the latter, focus on the former.

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    • I recall a basketball game my daughter played in. It was in a middle-school rec league. Many of the girls on our team had never played competitive hoops before, which was probably the norm, since our team was more or less average.

      One team we played trapped on every possession, and since they were very good at it, the score was basically XX-0, with our girls unable to advance the ball past half court. And they kept this up the whole damned game, complaining bitterly if their hyper-aggressive defense ever resulted in a foul. There was no excuse for this. First, because they didn’t belong in a rec league, second because with the game well in hand they could easily have let up and run a different defense. The score wouldn’t necessarily have been much different, but out team would at least have had the chance to pass and shoot the ball.

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  4. Could we solve this problem by having the professional sports leagues no longer keep score anymore?

    Perhaps instead of playoffs, we can have a certificate ceremony.

    With that established at the role model level, we can easily imagine everyone else following suit, the way that baby ducks fixate on the first moving thing they see.

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      • umm so. the trophy overload people have engaged in is very mockable, silly and a completely overblown issue. Giving every kid a trophy hasn’t destroyed the fabric of the country. There are plenty of competitive kids in sports. If a kid is highly competitive and moves up in his sport there will be plenty of competition. It is an innocuous thing that people focus on. I’m fine with them not giving out as many trophies also, it really don’t’ matter all that much. I’ll that i played hockey in high school and college so i’m fine with high contact sports. I’m also fine with plenty of safety gear and trying to minimize injuries.

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      • I think the notion that handing out certificates for participation is among the major problems affecting kids today is optimistic. It would be fantastic if it were true because it would be easy enough to stop, but all I hear are theories written by old people. Where is the evidence?

        I’ll even take an anecdote. Send me a link to a Little League coach who did away with participation trophies and thereby took his team from last to first.

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      • My understanding of that particular criticism (which I generally agree with) is not that it harms kids in the moment, but in the long-term.

        If children come to expect that they will be praised regardless of effort or outcome, it sets up some perverse incentives. And risks compromising their resiliency.

        “Hey… I was a solid C- student. Why didn’t I get into Harvard? The A+ kid did. And he and I always got the same trophies regardless of our grades/effort/output.”

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      • “Hey… I was a solid C- student. Why didn’t I get into Harvard? The A+ kid did. And he and I always got the same trophies regardless of our grades/effort/output.”

        I find it…implausible that kids are that dumb. Participation trophies usually say they are for participation right there on the trophy. In the WSJ article, I bet that ribbon for 9th place actually said ninth place in all caps. And participation trophies are still handed out in addition to real trophies. Kids still see that excellence gets something that participation does not. (Though I do find the story in there about the team whose participation trophies were larger than the first place trophies hilarious.)

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      • My experiences tell me otherwise. There are a number of children who are wholly unprepared for failure because their parents insulate them from truly feeling its effects. Some kids can’t handle losing because they’ve never truly lost at anything. They might have move beyond making statements like the one I offered by the time they are entering college, but there are people who are genuinely shocked when things do not work out in their favor because they are so used to things going otherwise. This includes getting participation trophies. It is other things, as well, but participation trophies are a part of it.

        We have seen people articulate this ideology on these very pages. “I worked hard… why didn’t things go my way?” Some of that is probably human nature, but I think broader trends within certain parenting circles that seek to protect their children from the harsh stings that live sometimes throws at them leaves these children unprepared when those stings eventually land.

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      • Kazzy i agree some kids are coddled and protected from failure. That is bad. Everybody fails and sports are one good way to learn how to handle failure. Hell thats probably why the Mets or Jets exist. I think the participation trophy thing is silly on both sides, for giving them out for everything and for harping on them. If a kid is competitive and/or good they will move into highly competitive arenas. If a parent is going to coddle their kid then whether they got a trophy or not is irrelevant because the parent will still coddle.

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      • I tend not to get on a soapbox about participation trophies in particular for the reasons offered, . Rather, I pushback against the broader trend of coddling. A quote whose author I do not know says that our job is to prepare the children for the road, not the road for the children.

        With my 4- and 5-year-olds, I play a mix of “winning games” and “not winning games”. I think it is important to learn how to be gracious in victory and in defeat and how to handle the ups and downs of competition, but not to be preoccupied with it. Winning never confers anything beyond pride in a job well done; there are no prizes or trophies. Now, we could split hairs over the fact that even that is a bit of a misrepresentation, as most of the games we play are pure luck (Candyland, bingo, etc.) but they don’t know that. Plus such games mean all children end up on both sides of the equation.

