(I've edited the original post, correcting the number of students at the school and adding a comment from the Dallas Academy coach at the end. He sounds like exactly the kind of coach I want working with my kids)
First things first. I'm well aware that I'm likely to get some grief in some circles for this post. It will be seen as "criticizing fellow Christians" which for some folks is an absolute taboo. I've never understood that since there's Biblical foundation for correcting one another. It seems to me that proponents of this "don't criticize" idea fear that it will make the church universal look weak. In fact fair and open correction of one another makes us strong.
Given my love of sports and young people this story just leapt out at me. You may have heard about the girls high school basketball game between Dallas Academy and The Covenant School (also from Dallas). Covenant School is a Christian academy that has built up its basketball program over the last four years to be an area powerhouse. Dallas Academy is a school that works with youth with learning disabilities and hasn't won a game in four years. It was a mismatch from the start and both sides surely knew who was going to win AND that the score would be lopsided. Why would Dallas Academy schedule such a team? I can only guess but I assume that Dallas Academy (which is small, about 140 students, only 20 of them girls and 8 of them on the basketball team) has limited options and plays teams in the vicinity. Plus you can learn by playing more skilled teams.
My problem is with the conduct of the other (Christian) team. According to some reports they maintained a press defense (if you're not into basketball that's an aggressive defense designed to cause mistakes and turnovers. It can be very effective against a good team. It is devastating against a bad one)until they had scored 100 points. The Covenant coach maintains that they dropped the full court press for a simpler defense once the score reached 29-0. Other reports claim that Covenant continued shooting 3 point shots well into the fourth quarter as well. Dallas Academy estimates they took a grand total of seven shots total in the entire game. The Covenant coach (now ex-coach. He was fired after publicly disagreeing with the school board on the game)says his team scoring by quarter was 35, 29, 24, 12. This would seem to support the idea that his team didn't back off till they hit the magic number.
Let's be fair. Games like these are excruciating for everyone involved. The winning team hates them, the losing team hates, all true fans of the sport hate them. There are ways to gracefully play the game without dishonoring the game or your opponent. 5 touch rules - no one on the better team can take a shot till everyone on the team has been passed the ball. This gives the other team more chances to steal the ball and get in play. Defense begins at mid court. Let the other team get that far before you defend. These are rules to be used only in the most extreme cases but they at least offer the other team a chance to play the game and learn.
Our faith should never take the back seat to winning. The Covenant Academy knew they could win this game at any point. They had the chance to reach out to the other team and offer themselves up as a learning moment. But it turns out the game was more important. And that's sad.
Kudos to The Covenant Academy for recognizing this and apologizing. They've also offered to forfeit that game in the standings. The school has shown itself to be a class act. The coach who defended the score has been fired. Between his coaching behavior and ill advised public disagreement with his bosses he brought that on himself.
Kudos as well to Dallas Academy Athletic Director Jeremy Civello:
"Civello told his girls the life lesson they could take from their loss: "I told them someday they will be on top in a similar situation and they should remember how they felt when some people were cheering for a team to score a hundred points and shut us out. Hopefully, my girls all learned a lesson in sportsmanship that will last them a lifetime." Dallas Morning News, 1/23/09