Monday, January 26, 2009

Only in America

Meet Micah Grimes. Until recently, Mr. Grimes was the head girls' basketball coach at The Covenant School, a small Christian academy in Dallas. Coach Grimes was reportedly fired Sunday, after refusing to apologize for his team's 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy.

More details from KTVT, the local CBS affiliate:

Kyle Queal, the headmaster for Covenant School, said in The Dallas Morning News online edition that he could not answer if the firing was a direct result of Grimes' e-mail disagreeing with administrators who called the blowout "shameful."

Queal did not immediately answer phone messages or e-mail from CBS 11 or The Associated Press.

On its Web site last week, Covenant, a private Christian school, posted a statement regretting the outcome of its Jan. 13 shutout win over Dallas Academy.

"It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition," said the statement, signed by Queal and board chair Todd Doshier.

In various media accounts, Covenant has been lambasted for running up the score on Dallas Academy, a private school that specializes in students struggling with "learning differences" such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. For what it's worth, the Dallas Academy girl's team hasn't won a basketball game in the past four seasons.

In their on-line response to school officials, Coach Grimes and his players offer a different perspective on the game. Turns out that Covenant isn't exactly an "elite" program (as described by the media) that kept draining three-pointers on the hapless Dallas Academy squad, in an effort to run up the score:

The Team. We are hardly the “elite basketball powerhouse” that we are described as in the National and local media. Up until 3 years ago, we rarely had a winning season. In fact, during my first year at Covenant four years ago, we experienced one of our worst seasons - a losing record of only 2 wins and 19 losses that sunk to an 82-6 low in a game that forever changed us and how we approached the game of basketball. Two years later we made the first Final Four appearance in the school’s history. Like Dallas Academy, Covenant is a small Christian school, which is why we are in the same district. We don’t have a home gym so we rent out facilities or gym space in the community so we can practice, and then watch game film at the home of one of the players. We’ve never had a full roster. Only about 30 high school girls attend Covenant and only 8 of those girls play basketball. During many of the games this year, we played with 6 girls, and sometimes only 5. When players fouled out, we’ve had to finish the game with 4. But we always finished the game.

The Game. The game started like any other high school basketball game across the nation. The teams warm-up, coaches talk, the ball is tipped, and then the play begins. We started the game off with a full-court press. After 3 minutes into play, we had already reached a 25-0 lead. Like any rational thinking coach would do, I immediately stopped the full-court press, dropped into a 2-3 zone defense, and started subbing in my 3 bench players. This strategy continued for the rest of the game and allowed the Dallas Academy players to get the ball up the court for a chance to score. The second half started with a score of 59-0. Seeing that we would win by too wide of a margin, running down the clock was the only logical course of action left. Contrary to the articles, there were only a total of four 3-point baskets made; three in the first quarter, and only one in the third quarter. I continued to sub in bench players, play zone defense, and run the clock for the rest of the game. We played fair and honorably within the rules and in the presence of the parents, coaches, and athletic directors for both Covenant School and Dallas Academy.

We should also note that the blowout didn't become a public issue until Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News picked up the story. Apparently, Mr. Horn didn't have a problem when Covenant was on the losing end of that 82-6 score. But, when the Christian school put up 100 on Dallas Academy--despite constant substitutions and running down the clock--it became a question of "fairness."

Coach Grimes and his players have nothing to apologize for. True, some Covenant fans were still screaming for points late in the fourth quarter, but there's no indication that the players or their coach broke the rules, or deliberately tried to humiliate their opponents.

In case you're wondering, there is no "mercy rule" in the private school league that includes Dallas Academy and Covenant. There is a golden rule that discourages blowouts, by keeping the clock running or allowing the losing team to simply throw in the towel. To their credit, Dallas Academy decided to keep playing, despite the lopsided score.

From our perspective, the only "shameful" behavior in this matter has been demonstrated by Covenant administrators and the Morning News. Since the one-sided game became a national story, school leaders have actually tried to forfeit their victory and issued that feckless public statement. Somewhere, Vince Lombardi is spinning in his grave.

As for the News, you'd think they could find better use for their shrinking pages. But that 100-0 victory was simply too good to pass up, despite the fact that blowout wins are not uncommon in prep basketball--a fact the paper readily acknowledges.

Unfortunately, the Covenant girls' basketball team has become an unwitting victim of its own success. In a culture obsessed with "feelings" and "participation," matters like winning an losing become trivial. That may be fine in tee ball, but at some point, kids must learn that life doesn't offer trophies to all participants, and being the best at something does matter.

