Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Numbers Game

Basketball season is in full swing! One issue that always comes up is sportsmanship which is not always easy to define. The following story, to me at least, is very cut and dried. See if you agree. This is from February 3, 2006.

We like a good mystery. Growing up, one of the hot topics was the interpretation of musical lyrics. Don McLean's American Pie was the ultimate innuendo song and remains a fascinating riddle to many today. Looking too closely at the meaning of words led us to the belief that Paul McCartney was dead back in the early 1970's. (That guy posing as Sir Paul is a dead ringer for the real Beatle!) Rikki, Don't Lose That Number was another radio classic whose every syllable was dissected. What was THE NUMBER? Was it a drug reference or something mystical? It was almost a disappointment when the artists, Steely Dan, revealed it was simply about a phone number.

Sometimes a number is just a number. There was a big story on the wire this week. A high school girl in New York scored 113 points in a game, obliterating the national prep record of 105 held by Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller, brother of NBA great Reggie Miller. Her team, Murry Bergtraum High School, defeated Brandeis High by a 137-32 tally. Murry Bergtraum is a very good squad, currently ranked #2 in the country by USA TODAY. The young lady is a tremendous player, having signed to continue her career next season at Rutgers. But, what happened in that game was classless. You simply don't beat another team that badly. There are things coaches can do to hold down the differential; require a certain number of passes before shooting, no fast breaks, no press, TAKE YOUR BEST PLAYERS OUT! The opposing coach was correct when she said she didn't blame the player. It was the decision, and a very poor one, of an adult. The girl played an incredible game. She made an astounding 54/60 field goal attempts, a 90% success clip which is unheard of. To me, this affair was the epitome of poor sportsmanship on the part of the winning coach. Maybe he wanted to have his player receive national exposure- which she did- but it should never be at the expense of a non-competitive team. The most damaging statistic, in my opinion, is that the other players on Murry Bergtraum were outscored by Brandeis. There is no defense for that and you didn't have to see the game, which I did not, to be disgusted.

This week in class, we talked about cheating. I tell my students that if I catch them being dishonest on anything graded, it brings into question every other grade they have. I take the position that they always cheated but I only caught them one time. I don't expect them to understand and I know I overstate the point but I stress the importance of their scores having validity. Jesus said if we can be trusted in little things, we can be trusted in major ones. A quiz score is a small but if you are honest in grading your own paper, you can be trusted on more substantial matters. There was no dishonesty in the record setting game and I hope the young lady has a wonderful career wherever her ability takes her. But to me, her national record does not have what I want my students grades to reflect- validity.

Applicable quote of the day:
"One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it."
Knute Rockne

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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