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NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

In Basketball, Forfeiting Sportsmanship?

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This score in girls high school basketball just in: Covenant: 100, Dallas Academy: 0.

Ouch!

But now, it's the winner that's embarrassed.

The Covenant Knights defeated the Dallas Academy Bulldogs by that one-sided score last week.

Covenant is a private religious school. Dallas Academy is a very small, private school that offers personal attention to students with "learning differences" like dyslexia.

Parents who attended the game said that it looked like shooting practice for Covenant. The team deployed a full court press against Dallas Academy, and gunned for three-point shots even after the first half ended with the score at 59 to nothing.

So this week, Covenant issued a statement on its website saying, "We humbly apologize." The school has asked athletic conference officials to let it forfeit the game because, "A victory without honor is a great loss."

This week, Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, invited the Dallas Academy team to sit in his private box to watch a game. He did not invite the players from Covenant.

It is tempting to portray the Covenant team as greedy, spoiled athletes. But years ago, a pro basketball coach explained to me that trying to hold down the score of a game when you're far ahead is not easy. It not only violates every competitive instinct instilled in athletes—it harms the integrity of the game.

Players are supposed to score points. They are obliged to play as hard as they can, whether winning or losing. Getting the ball and just throwing it around, like a sofa pillow, until time is called, actually demeans and mocks an opponent as much—maybe more—than continuing to score.

The eight players on the Dallas Academy team don't deserve condescension. Their small school hasn't won a game in more than four years. The fact that they kept on playing, and didn't whine, cry or complain, is one of the defining character traits of true champions.

Forfeiting the game might seem a good way for Covenant to publicly atone for the adolescent excesses of its basketball team and coaches, and reverse adverse publicity.

But I wonder if a forfeit is good for Dallas Academy. Will the players see their one lonely W among all the L's, for losses, and be reminded of a great victory—or a great act of pity?

I'd like to think that if and when their athletic conference offers the Dallas Academy Bulldogs a forfeit, they'll have the pride to say, "No thanks. We'll wait to win one on our own."

As Bulldog Shelby Hyatt told the Dallas Morning News, "Even if you are losing, you might as well keep playing. Keep trying, and it's going to be OK."

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Simon Says

Simon SaysSimon Says

NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small