Friday, January 23, 2009

Interesting News from Dallas

Click here to read the story of The Covenant School's high school girls' basketball team defeating Dallas Academy in a conference game last week by the score of 100–0. After a public outcry, Covenant has asked to forfeit the game and has issued an apology for winning by so much.

Two developments in this story make me care about it:

  1. The Covenant School has issued a statement (click on their link above) apologizing for their victory, and in doing so they have made the statement that the skunking "clearly does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition." I'm just wondering, can anyone give me the chapter and verse where Jesus tells us the maximum margin by which one can appropriately win a basketball game? I'm playing forty-two with some folks from the church tomorrow night, and I would like to study up on those Christian scriptures dealing with recreational competition so I can be careful about the way that I play.

    And along with the relevant passages of scripture, can someone articulate for me what the actual ethics are here that are derived from these rules? What, precisely, WOULD Jesus do? Would He base His actions entirely on how the other team might feel? The SMU Mustangs looked pretty despondent when they lost by a mere three points scored by Marshall via a 75-foot "Hail Mary" shot at the buzzer. Would Jesus lose every game on purpose? If not, why not?

    What would Jesus do? I'll opine that Jesus would question why we take recreational games so seriously in a world simply chock full to the brim of life-and-death problems. Perhaps we ought to refrain from cheapening what Jesus actually did do and say, which we inevitably do by putting our words into His mouth about things that matter to us much more than they do to Him.

  2. Mark Cuban has reportedly invited the skunked Dallas Academy team to watch a Mavericks game in his suite. I'm wondering, rather than inviting them to the American Airlines Center to watch, say, Golden State, wouldn't it be more fitting for Cuban to take the girls from Dallas Academy on the road to watch the Mavericks take what is coming to them from the Orlando Magic? ;-)


Andrew said...

I see that your wit has not dulled during your hiatus! Hope that the emotional recovery is going well....

Anonymous said...


Dave Miller said...

As a long-time Christian school basketball coach (and one who has embarrassed himself on the court too many times by hyper-competitive spirit) I would make a couple of observations.

1) Jesus probably would confront the hypercompetitive nature of our sports, which has become almost idolatrous.

2) No one can cite chapter and verse to answer your question about the limit. However, there is a fairly common (though unwritten) code of ethics among coaches. It is okay to beat your opponent. It is okay to beat your opponent badly. But, when you have clearly beaten your opponent badly, you "call off the dogs." that would include putting in your subs, calling off full-court or any other unusual pressure.

The violation here was, from the story, the fact that the coach kept the pressure defense on well into the fourth quarter with an obscene lead.

3) What would Jesus do? He probably would never coach a basketball team. But, if he did, I assume he would exhibit sportsmanship and concern for the other team.

I do not think a forfeit is in order, but the winning coach in this game needs a lesson in sportsmanship. Pressure defense when you are up by 70? He (she?) should, in fact, be ashamed. Possibly relieved of his duties.

A Christian coach strives for excellence, trying to motivate his team to do the best they can. But he should never let somethign like the goal of winning 100-0 cloud his thinking to the point where he embarrasses and humiliates the other team.

The Covenant school coach showed poor judgment in the game, and the administratiioin has shown poor judgment in the response.

Bart Barber said...

Dave Miller,

Well said. Here's my opinion on the matter:

1. Games are recreational. We err when we take them as anything more than that.

2. If games had meaning beyond recreation, it would be a noble thing to lose every game deliberately. That course of action is not noble precisely because the right thing to do in a recreational activity is to have fun all around. Playing to lose every game is precisely the counterproductive thing to do. In such a situation, the game is no longer fun. I have a sister-in-law who, when she tires of playing hearts, deliberately loses in order to be able to quit. We don't thank her for her magnanimity in allowing the rest of us to win; we bemoan the damper that such action puts on the fun of the game. Athletic competition should be pursued "for the love of the game."

2. There certainly are customs associated with games. Some of these attain the status of being rules. Others are uncodified customs. There is no "Christ-like" or the opposite thereof in these customs, because there is no morality or lack thereof inherently in these customs. In other words, the Covenant coach may have breached protocol, but he has not, as far as we can tell from the story, sinned. Had the statement restricted itself to the observation that such behavior is contrary to the time-honored traditions of basketball, then I would not have said anything. My concern is the theological underpinnings here, or to be more specific, the utter lack of them in bringing Christ's judgment down upon coach and team in this situation.

3. The phrase "as far as we can tell from the story" is important. If the coach did what he did because he is covetous, was taking revenge for the outcome of an earlier game, was deliberately denigrating the Dallas Academy team, etc., then any of those things are truly sins. But speculation is required to get there. And the school's statement seems to put the offense in the score itself.

