They happen. Frequently too. Just at the last few weeks of games across different sports:
- NFL: Seattle Seahawks 58, Arizona Cardinals 0 (just this past Sunday)
- NFL: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19 (Thanksgiving)
- NCAA Basketball: Syracuse 108, Monmouth Hawks 56
- College Football: Oregon Ducks 49, Arizona Wildcats 0
- College Football: LA Tech Bulldogs 70, Idaho Vandals 28
Then there’s the more historic (not necessarily all sports-related) blowout:
- Soccer: 2003 – AS Adema 149, Stade Olympique 0 (excellent story on this one, the players of the winning team didn’t actually score a goal)
- Soccer (legitimately): 1885 – Arbroath 36, Bon Accord 0
- NHL: 1944 – Detroit Red Wings 15, New York Rangers 0
- NFL: 1940 – Championship game, Chicago Bears 73, Washington Redskins 0 (believe it)
- Presidential Election: 1936 – FDR 523, Alf Landon (who?!) 8 — this is the largest margin of victory (by %) in the history of the Electoral College
And then there’s this.
That was the final score in a girls’ high school basketball game in Indianapolis Tuesday night between Bloomington South and Arlington high schools, which prompted a state prep sports association official to say that he never wants to see a score like that again, according to ESPN.
Obviously, following a game like this, reactions—and emotions—were mixed.
“I didn’t tell my girls to stop shooting because that would have been more embarrassing (to Arlington),” Bloomington head coach Larry Winters told the Indianapolis Star.
“Hoosier sportsmanship? Don’t look for it at Bloomington South, at least not in the offices of those who run one heartless part of the school’s athletic program,” wrote Star columnist Matthew Tully.
Both are fair points, and I can understand where either are coming from.
So what’s my take? Glad you asked.
It’s unfortunate when any sports contest ends completely one sided. Spirits are going to be down, morale depleted, and egos crushed. Professional athletes acting like that is one thing; now add to that that these were high school girls. The cattiest of them all.
Yes, it’s a shame that it happened, but why cry over it? No rules were broken—though, that might change in the future if Indiana adds a “mercy rule.”
Forget the score for just a moment, if you will.
What kind of message would a coach (or teacher, or parent for that matter) be sending by telling their players (students, children) to take it easy on some opposing team (test[?], sibling[?])?
There are great lessons for both sides in a lopsided contest like this, and the coaches should seize the opportunity and make sure their teams learn from it.
For Bloomington it’s this: Insert any cliché about driving or maintaining a certain pace here. They all apply. Put the pedal to the metal. Full speed ahead. Don’t let your foot off the gas. Not only do they all apply to that game, they apply to life. If you want to succeed and be the best at something, you should go into it with a similar mindset. The goal of any true competitor is to crush the competition, so why are we criticizing them for accomplishing that task?
And to Arlington: The life metaphor still works. You’re not always going to succeed. Failures are inevitable—epic ones in this case. But you can’t let those ruin everything else. Does taking a whacking like that suck? Of course. But quit the whining. Go back and look at why things went so horribly wrong, sort it out, and then go out there and make sure it doesn’t happen next time. Or ever again.
A great coach would take that clunker, find the positives in it all, and turn it into a learning experience for all those involved.