This past Thursday evening was similar to many other nights during the winter season in Maine, albeit the temperature was in the mid-forties and rain was falling. It was around 8:30 and I was just arriving home from an evening of high school basketball. On my phone was a message from a fellow veteran Maine hoops observer. He was fired up with righteous indignation.
102-12. There was no reason for a game to get that out of hand. Without checking that night’s schedules I replied back and correctly guessed the two school involved. He was ready to call the winning school to complain. Years ago, I probably would have and have reacted the same way. How could this travesty be? Reflecting back to Thursday night, my initial reaction was one of shock and then I moved on. I checked other scores from the night, watched a little college hoops on television while musing to the inanity that is a Bill Walton broadcast, before shuffling off to bed.
For the Lee Academy girls basketball team, the 2016-17 season has been a trying one to say the least. According to the box score of Thursday night’s game, only seven players participated in the match-up, in which they traveled to Millinocket and lost by that 102-12 margin to the Stearns Minutemen. Earlier in the week the Lady Pandas were defeated by Narraguagus to the tune of 97-9. Both Stearns and Narraguagus are strong contenders to win the Northern Maine Class C title.
So how have the Lee girls handled such defeats? Without knowing for sure, my guess would be after the initial sting wore off, is they got back on the bus, arrived home, maybe had a little something to eat, did their homework, and went to bed. Just like any other student-athlete from across the Pine Tree State The sun rose the next morning, they went to school, and they probably went to practice getting ready for their next opponent.
Despite this generation of “helicopter parenting” and the notion that everyone should get a trophy just for showing up, today’s players are quite resilient. The players likely will not be traumatized for life by these events. I believe it is safe to assume all of these students at some point in their lives will face difficulties much more daunting than being soundly beaten in a basketball game. Many may look back, relive the stories of their playing days years from now, and enjoy a good laugh or two. The players returning next year will likely use the experience of this season as motivation to improve so they are not facing results like these next season.
There are many different philosophies in handling situations in which one team is significantly better than the other. There doesn’t appear to be a consensus as to a right or wrong approach. I remember watching an ESPN documentary about the Southern Methodist University football program from the 1980’s. SMU was a national power through the mid-80’s but committed a number of major rules violations. So corrupt was their program the NCAA completely shut down their football operations for a season. This was the only time the governing body of college athletics had or since has ever ruled that a program cease to exist.
The season following their hiatus, SMU was tasked to play at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were becoming a national power under coach Lou Holtz while SMU’s program was completely decimated from the NCAA sanctions. The Irish rolled to an easy victory. Towards the end of the contest, a Notre Dame player running down the field for yet another Irish touchdown ran out of bounds as not to “run up the score.” Notre Dame then took a knee as the contest drew to a close. An SMU player interviewed for the documentary was more embarrassed by Notre Dame intentionally letting up than they would have been had they scored.
Certainly, none of us condone intentionally embarrassing an opponent. As a coach, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. Getting blown out is never fun or easy but the game ends and we survived to fight another day. I’ve sure the Lee Academy players will be fine and will also get to fight another day.