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      • For kids below a certain age, I think participation trophies are a good thing. Above that age, and I’m basically ambivalent. The fact is that for kids under the age of 10 or so, winning isn’t really the main point; in fact, it almost shouldn’t be a point at all – the goal has to be to learn how to play all aspects of the game. I mean, it’s possible in certain sports for a youth team to completely dominate just by employing the right strategy, as long as it has one player that is heads and tails above everyone else on one particular skill. Meanwhile, a team that is learning a more comprehensive set of skills may well struggle tremendously because what they’re doing is a lot harder than winning even if it will pay dividends in the long run.

        A participation trophy in those circumstances probably helps keep the kids interested enough to deal with all of the growing pains and keep trying to learn.

        Admittedly, once kids have reached a certain age and should have a well-rounded understanding of the game, this rationale goes out the window. But at least in my experience, participation trophies are a lot less common at that point anyhow – and rightly so.

        The Wife – who was a reasonably accomplished athlete and now coaches, but is far more liberal than I (which kind of undermines your generalization, Notme) – is no fan of participation trophies at any level, but has a serious problem with the hypercompetitiveness with which youth sports are treated now. In particular, she absolutely despises the drive towards year-round specialization in the absurdly remote hope of a child growing up to be a scholarship athlete in the specialized sport and/or creating a dominant local team. It turns sports into a job rather than as games that have intrinsic value, and it probably increases the likelihood of injury, amongst other problems like preventing kids from figuring out what they enjoy for themselves. I’d also add that it’s a good recipe for parents who act like assholes during games.

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      • Mark,

        You make some good points. I’d give gentle pushback only because the kid who shows up to 3 practices all year still gets a participation trophy. It often seems less about actually honoring participation and effort and more about making sure no one goes home empty handed. When the latter happens, I object.

        I’ve seen research recently that actually shows we should put more emphasis on effort than on outcome, on process than on product. If you tell a kid is great because he won… well, what does that mean when he doesn’t win? He’s not great? And what if he won in spite of his efforts? Or because he cheated? Is he still great? Instead, if we applaud effort, persistence, drive, etc., regardless of outcome, children will continue to demonstrate those things. They won’t always win, but if they always work hard, they’ll likely fare well in the aggregate. This I take no issue with and actually employ myself.

        “Did I win the race?” “Ya know, I’m actually not sure. But, man, you were fast. You ran as fast as you could all the way to the end. And you were much faster than last week. I can tell you’ve really been putting in the time and effort. Keep up the good work!”

        I’ll see if I can dig up the study. It focused on the academic realm, but I think the lessons can be generalized. Unfortunately, I read a hardcopy of it, meaning it may not be available online.

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      • I’ve heard tell of such studies. I think there is value to the idea of rewarding effort rather than outcome … up to a point. Beyond that point, the emphasis needs to shift back to outcome. That point is when the child has learned that a good outcome requires the investment of a substantial effort.

        Or the ninth birthday. If they haven’t learned this by age nine, write ’em off. Lost cause. ;)

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      • ,

        I’m going to toot the horn for swimming again. Swimming makes it easy to focus on process and improvement. You may lose every time, but your times show your improvement. Kids who will never be really competitive have a good objective way to gauge their own on-going success.

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      • I’m with the age differential. We have a number of different races throughout the season. Some are just for the older kids and are quite serious. We have one race on our schedule that is dubbed “experience the podium”. It’s for a wide age group 5-11 year olds. Just about everyone get’s a medal or ribbon. The older kids don’t make much of it…. they all know where everyone stands. The five year olds however, oh my gosh, the radiant smiles on their faces when their names are called is worth the price of admission alone.

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      • After our big citizen ski race in march everybody who raced, whether they did the hard core 50k or the slow poked through 25k gets the same little medal thingee. Somehow no one has every complained about that.

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      • Mark: “It turns sports into a job rather than as games that have intrinsic value, and it probably increases the likelihood of injury, amongst other problems like preventing kids from figuring out what they enjoy for themselves.”

        Yeah, so. This is the flip side of the coin. If they want to have their sport as their job, then yes, they need to treat it more seriously. This can suck. It can make play work. That’s part of the decision.

