Tuesday, January 27, 2009

100-0? Who cares...more on this tempest in a teapot, with Jesus-y goodness!

Some high school girls' basketball team got blown out, 100-0 somewhere in the states. Who cares, you say? I agree. Who cares. But somehow this has become a very big story the world over. To the point where there are "what would Jesus do" articles all over the internet and in the papers. Some guy from the school is quoted, suggesting that Jesus was all about being the best you could be at all times. Jesus, it turns out, was an early Anthony Robbins. And the assumption, therefore, is that Jesus would have run up the score as well. If Jesus were coaching, it would have been 200-0. Or something. I certainly don't claim to be an authority on What Jesus Would Do. (These are two hardcore Christian schools.)

I am, however, something of an authority on lopsided victories. And defeats. In high school, I played on some great rugby and football teams, but we never blew anyone out like this. In waterpolo, however, we did. One year, we had this one guy who was an out-of-this-world player. Actually, he was just an out-of-this-country player. He had transferred to our school from Croatia, and he was far and away the best player in the league. The rest of us could just float and watch, if we wanted, and we would win the games. And there were some teams we just hammered. When that happened, our coach, Mr. McKercher, would pull Alex out of the game and rotate lines. Everyone on the team got equal playing time (except for him - he didn't exactly need the practice), and everyone would play as hard as they could. Sometimes that meant that against the weaker teams, the score was run up anyway. But so be it.

Then, in my third year of university waterpolo, we lost the best player in the league. And it turned out, much to our surprise, that the rest of us were not very good. In fact, we stank. We were absolutely terrible. In one particular tournament, I remember scores of 22-1, 21-0, and 36-0. And I'm sure the other games were just as bad. The second-worst team in our division, Queens, beat us 18-7. Of all the games I played, however, the 36-0 pasting at the hands of the University of Toronto left me with the best feeling. Yes, their third-string players were still better than our first-stringers, but I was happy because they never let up.

I was the goalie. Letting in 36 goals in a waterpolo game is like giving up 20 runs as a pitcher in a baseball game. I would say it is...rare. But that was the most satisfying game of the year, for me. I may have let in 36 goals, but I also stopped 36 shots. They never stopped coming, wave after wave, breakaway after breakaway. And why not? They could do it, so why stop? The game that drove me absolutely crazy was the one we played a few hours later, against McMaster. They ran the score up to about 20-1, and then stopped. There was still a quarter and a half to play. They could have won 40-1, had they wanted. But instead, they would come down on a breakaway, and stop. And wait for the rest of the team to catch up. And then, when they did, and our team had caught up also, they would pass the ball around like it was some kind of power-play drill in a scrimmage. And then, instead of shooting, they would dump the ball into the corner when the shot clock expired, and swim back up the pool to do it all over again.

I kind of went a little nuts. There is nothing dishonourable about losing 36-0. Or 100-0, if it's a basketball game. (Frankly, 36-0 in waterpolo is more akin to 200-0 in basketball.) But when a team stops playing, and treats you like you're their boxing sparring partner, or a bunch of fifth-graders who just showed up for a friendly scrimmage, that is insulting. That shows a lack of respect for the losing team. And it hurts way more, and that's when I got into fights. People seem to think that this team, who was up 59-0 at halftime, should have...what? Moved out of the way so the other girls could score? Put the ball in their own basket? No one seems to realize that it is not the final score that matters. You can lose 100-0, or you can lose 20-10, and either way, you know full well that you have been dominated. Letting the other team score a few easy points does nothing for their confidence or their self-esteem. You're not my dad. You aren't there to make me feel good about myself. I have to do that myself. And if I can't, because you're that much better, so be it.

That being said, after this remarkably long-winded post (I meant to write two paragraphs, I swear), there are a few rules to blowouts. You never stop playing hard, sure. But if you're winning a football game by fifty, you don't look to lay out a receiver coming over the middle, or to take out the quarterback. If you're ahead by fifteen in a baseball game, you don't brush batters back and you don't steal bases and you don't put on the hit-and-run. You don't paste someone on an icing in hockey, and you don't commit a hard foul in basketball. But when the shot clock expires, whether you're at the 3-point line or not, you take the shot. To not do so would be the most insulting thing of all.

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