4. Amen and amen about the idolatrous nature of athletics today.

Joe White... said...

Sounds like this coach trained at the Cobra Kai dojo...

"We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, in the streets, in competition. A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy."

"Prepare! What do we study here?
Cobra Kai: The way of the fist, sir! And what is that way? Cobra Kai: Strike first, strike hard, no mercy, sir! I can't hear you! Cobra Kai: Strike first, strike hard, no mercy, sir!"

"Sweep the leg. (referring to Daniel's injured leg) Johnny stares at him in shock] John Kreese: Do you have a problem with that? No, Sensei. John Kreese: No mercy."

Dave Miller said...

"There is no "Christ-like" or the opposite thereof in these customs, because there is no morality or lack thereof inherently in these customs. In other words, the Covenant coach may have breached protocol, but he has not, as far as we can tell from the story, sinned."

At the risk of picking the bones of this story, permit me to quibble with your statement above (just a little).

The "unspoken code" of coaches has some grounding in the biblical principle of giving honor and regard to others. "Do unto others..." is at the root of it.

I have been on both ends of blow-outs. It is not fun to take a pasting by another team.

The Christian ideal would say that when my team is vastly superior, I treat the other coach as I would want to be treated if his team was whipping mine.

I think we have sort of the same perspective on this. My only quibble is that I think there may be some "chapter and verse" to support the ideas behind sportsmanship.

I would guess that if the Covenant coach was on the other end of such a beating, he might remember the 100-0 score and realize he did not "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Bart Barber said...


An interesting twist upon things!

I think that it changes things when the "recreational sport" involves actual physical violence against one's opponent's person. "Mercy" does rightly apply to the decision whether to sweep someone's injured leg. I'm just not convinced that it applies equally (or even at all) to how many hotels you indulge yourself in purchasing on the Monopoly board (or, commensurately, how many points you accumulate in a basketball game).

Bart Barber said...

Dave Miller,

(Quibbling back)

But you have stated that "it is okay to beat your opponent badly." Being beaten badly makes me feel bad. As someone stated in the Dallas Morning News comment thread, the putting in of the fourth-string players can be perceived as just as much of an insult, and can feel pretty rotten to the loser.

"Do unto others…"? Then let's swap players around until we have evenly matched teams. Because what I'd like most is to have a competitive game that's fun and thrilling for everyone involved.

Joe White... said...


Not even if the coach and school you are playing, "hasn't won a game in his four years" and "is known for its work with students who have learning problems".

Dave Miller said...

I am making my comments based on the reality of competitive sports. Your comment is more theoretical and gets to the very nature of competitive sports - should we even have them?

I think a very interesting debate could flow from the following proposition.

Resolved: Competitive sports are inherently un-Christlike.

Probably not a good idea during Super Bowl build-up.

Bart Barber said...


As to your first quote about the Dallas Academy coach's record, clearly it is unChristlike to win at all against a man in such a predicament. The only Christlike option is to lose deliberately.

As to the second quote, given the status of the athletic programs at Harvard, Yale, Brown, MIT, Rice, Baylor, and SMU, I'm going to have to ask you to substantiate what seems to be the underlying presumption that the most intellectual among us need to cut some slack on the athletic fields toward those who struggle academically. ;-)

Dave Miller said...

By the way, Joe, your Karate Kid comments were brilliant.

Bart Barber said...


I couldn't argue in favor of your proposition. I think that competitive sports are fine so long as they are nothing more than recreational activities. Those competitive recreational activities are more enjoyable when they feature evenly-matched teams.

I can think of one exception, and it is an important one to prove my point: The treatment of the Washington Generals at the hands of the Harlem Globetrotters. Nobody attacks Meadowlark Lemon for running up the score against the Generals. That's because, for this particular game, the entertainment value lies in the Generals' getting drubbed each and every time.

Thus, at a Globetrotters–Generals game, nobody is invested in the recreational activity as any sort of a measure of which community is better, which school is better, which coach is better, which players are better. The game is not made into a measure of self-worth or job performance or community rivalry. It is just a game, and it is fun to play or to watch, regardless of the score.

Just a game.

Joe White... said...


The problem in this case is not the victory or the defeat, but rather it is the "manner" of the victory and defeat. In my opinion, it is perfectly fine to be competitive, to desire victory, even to win in a blow out... but 100 to zero?! Seriously; holding the team to zero points is one thing, but scoring a 100? Did he earn some extra BCS points by winning in this fashion?

"John Kreese: Bobby, I want him out of commission.
Bobby: But, Sensei, I can beat this guy.
John Kreese: I don't want him beaten.
Bobby: But I'll be disqualified.
John Kreese: Out of commission!"

