Colin Dunlap: Toughen Up, Seriously
Bullying is a real problem.
Know what’s worse? Crying wolf about it.
Take for example what happened at a Texas high school football game this past week, as a team beat another team, 91-0.
Big margin? Yes.
Bullying? Not a chance.
That’s not how one parent saw it, however. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as the winning coach of Aledo High School constructed the victory while using his starters for just 21 snaps and threw the football only 10 times, he was also met by a bullying complaint lodged by a parent of the losing team, Western Hills.
According to the Star-Telegram: Under Texas state law, school districts must provide a bullying complaint report form on their websites. Aledo’s principal is required to investigate the allegations to determine whether bullying occurred and prepare a written report on the matter.
Tim Buchanan, the coach of the winning team, told the newspaper he has the support of the Aledo administration. He also didn’t dismiss the serious nature of the complaint.
“I have to address it,” Buchanan told the Star-Telegram. “It’s not something you can laugh off or anything like that. What they said was that I should’ve told my players to ease up and not play so hard.”
The Aledo district did an investigation and found no grounds for bullying.
Here’s what I say: Aledo should have told Western Hills where to shove that bullying complaint.
Again, bullying is a real problem in society and should not be taken lightly when it, indeed, occurs.
This, however, is a case of a parent being a whiner to a despicable degree.
Sometimes in life, you can extract the most positive motivation from coming up short. That is to say, there might not be a better way to have an inspiration to get better than to get knocked out.
At least that’s how I have always looked at it. That is, also, how the losing team in this instance should have looked at it.
Once sports reaches a point beyond the recreational level (and make no mistake, high school football is beyond that) it isn’t at the core about fun anymore; rather it is largely about wins and losses.
That’s why they have a scoreboard, that’s why they have playoffs, that’s why coaches get paid.
It is just how it is.
But our society — with sports being a microcosm — has become, too often, one that makes so much of a damn attempt to cater to the underachiever while forcing the one who achieved at a higher level to dial it down.
Take for example, during the “mercy rule” employed in PIAA and WPIAL football games. Under rule, the clock runs continuously in the second half of games when a team is ahead by 35 points.
I mean that. Why?
It is so simple to look at it from the vantage point of the team losing, so easy to quickly rattle off that this is a rule all about sportsmanship and one that serves to help kids from having their morale crushed.
This ain’t Tee-Ball.
If you don’t like getting beat, get better.
But, I also challenge you to look at a blowout from another vantage point — from the side of the winning team in such a lopsided game. And, more to the point, from the vantage point of a reserve player on that successful team.
Let’s paint a picture here and say you are a sophomore on that highly-successful team and you spend all week in practice getting your head battered and bruised, getting your facemask bent and rattled by the seniors as you go through reps on the scout team.
Then, on Friday nights, with your team ahead something in the neighborhood of 49-7 in the second half, the coach decides it is time for you to get in there.
Under the glow of those lights.
In front of your parents.
With your smitten girlfriend watching and the P.A. announcer struggling to make sure he pronounces your name correctly because you don’t play all that much.
Then what happens ….
The game is expedited to an unnatural pace; the clock churns and churns and a span of time where 10 plays should be run turns into just two or three being run.
You got short-changed. You worked hard all week and then your experience was abnormally reduced.
And why did this happen? Because your team was so good. That’s right. Your team was, in essence, punished because you were too good and the other team rewarded — by a shortened game — because they were abysmal.
That isn’t the way the world is supposed to work.
By extension, that isn’t the way sports is supposed to work.
What does such a set up teach the kid who worked hard all week on the successful team?
In my estimation, nothing.
He isn’t a bully for being better. He’s simply, well, better.
Live with it.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.