        The world is getting more competitive. Remember when Tiger was the only one hitting the gym to play golf when it had previously been dominated by beer guts? Standards change. Previously there were only a few disciplines that required early mastery: violin, gymnastics, ballet. Now there are more, as more people push the envelope.

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      • If it were the kids making that decision on their own, that would be one thing. I have strong doubts that it is they who are making that decision. I’m also skeptical that the year-round focus really makes them significantly more likely to get scholarships (indeed it’s not uncommon to hear of scholarship or professional athletes who didn’t pick up a football or basketball until well into high school), but that’s another issue altogether, and one that The Wife would be far better able to articulate than I anyhow.

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      • Mark times they are a changing. I appreciate that sometimes parents are disastrously the instigators of such endeavors. Unfortunately, I believe that being good at some of these activities requires so much work that parent motivation will ultimately fail. In my case it’s Kid who is overly keen. I’d be glad to show up to training on time. She still needs to be first in the lift line.

        If you look at the make up of the current US development ski team, they are all products or students of ski academies, special sport high schools. That is the future. Good luck with the amateur athlete model.

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      • I’m not at all familiar with how things work in skiing, but I’m not sure that the argument would apply as much in that arena, especially since there are presumably natural limits to how much one can practice skiing.

        That said, I’m not doing the argument justice – as I said, it’s more something that the Wife is especially passionate about. Concerns about burnout are a big part of it, but another part of it is the fact that a lot of concepts in various sports can easily be borrowed to become better at, and deepen understanding of, other sports. There’s also a view that, in certain sports, kids are pushed into the year-round hyper-specialization concept by businesses who are more interested in maintaining a year-round profit than they are interested in developing well-rounded athletes.

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      • Skiing is a bizarre sport. One of the least democratic I can think of. The kids that have access to year around training whether by location or wealth dominate. If you look at the World Cup, skiers almost all grew up in areas with access to summer training. You will also find that the vast majority of top athletes are the children of coaches or national team athletes.

        I usually hear the argument against burn out as propaganda from the association vs proponents of year long activity. This may just be my beef with FIS. I’ve burned out on a number of sports. That doesn’t mean I gave up sport. I just found something else that caught my fancy. In an expensive sport, keeping kids involved beyond the time they know it’s not the right fit for them is just a way to maintain the pyramid scheme that some argue is required to finance the more talented.

        I’ve played a number of sports and am quite athletic. The only endeavour that I thought translated easily to other sports was skate boarding and the ability to generate speed with weight transfer. Otherwise, I’ve found it bankrupt. I’ve tried to keep in shape and improve athletically during off seasons with “cross training” only to show up to season completely unprepared. If your goal is to improve at a particular sport vs becoming a well rounded athlete, I think sport specific exercise is key.

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      • I find this dislike of participate trophies rather surreal.

        I am honestly baffled…would there be an objection here if instead of a ‘trophy’, it was a photo of the team? Would you guys be happier if it said ‘Loser’ on it?

        When children do things, they are often given things to remember that by. Hell, when _everyone_ does things, they get things to remember them by.

        I’m sure, when you come across someone with runner’s number from a marathon, hanging on a wall, you immediately rip that down and stomp on it. How dare they remember that they attended such a competition if they didn’t win!

        I know someone who has a ‘participation trophy’ from _going to New York_. He didn’t even compete in anything, but he has a little replicate of the statue of liberty he bought there! What a loser!

        Children are not morons. They understand what winning is, and that they did not do it.

        And they _also_ enjoy having a record of the time they spend _participating_ in the event.

        And I must point out, if coddled kids are asses, I rather suspect that’s almost entirely is a result of _parental_ ‘coddling’, and nothing to do with a sports team. But no, I’m sure it’s that one damn trophy a year for participating instead of idiot parents.

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      • Trophies should be rewards. Photos are mementos. Nothing wrong with mementos, but trophies and ribbons should usually denote achievement or success, not participation.

        The idea of ‘success, not participation’ is absurd. If you participate in something, you have, in fact, succeeded in participating.

        What you’re arguing is that they haven’t succeeded _enough_ to ‘deserve’ a piece of metal in a funny shape with words on it, their minor success only deserve a piece of paper with words on it. They don’t deserve a real medal, they only deserve a _imprint_ of a medal on the paper.

