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Rick Reilly Is A Walking Amber Alert

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And he's protecting your kids.

Particularly the 17 year olds that are healthy, tall, and bad at sports.

I stumbled across this Rick Reilly article on Inside Texas and I think it calls for discussion on a number of issues centered around fair play, basic consideration of others, competition, and our society's increasingly bizarre fixation with preventing youth from experiencing adversity and ensuring outcomes in a world that guarantees none.

First, I have to confess that I'm not a big fan of Rick Reilly and that may be coloring my view on this matter. He can be funny, but his decade-long shtick as self-appointed Defender Of The Downtrodden is annoying. This is the lowest form of writing and formulae. Reilly conjures a villain, presents a pitiful victim, rails about injustice, and then wraps it up in less than 1,000 words with several bad plays on words. Neat, tidy, apply bow.

He also loves to talk tough. Which is amusing if you've ever seen Rick Reilly. Mike Lupica and Mitch Albom are slightly less intimidating.

Reilly's scolding lectures are the writing equivalent of a lay-up. Though apparently Reilly is opposed to that lay-up if the opponent is weak. Better to bounce it off of the front iron as a sign of respect.

At first blush, the article makes plenty of sense. Yates is beating people badly. That in and of itself must be an absolute wrong. The delicate psyches of seventeen year old males are being irreparably harmed...


Here's the rub: Houston Yates is the #1 rated team in the country largely because of their frenetic, fast-break system and the incredible conditioning and mental toughness it engenders. They're not the most talented team in the country. Let's be clear about that. They just play the hardest and with total selflessness. They have great depth, a fantastic commitment to an exhausting system, and the total belief of their players. They press all game, without fail, and fast break on every possession. That's their system, that's what Wise preaches, and that's what every player on their roster - from scrub to superstar - is expected to execute. The traits I just described above are character-building. Or character-revealing, depending on your slant. But Reilly only ponders the mental constitution of the loser.

Is Wise deserving of Reilly's bile?

Gerry Hamilton chimed in with something interesting on the IT thread. These are the season records and some scores of two of HY's more famous opponent blow-outs:

Lee 3-22

FB Bush 119-46
Kempner 79-34
Westbury Christian 79-32
Sharpstown 110-43
Reagan 100-40
Sharpstown 96-46

Houston Davis 0-24

Sterling 110-40
Worthing 100-34
Dulles 112-46
Langham Creek 104-31
Second Baptist 84-23
Sharpstown 104-36
Reagan 120-39
Sharpstown 93-25
Reagan 107-51
Westbury 93-39

Are of all the coaches at the high schools above deserving of suspensions, as Reilly recommends for Wise? Houston Reagan beat Davis by 81. Langham Creek won by 73. And so on. Clearly, you have some basketball teams in Houston that are horrendously bad and that inequity is spitting out some wide margins. If they're getting blown out by 50+ in every game by average high school teams, what result are you looking for when they play the nation's best?

What the above represents is inequality. That little thing that plagues life in which some people are better at some things than others. None of us like it very much when inequality is imposed from a outside agent, however we've devolved into the politically correct idiot's notion that any inequality, in and of itself, is wrong. Possibly evil. This is a bad idea and the root of much societal buffoonery.

My guess is that Houston Davis has some kids that would probably pants Yates in a spelling bee, amateur boxing, or an AP History exam. Yates is actually rather famous for losing baseball games in Houston to the tune of 42-1 and 31-0.

The question remains: does Yates have to run it up?

No, they don't.

In fact, gratuitously running up the score at the high school level is bad sportsmanship and sends a negative message all around, though if it reduces your son or daughter to a blubbering heap that tells me a bit more about you than it does the principle involved. It's not clear that Yates is running it up on everyone. Though the time-outs and intentional fouling accusations to get to 100, if true, are troubling.

In several blowouts, Yates played the last five men on their bench for most of the game. In several games, their starters had on sweats before halftime. Yates did, however, continue to run their system. A system which, by its nature, amplifies unequal talent distribution with ball pressure and easy scores. With 3rd teamers. Are they to blame for having players buried deep on their bench that would have started at a crosstown rival?

Conversely, is it useful to tell a 3rd teamer not to play hard when he gets his ten minutes in front of his parents and friends? Do only the starters get to run the system that the team relentlessly drills and practices every day?

This gets into territory that isn't so neatly defined by Reilly's indignant outrage. Just as there is a message to be sent about class, fair play, and consideration when one opponent clearly outmatches another, every player should also give it their best, play hard, and never quit. In my view, when the dominant team puts in their reserves at an appropriate time, they've fulfilled their obligation to fair play. But what if that still yields an ugly result?

If your scrubs are really laying it to someone, what's the recommended basketball protocol? Tell them to run the full clock and then turn it over on purpose? Allow opponent lay-ups? Play with three men? If you get a breakaway, do you lay the ball down on the opposing free throw line and walk off? At a certain point, artificial kindness morphs into contempt and disrespect. I would much rather be blown out than be condescended to and pitied. Your opponent owes you his best effort. When you've cried uncle, the reserves owe you their best effort. When you cry uncle again, the 3rd teamers and ballboys owe you their best effort.

And if you still can't compete, you need to look at yourself rather than whine about the cruel, unfair world. Why is it your inner-city public school is so deficient when another is so strong? Maybe you shouldn't be playing basketball at all. Maybe you need a new coach. Maybe you shouldn't have four starters benched because of No-Pass, No-Play.


How about this?

Yates could throw the game to build Davis esteem. Just have all of their players stand there.

Yates would still go to the playoffs and achieve their ambition of a state title.

Houston Davis should have a huge celebration after the forfeit. Confetti could pour from the rafters, chants of We're #1 should reverberate through the gym, the players should take a whooping, celebratory sweatless shower as they plan the evening after-party. Now they're 1-23. They can walk with their heads held high.