Bart Barber said...


My point in my last remark is a simple one: A Covenant victory of 100-85 would still leave this coach with no victories in his entire tenure at the school. The fact that he has had no victories in his tenure there is, therefore, irrelevant unless you wish to argue that the folks at Covenant should have deliberately lost the game.

Dave Miller said...

I am a huge sports nut, and I think a case could be made.

Think of Galatians 5:19. It lists the works of the flesh. Among them are, "enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy." Pretty much describes sports.

On the other side are the fruit of the Spirit. How can one exhibit the fruit of the Spirit while participating in competitive sports?

"By their fruit you will know them." Does sports produce fruit unto godliness?

I still believe you can participate in sports as a believer, I'm just saying I think an argument from the contrary could be constructed from scripture.

R. L. Vaughn said...

"What would Jesus do? I'll opine that Jesus would question why we take recreational games so seriously in a world simply chock full to the brim of life-and-death problems."


Anonymous said...

Never thought I'd see the day when a Baptist pastor was caught playing forty-two! What is this world coming to?
David R. Brumbelow

volfan007 said...

Clearly, the Coach should have called off the dogs. But, if he quit playing pressure defense, and if he had in the 3rd string; then he did everything he could to be a good sport. If he was playing pressure D with his first string in the game with a 75 point lead, then he should be ashamed of himself.

Now, they should count the game. The game was played. Maybe a simple apology would have been in order, but to forfeit the game? Naaa.

But, if that coach had called off the dogs, and the 3rd string was whipping this team; then there's nothing to be ashamed about. Those 3rd stringers work hard in practice, and they want to play hard and score points too.

Anyway, I agree with Bart that there was no sin here, and the community is overreacting. It was a basketball game.


PS. Bart, I hope you won your game. Did you dunk it?

Anonymous said...

The Covenant coach was fired over the weekend - good riddance.

I also coach a bit, and will agree with Dave - you can get creamed and feel that the other team played with good sportsmanship. This was not the case in the Dallas Academy v Covenant game.

Once covenant was up by 20 they should have fallen back into a soft zone and played subs (reportedly they did play the subs quite a bit)

If Covenant continued to score, and I'm sure they would have, there would have been no shame on the part of the Covenant team, but to continue to press demonstrated very poor sportmanship.

Were I the Dallas Academy coach, I would have talked to the Covenant coach at half time. If he did not call off the dogs, I would have called a timeout and discussed the situation (in not so nice a tone I'm afraid), if he continued, I would have pulled my team from the floor and written a not so nice letter to the headmaster of Covenant as well as TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools)

My kids played private school sports in the DFW area - there were always teams that somehow had kids that were fantastic in their particular sports. The difference in how those teams played always came back to the coaches. Some of those coaches seemingly were concerned with their BCS rankings, it was always a struggle to maintain a Christian attitude when playing those teams. Other coaches, also stressed winning, and were able to accomplish that goal with grace.

For an example of Grace in coaching read this article from the FT Worth Startlegram on a 2007 football game between Grapevine Faith Christian and the Gainsville State School - a reform school for kids convicted of violent crimes

Jim Champion

Bart Barber said...

Here's statement from Covenant coach Micah Grimes in which he unequivocally states that he DID take off the pressure early in the game, putting in subs and ending the full-court press.

I take no position on the matter, other than to state clearly that (a) some of you have rushed to judgment based upon second-hand (at best) evidence and without hearing his side of the story, and (b) the Bible has absolutely nothing to say about how many points is too many by which to win a GAME. It's a GAME, people.

Anonymous said...


That is Grime's statement and that is what got him fired. I have read reports that said that they were continuing to press in the second half. We will probably not know the answer until and if Covenant releases the video they took of the game.

Once again - I would have pulled my team into a soft zone, I would have instructed them to shoot no layups, and no threes. I would have run time off the clock - and probably would have talked to the opposing coach about running the clock - even during timeouts, free throws and out of bounds to end the game quickly.

Evidently scoring 100 was important to the coach and his team.

Did you read the Faith Christian v Gainsville state school story - that is a story of true sportsmanship, it brought tears to my eyes as I read it


Anonymous said...

By the way - Norm Hitzges just had the coach of Grapevine Faith on his Ticket radio show. The NFL, after they got word (Troy Aikman is rumored to have told the NFL the story) brought the Faith coach to the game.

What a great example of a Christian school doing the right thing.

One story the coach related, after the game, the Faith players meet in the middle of the field to pray. The faith team had one of their junior Lion's (a first or second grader)pray first - then the Faith coach was going to pray. The coach of the Gainsville state school asked if his QB could pray as well - evidently there was not a dry eye on either team.