        It’s like you’ve saw someone writing a thank-you note to someone who gave them a toaster, and leapt in and valiantly argued that it was wrong for them to do so, that they thanked the person in person so do not have to write a thank you note. Because, you see, writing people thank-you notes who ‘don’t deserve them’ is ‘coddling’! Yeah, thanks for that input.

        This is a remarkably silly thing to care about, what two completely unrelated people are saying to each other vis vis-a-vis how much the first person respects what the second person did.

        And, frankly, who the hell elected any of you God-Emperor of judging performance? Much less judging performance in some sort of strange absolute manner of what _method_ that other people should use to conveying that judgement?

        It’s like, ill-content with meddling with people’s speech, you have now become meta-meddlers. ‘I demand you not tell that person he participated in a thing via a shiny cup! You must instead use a piece of paper to tell him that thing that he already knows.’

        Do any of you grasp how silly you sound?’

        As I said, if there are asshole children due to coddling, it’s because of their _parents_ coddling them, not the thirty minutes they sat with a participation trophy at the pizza place after losing a t-ball game. The idea that the problem is children that ‘don’t know how to lose’ is idiotic…children rarely ‘lose’ in any meaningful sense _outside_ of sports in the first place. The problem is children who _always get their way_ because their parents will not say no to them.

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      • The entire premise of this seems to be that kids are very stupid, and don’t understand that a participation trophy is, well, losing. There is no evidence this is true.

        As the article points out, kids under ten or so don’t really understand that concept of winning or losing at all, at least not in the abstract sense, and think everyone deserves trophies, and thinks that is true _regardless_ of whether or not they get a trophy. If you don’t give them one, they will probably get upset and stop playing.

        At a certain point around ten, children begin to understand how winning works, that even if they try hard they can lose…and at that point, they _know_ they lose, whether or not you give them a trophy. A trophy is not inherently valuable, it does not convey any sort of inherent message…if it’s a participation trophy, they _know_ it’s that.

        The idea that children are, in some way, harmed by random trophies is idiotic. Either they’re old enough and understand competition, and thus understand they didn’t win. Or they’re too young and don’t understand competition and hence won’t understand why both they and the other people played, and why only those guys got the trophies. (They might not even grasp they were on opposite teams.)

        It is perfectly reasonable to stop giving out participating trophies past a certain age, because there’s really no point in giving them out to people who know they lost, but don’t pretend it’s some sort of damn _moral mission_.

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      • For a lot of people, it’s emblematic of a larger cultural problem. Precisely the parents you refer to coddling their children.

        For my part, I find it mildly irksome where I run across it. It’s not something that keeps me up at night.

        I would personally rather that awards actually mean something. That, by having them, it means you accomplished something more than just showing up (you won, you completed a difficult task, your team won, you placed highly). Even if kids aren’t stupid and know that the award is meaningless, that doesn’t change a preference for awards that, you know, aren’t meaningless.

        I’m not demanding anything. I am calling dumb something that I think is dumb. I prefer the award-distribution system that was in place when I was younger. I could look at almost every one of them and remember something more relevant behind it than that I showed up. I actually think this is actually still the norm and participation trophies the exception. I hope so.

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      • For a lot of people, it’s emblematic of a larger cultural problem.

        As are gay marriage, TV shows where the good guys don’t always win, and people wearing T-shirts and jeans to work. And I don’t take any of those seriously either.

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  5. FWIW, the report I read said the bullying complaint came from a parent; the opposing coach took no issue with what the winning team did.

    If teams of such disparate strength can avoid playing one another, that would probably be preferable. I recognize that can’t always be controlled for. Assuming such, it sounds like all parties acted in as sportsmanlike a way as possible, given the circumstances.

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    • FWIW, if the winning team moved through the roster and still kept rolling up the score, well…once you have your seventh string out and your defensive lineman getting to play QB, you’re officially not a dick.

      You might want to see about moving your team up a league, though. :)

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  6. I officiate high school football here in IL. In this state, as in, I suspect, most other states, the clock does not stop in the 2nd half if a certain point differential is attained. Often times, the losing side’s first stringers are as good as the subs the winning side is using in such games, resulting in a more evenly matched contest from that point on.

    As an official, one can also adhere more closely or loosely to the rules if running up the score is perceived. I can call holding on nearly every play because the blocking techniques being taught today will almost invariably end up as a hold (you have no idea how aggravating this is to me as a former lineman!).