And that's a lesson that is sometimes learned the hard way. Competitive sports is filled with heartbreak and most of us have been on the short end of a score. There's nothing worse than the bus ride home after being crushed by the other team. But that experience is also a powerful motivator, or at least, it used to be.

Instead, the Dallas Academy girls are being hailed as heroes. Mark Cuban, the owner of the local NBA team, has invited them to a game, and there's been a national outpouring of support for the losing team. Meanwhile, the Covenant squad has been vilified as bullies of the hardwood--or worse).

There's something wrong with this picture. Americans have long admired athletes and teams that display grit and determination in defeat--and the young women of Dallas Academy certainly fit in that category. But the ladies of the Covenant School also deserve their due. They played hard and won against an over-matched opponent. It happens in sports. Life is unfair, as John F. Kennedy once observed. That's another long-forgotten lesson worth remembering.

As for Coach Grimes, he won't be out of work very long. A coach who can transform a 2-19 team into a state title contender will find plenty of schools that aren't ashamed of winning, even by out sized margins.


daskro said...

Perhaps there is another life lesson, proportionality and its consequences in neglecting to act in accordance with it. It's easy to use a sports analogy to convey the life lessons in regards to fairness and justice, but it's obvious this coach did not understand the politics of his actions. One does not simply blow out another team without the consideration of its impact. Like any action, especially in regards to one that matches foes against each other, the tactical choices for short term gain can create long term issues if not thought out well enough. Clearly this coach is a simple man with foresight limited only to the end of the season.

OmegaPaladin said...

I think the question is about sportsmanship. You don't keep your starters in with that kind of a lead - send in the second string or even third string players. It actually makes the game more entertaining to watch, and also reduces the risk of star players being injured.

davod said...

Dakro amd Omegapaladin:

Did you take the time to read the coach and teams letter.

Mrs. Davis said...

Some more facts. Dallas Academy's record thus far includes:

Yavneh 6-55 L
Waxahachie 4-66 L
Breckenridge 44-37 (Bowie Tourney)
Fairhill 7-49 L

This guy was brought in to turn the program around. Clearly he's done so.

And it might help if some re-read the paragraph titled The Game. It was 25-0 in 3 minutes. 8 points per minute. If there's a 20 minute half, that's 34 points in the next 17 minutes, 2 points per minute and 41 points in the second half, 2 points per minute. What do you want him to do, send over two players to suit up for the other team? Tell his kids not to play defence?

It seems to me the ones with the proportionality problem are the board and administration who fired the guy. Maybe you make him and the team that scored all those points go to the the Academy and host a pizza party for the other team and apologize. But firing? Must be some former Duke faculty member on the staff. I suspect they'll have a harder time hiring a replacement than the coach will finding a new position.

And I'd take Dallas Academy off my schedule in every sport.

egghead said...

All I can say is--maybe it is the reporter that should have been fired--Sounds like he had an agenda and only printed the truths that fit the agenda

Your coach is a smart man--if he had agreed to the letter of apology he would have forever been lableled as a bad sport (the kiss of death for coaches)--

I respect his integrity and wish him well

JB said...

Don't forget to factor in the point guard who repeatedly stole the ball at the top of the key and raced down for uncontested layups. She scored 48 points, and played most of the game. No, they shouldn't have let the losers score, but they ran it up, plain and simple.

Sassenach said...

I cannot help but suspect that some of this is driven by the fact that this was a girl's game -- girls are, according to stereotype, supposed to "play nice" and be concerned about hurt feelings.

I live in a town where our high school football team routinely beats the opposing team by significant margins. The coaches use the same tactics as Coach Grimes once it's clear the game is one-sided -- sending in the second and third strings, even the freshmen on occasion, and running plays designed to run the clock out. Sometimes even these tactics don't appreciably slow the score. Fortunately, a mercy rule kicks in after the half and the clock runs down; it's uncomfortable to watch another team get decimated.

Interestingly, it isn't the girls themselves that are griping about the game -- it's the adults, working within a framework that is much more concerned about equality of outcome than setting conditions wherein each may seek her personal best.

What's more -- is the news that slow, is nothing happening in D.C., or the Gaza, or Iran that is more important than the endless pontificating about this on the cable news shows?

Ymarsakar said...

Simply a side effect of the demoralization Yuri Bezmenov warned us all about.