THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Embarassing win? Canning the coach the greater shame
A while back, I took an online empathy test, answering questions about animals in pain, people with spinach in their teeth, and the nightly news. Predictably, the results showed that if you need a shoulder to cry on, I'm your girl. But the test neglected one vital area: sports. If sports were included, my results might be very different.
On January 13, Micah Grimes became public enemy number one. Grimes didn't bomb a building nor did he make puppy pancakes. What Grimes did was coach a Dallas school's girls' basketball team to a shutout win, thereby becoming the most vilified person in America.
The game against Dallas Academy wasn't even in the fourth quarter before the Internet lit up with demands for Coach Grimes of Covenant School to be fired.
Grimes is a "jerk," an "overbearing bully," and– according to one blogger– a "punk" who "wanted to scar children."
Evidently trouncing an opponent 100-0 warrants not only a formal apology but also a safe house in Idaho.
Were you ready to light your torch and join the mob calling for Grimes' head? After all, Dallas Academy is a private school for girls with learning disabilities, and a student body of 20 students that hasn't won a game in four years. Also, when Covenant was up 98-0, Grimes put his team into a full-court press, running the defense the length of the court, not just at Dallas' basket.
If you're whipped into a righteous fury, stop sharpening that pike. He was fired on Sunday, January 25.
But the indignation against Grimes is misguided. Charging Covenant and Coach Grimes with lack of sportsmanship is undoubtedly the real travesty.
Let's talk about ethics. Unlike public schools, private schools make their own sports schedules. When Dallas Academy administrators scheduled January 13's game, they knew Covenant was the 2007-2008 regional champion. Dallas chose to thrust eight girls on the court against a basketball powerhouse, though they were not obligated to do so.
And what about those eight girls? The ones with dyslexia? Having been a teacher, I know dyslexia is serious and requires special attention in the classroom. However, it's a learning disorder related to reading and writing and has nothing to do with athletic ability. Claiming dyslexia was a mental or developmental handicap that hindered Dallas on the court is not only irresponsible, it's medically ignorant.
And where does sportsmanship fit into the equation? What is a player's responsibility? When Usain Bolt won the 100 meters at the Olympics last year, no one claimed he was unsportsmanlike for running so fast– quite the opposite. When Bolt slowed down at the finish line, he was immediately labeled a show-boater, deliberately embarrassing the competition by not doing his best.
If an athlete is supposed to give 100 percent all times, isn't anything less unacceptable? Back in 2001, Brett Favre nearly faced league action for intentionally coming up short. Favre compromised football itself by changing a play and taking a dive so his opponent, Michael Strahan, could set the single-season sack record. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Favre's "well-meaning gesture... tainted" and New York Times columnist Mike Freeman called the dive "U-G-L-Y"– despite the fact that it happened during a non-crucial game.
And what is a coach's job? If Grimes couldn't instruct his girls to take a dive, the least he could do was keep them from running up the score, right? When the 2007 Patriots went for a fourth-and-two at the Redskins' 37 while leading 45-0, Bill Belichick ordered a pass rather than a field goal.
"No, I have no problem with anything they did," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said, "nothing, no problems from me."
Bowing to righteous indignation three days before canning the coach, Covenant School issued an apology for giving 100 percent and requested that they be allowed to forfeit the victory.
In a conference with no mercy rule, with a team on a four-year losing streak, in an intentionally scheduled game against a champion opponent, with multiple opportunities to forfeit, Dallas Academy could have stopped the bleeding at any time. Instead, Dallas kept its girls on the court, demanded a pity party, and gleefully watched as Covenant School fired the man who built their basketball program from a 2-19 record his first season to a state championship contender last season.
Tell me what's sportsmanlike about that.