    That said, if the losing squad is that hapless, and it’s usually coaching deficiencies rather than talent, then all you can do is sit back and watch. Bullying never even enters the equation.

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      • No, we would not presume to suggest coaching strategies. Besides, at least in my opinion, a coach that knowingly runs up the score is beyond talking to. All we can do is make his task a little more difficult.

        I must say that this sort of behavior is exceedingly rare. No one wants to be on the other end of a run up score, and no team is good forever. Football coaches have extremely long memories.

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  7. Mercy. Rule. (As the title says.) That’s pretty much all that’s needed here.

    Kids should not be put in the position of being told not to try. Sometimes you can’t sort teams as well as you would like. At the high school or middle school level, it only takes a few standout players to be able to demolish other teams.

    So… mercy rule. The end.

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    • Yeah. Also i noted above, beating teams by 90 sort of sucks for the winners also. The best players end up playing a quarter which sucks for them although great for the other kids. But they aren’t really competing since they are so far above the other sides.

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    • I thought the conservative in you would prefer social custom to rule the day rather than decrees from an almighty bureaucracy.

      I kid, well kinda…

      I would rather community pushback against unsportsmanlike behaviour than just prematurely ending the game. In the long run, I think that’s better.

      (As noted, that’s not really applicable here. It sounds like the winning team tried to not run up the score (putting in backups), but they still scored. And, of course, even if they were running up the score, labeling it “bullying” is just plain silly.)

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  8. Growing up, I remember being on the wrong side of some major mismatches. In all honesty, they never really bothered us that much. Some teams were just better than us; no shame in acknowledging that. So long as they weren’t dicks about it, there wasn’t much to get upset about. We ended up trying to gain mini-victories. “I bet I can steal 2nd standing up.” “I’m gonna foul off 5 pitches in the next at bat.” “I’m going to try to not come in dead last in the race.”

    We found a way to have fun. We were kids. Playing a game. It wasn’t all that hard to enjoy it.

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  9. I see an accusation that the coach of a very good high school football team in Texas is accused of “bullying” because he did not let up against a less accomplished team, resulting in a lopsided 91-0 score.

    It’s just not fair that their eyes are so damned clear and their hearts are so fishing full.

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  10. Ken over at Popehad has a column on this and makes some good points, as did the comments here. My issues are the mandatory actions the school had to take after a report of bullying. Really? Someone said it best: zero tolerance = zero thinking.

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    • Here’s the article Damon is referring to. It’s quite good. It gives a good explanation as to why not to even have a mercy rule and to let these things play out. In fact, I’d say that teams ought to be able to agree to waive the mercy rule prior to a game. Sometimes a team is going to lose badly every game and may want to play more than two quarters.

      But generally, unless waived, I’d say 40 points means running the clock and 70 points ends the games.

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      • I’ve personally witnessed / participated in both scenarios. In one, we were getting trounced so hard we couldn’t keep the ball. Our coach walked over and they agreed enough was enough. In another, I got to some game time since the other team sucked so much even I couldn’t screw up the score so much that we would loose. :)

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      • My son was on a wretched soccer team. Well, mediocre. They were just little kids, mind you. So they were getting pounded one afternoon, came half time and my son came over to me, very despondent, almost in tears.

        I said, “Think about it as practice against a much better set of players. You can’t get any better playing shirts-and-skins with the team you’re on this year. The score doesn’t matter. You matter. The other guys on your team matter. That’s why it’s important for you to get back in there and play. Learn from these guys. First, they’ve got a better coach. Pay attention to what’s going on, watch how winners do it.”

        And he did get back in there. Watched the other team’s coach intently, made his move in response to what the coach was telling his kids to do. Can’t say it was just that game, but a whole change came over his attitude about winning and losing. He learned from his losses.

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      • In swimming, we see a lot of disparity. Last week our best swimmer almost lapped the top swimmer from the other team in a 4 lap race (8 lengths of the pool), and that team’s worst swimmer finished more than a lap behind everyone else.

        The norm, almost religiously adhered to, is that none of the swimmers leaves the pool until the race is complete. So they’re all hanging out in their lane waiting for that last–terrible–swimmer to finish, and when she does, those in adjacent lanes lean over, slap her hand as they’ve slapped the other swimmers’ hands, and then all the swimmers from that race exit the pool together. It’s one of the great moments in sports.

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