Some stories seem innocuous but they certainly do provide a window into where our society is heading.
I remember the days growing up and playing sports when scores were kept and trophies went only to the winners — or to those who performed the best. As a high school varsity player we went 1-19 over my two years there — and the one win came the first game of my junior year! We were always competitive at Grady High School, but just could never pull it out. As the Cheap Trick song “Mighty Wings” from the movie “Top Gun” goes, there are no points for second best. Well, that was the world I grew up in and it well prepared me to for a career in the U.S. Army — where there are certainly no points for second best. And so this story from my home state of Georgia really does cause me concern.
As reported by the Daily Caller, “The Lawrenceville Black Knights are undefeated. But the Pop Warner football team’s latest win cost their parents $500. The youth football team violated the league’s mercy rule with an interception returned for a touchdown by 8-year-old Elijah Burrell. League rules say no team shall be ahead by more than 33 points, lest the team face punishment. Burrell’s touchdown, his first, happened when the score was 32-0. The team was fined $500 for violating the rules and the team’s coach was suspended for a week. It wasn’t just the score, however. WGCL-TV in Atlanta reports a witness said, “the team made a mockery of the game by laying on the ground, running off the field and mocking the other players,” displaying “unsportsmanlike conduct” — then throw a flag and penalize the team on the spot.”
And I wonder if the “witness” was a parent from the other team?
The lesson that should have been learned at this game was that bad behavior is immediately punished — we don’t dismiss it and then punish later. You stop it right when the kids think they’re being cute.
“A mother of one of the children, Chando John, told WGCL, “How do I explain to an 8-year-old kid that your coach has been suspended because your teammate unintentionally scored? It is hard having an 8-year-old in flight to think of everything everybody has said, other than ‘I need to make a touchdown.’”
Now, the “mercy rule” business has gotta end. We have to start teaching that when you take the field of competition, you play your hardest until the end. How does anyone imagine that a player — eight years old — is going to catch a ball and pass up the great chance of making a “pick 6” — an interception return for a touchdown?
And what sense does it make to fine the team — the parents — for their kids’ exceptionalism? What message does it send? So if our kids were to make straight A’s and some other kids don’t — we will fine the kids and the parents for “scoring too much?” The point is, there are lessons in losing and sometimes lessons in humiliation. Trust me, after going 1-19, that was a hard lesson, one that I despised.
Take this example in college football from last weekend down in Ft. Worth, Texas. The number 10 ranked Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University played the visiting Texas Tech Red Raiders — and if you’ve been following college football this season you know the Frogs can score.
Well, in the end Texas Tech found out as well, as the final score was TCU 82-Texas Tech 27 — TCU QB Trevone Boykin threw seven touchdowns, a school record. Is someone going to fine TCU or suspend the coach? That’s life — you take the field, you have to be ready, and if not, you learn tough life lessons but you can always go back, work harder, and improve. And you can bet Texas Tech will remember that score next year when TCU goes to Lubbock!
As you all know, the West family went up to Knoxville for the traditional last Saturday in October game against the number four ranked Alabama Crimson Tide — who just the previous week beat Texas A&M, 59-0…mercy?
Well, sitting there with 102,455 folks, the score was Alabama 27-Tennessee 0 in the first quarter — you know what we were thinking. Well, next thing you know the score was 27-17 — the final score was Alabama 34-Tennessee 20. Our young team of freshmen and sophomores didn’t quit — they realized there would be no mercy and they didn’t want to be humiliated on their home field. I was proud of them and our Coach Butch Jones, especially on a play late in the fourth quarter when the Bama running back burst threw and was headed to the end zone. One of our Tennessee defensive players stripped the ball out of his hands of the Bama player at the 1-yard line and Tennessee recovered the ball – that’s what we call, “I will give my all to Tennessee today.”
The lesson from the Pop Warner football game in Lawrenceville is that we cannot protect our kids from the sting of defeat. We must teach our kids the honor in competition. But mostly we need to teach our kids NEVER to quit and even if they start slow, finish strong — the lesson of America, which unfortunately thanks to the progressive socialist Left, we don’t teach. We should not make rules to try and stifle the efforts of one in order to protect the feelings of another — life doesn’t work that way.