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Saturday November 1, 2014
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Mercy

Man, this score is so lopsided even "blowout" doesn't do it justice:

INDIANAPOLIS - The athletic department at Bloomington South High School is defending a controversial 107-2 win by its girls basketball team.

The win came Tuesday night over Arlington High School in Indianapolis, whose only points of the game came from free throws.

The 107-2 score sparked ire from sports fans on talk radio Wednesday, with many questioning why the adults in charge would allow such a lopsided contest to continue.

[. . .]

In a statement Wednesday night, the Bloomington South athletic department defended the win.

"The girls on both teams played hard and continued to compete the entire game. To do anything less by either team would have been demeaning," the statement read. "Arlington came out and worked on their player development, as did we. The longstanding reputation of our program and coach is one that would validate this information."

[. . .]

But others said they think the adults should have stepped in.

"Something has to be done, because they got beat really bad, and that's not good for the morale for the girls that got beat or the girls that beat them," said parent Janna Castillo. "It should have been stopped."

I usually agree with the coaches who defend their teams' lopsided victories, saying that telling their players to take it easy would violate the spirit of competition. The whole point of athletics is to try your hardest. But, lord, at some point a defeat becomes so crushing that it goes beyond demoralizing the other team and gets into abject humiliation territory. When that point is reached, some sense of decency ought to kick in, don't you think?

"Mercy rules" are not common, but they're not unheard of. In international baseball competition, for example, games are ended when one team is ahead by 10 runs and at least seven innings have been completed, and in Little League play it's 10 runs and four innings. In high school football, 34 states have a mercy rule that involves a "continuous clock" that keeps running instead of being stopped when it normally would be (like for an incomplete pass) once a team has a certain lead. Some states have the same kind of clock mercy rule for high school basketball.

IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox says the outcome of this game was an "unfortunate occurrence" and that "there will be a discussion about implementing a mercy rule." Apparently under consideration will be not only the "continuous clock" provision but a proposal to just end a game if a 40-point lead is achieved.

Of course, having a mercy rule go into effect can be demoralizing on the losing team as well. It tells the athletes they're so devoid of ability that it's pointless to go on. That could be even more disheartening that being allowed to keep trying in the face of insurmoutable odds. But this is sports, not a philosophy seminar, so let's not go there.







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