Trickery On The Football Field: Like Child Abuse? Just because it's legal, that doesn't make it right -- especially when an adult coach puts one over on the kids. Such trick plays are many things, but they're not good sportsmanship, says Frank Deford.
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Trickery On The Football Field: Like Child Abuse?

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Trickery On The Football Field: Like Child Abuse?

Trickery On The Football Field: Like Child Abuse?

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And our sports commentator Frank Deford has been thinking about how you play the game.

FRANK DEFORD: By now, you may be among the millions of people whove seen on YouTube the trick football play pulled off by the Driscoll Middle School of Corpus Christi, Texas.

If youve been watching President Obama abroad or otherwise wasting your time, heres what happens. Driscoll breaks out of the huddle, and the quarterback lines up over the ball. From the sideline, the assistant coach calls out that Driscoll deserves a five-yard penalty.

At this point, the Driscoll center casually hands the ball over his shoulder to the quarterback. Now, this is perfectly acceptable, even though we know that the center invariably delivers the ball through his legs.

The quarterback then takes the ball and starts to walk off five yards himself, as the opponents look on confused. Then, clear of the opposition, the quarterback suddenly breaks into a run and dashes 67 yards for a touchdown.

The play is legal and just about everybody whos seen it gets a real hoot out of it. In one online poll, a huge number of those who voted said the play was genius. Well, it isnt. And it isnt funny and it isnt right.

Sure, athletes often employ gamesmanship. And now I will now give you a lecture on Situational Ethics: Sports Division.

Remember this summer, when Derek Jeter, the All-American boy, idol of millions, faked getting hit by a pitch and his acting was so good he was awarded first base? Well, Jeter is a grown-up, playing other grown-ups in a game umpired by grown-ups. So are wide receivers who pretend to catch a pass that really hit the ground first, and basketball players who flop back as if they were fouled.

Just like the Driscoll Middle School quarterback, it is perfectly legal to act in a game. But the players who do that in the pros are not embarrassing the opposition. Theyre just trying to con the umpire. Its a benign bit of hustle that wouldve made for some good "Aesops Fables," if old Aesop were still around writing a sports blog nowadays.

But the Driscoll team didnt act instinctively to try and put one over on a ref. The middle schoolers didnt even come up with the ruse themselves. Their coach dreamed up the play and even participated in it, hollering from the sideline. The referees werent victimized. In fact, they had to play along.

No, it was only the other teams kids who were embarrassed and belittled by a childrens coach being a wise guy, a bully of sorts. It wasnt genius at all; rather, it was a form of child abuse. Sure, it was legal but it wasnt fair.

Laugh at kids being out-slicked by a grown-up, and youre cruel. That isnt sport.

INSKEEP: Commentator Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from our member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.


And Im Renee Montagne.

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