Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't Let'em Score A Hundred!

With recent stories about bad behavior and the so-called "decline" of civility in our country today, out comes a story from Florida about a high school football team that beat an opponent by a score of 83-0.   The tone of the story was that it was shameful a coach would allow his team to run up such a high score, thus humiliating the opposing team.  Boo hoo hoo.

During my junior year in high school in Spring, Texas I was the starting center of the varsity team.  I weighed about 135 pounds, we had a 122 pound featherweight quarterback, our coach had a revolutionary ONE PLAY strategy that we were going to run for the entire 1969 season, and our team produced the longest consecutive losing streak in the state of Texas! 

That year we never scored a touchdown.  Not one.  

We lost our first game 7-0 if I remember correctly. After that we had losses of 49-0, 64-0, 56-0, and the mother of all our losses that year:  79-0.  I don't remember the other scores, but it doesn't matter.   I'll never forget half-time in the locker room during that 79-0 game.  Coming in from a driving, steady rain, our coach was literally foaming at the mouth, and the only words he could muster was, "Just DON'T let'em score a hundred!"  Those words came out through his foaming, clinched teeth!  All these years later I can't help but laugh. 

We were so bad, that the number one radio station in Houston at the time (KILT) would talk about us Spring Lions every Friday morning.  "How bad will they get beat this week?!?"  We were so bad that the then losing  Houston Oilers came to one of our Friday pep rallies!  We were (in)famous! We were considered losers.  Thinking back now, I don't believe we were losers:  We were just failures! 

But now 40 years later, some whinny mommies and daddies, and mollycoddling school administrators in Florida are all questioning whether it was sportsman-like for a coach to allow his team to continue scoring.  Boo hoo hoo again.  

At the beginning of our next season in 1970, Coach One Play had been fired, we began the year in a brand new high school with a new stadium and coaching staff, and our first game saw us score the first touchdown in nearly three years!  

We lost 7-6.  

We went on to score more and more touchdowns, we had some very close games, but we still didn't win a game that year, thus increasing the losing streak.  

But from those years of being beaten, and during our last year of rebuilding we learned life lessons.  We were taught by our parents that they could and did support us no matter had badly we played or what the score was.  They still cheered and yelled "Go Green!"  even when the score was 79-0.  We learned to have a sense of humor about our plight, even though we felt humiliated.  We witnessed the profound lack of leadership that fostered our losses, but were uplifted by the inspired humility of our new coach who never chastised us with clinched teeth, but encouraged us to pick up the slack, work harder, concentrate, and strive to work as a team.
He also taught us to appreciate any and every improvement and success even during moments of defeat.  

We learned that even failure has dignity if we did the best we could do with what we had to work with.  We were taught to never give up!  All that ultimately instilled in us a sense of decency and respect for self and others.  

That's what isn't being taught anymore.  A couple of generations of kids have been told that winning is bad and hurts the feelings of those who might not be as accomplished as you.  As a result, those who aren't as accomplished, don't get an opportunity to look at their failures "subjectively" and make objective decisions that facilitate success (winning).  

All the whining about how winners make others look bad will never inspire effort, learning, critical thinking skills, strategy, or creativity.  The mollycoddling that punctuates how we interact with each other these days will continue to stifle and squelch innovation and productivity, for both individuals and society.  It will encourage, at best, mediocrity, and even worse, an overall lack of civility because no one will have a real measure or benchmark of success and how to achieve it.  

The writer of the Florida story, Dallas Jackson of, posits this question:  "...when is enough, enough?"  The answer is this:  When they score 50.  Or 79.  Or 83.  Or 100.  To nothing!

Let'em score 200 hundred if they can, and let the losers (failures) learn as many lessons about hard work, persistence, teamwork, leadership, a sense of humor,  and humility as the score can teach. 

Rick B. Baker 
Rochester, NY 
©2009 by R. Burnett Baker