OPINION: A mercy rule would help eliminate embarassing routs

The subhed in Tuesday’s sports section put it this way: “Long night for LH at Sacred Heart.”

This was an understatement. It must have seemed a forever night.

Stretching the definition of a blowout, Sacred Heart Academy Monday night defeated Wallingford’s Lyman Hall High School by 88 points in girls basketball.

Yes — 88. That’s how many keys there are on a piano. If you think there is something wrong with a 92-4 score you are far from alone. The notoriety of so lopsided an outcome sent the tale of that clash in Hamden all over. I recently tracked the story, in a brief and casual internet search, as far as the Miami Herald.

What was also remarkable was the speed with which Sacred Heart responded. Outrage has a way of spurring action, and there had been plenty. The following morning a statement from the school’s president, Sister Sheila O’Neill, said the way the game went “does not align with our values or philosophies.”

Those include “ethical and responsible behavior, leadership and strength of character and respect for one’s opponent.” The statement expressed deep remorse for “the way the outcome of the game was achieved.”

So far so good. But Sacred Heart coach Jason Kirck got a one-game suspension, hardly a slap on the wrist. He did not return a call from the Record-Journal, and if there is another side to the story we haven’t heard it yet.

Those who did talk to the R-J’s Sean Krofssik said a coach does have control over what goes on during a game. “You can sit in the zone,” offered Tom Lipka. Lyman Hall’s coach. “Your man-to-man doesn’t have to come out past the 3-point line. They were still running fast breaks in the fourth quarter on long outlet passes.”

“From an educational perspective, it’s not good,” said Al Carbone, commissioner of the Southern Connecticut Conference. No, it’s not. But what’s to be done about it?

Let’s be clear: Kirck is hardly the first coach to run up the score, and he will be far from the last. It’s just the way it goes. Some people have different ideas about sportsmanship. Some people have different ideas about scholastic sports. Some people have different ideas.

Lipka said his team played hard to the end. He and Steve Baker, Lyman Hall’s athletic director, met with the team the morning after the game to talk about it. “After the game ended, they immediately got in line and shook hands,” Baker observed. “It shows the character they have.”

He also had this to say: “Sometimes people make bad decisions and kids are affected by it. I just wish people would just remember that it’s about the kids.”

But some people can’t seem to remember. Because of that some kind of mercy rule should be implemented for basketball the way it is for other sports when games get out of hand. This way everybody gets to keep playing, and coaches can keep coaching, as hard as they can, at least.

I can’t say I know where you draw the line. The Sharks led 29-0 at the end of the first quarter. Can you come back from that? Sure. They led 56-0 at the half. You could have ended it there, and definitely by the end of the third quarter, when it was 80-0. Far past time to say, nice game, better luck next time.

Next time between the two teams is Jan. 28. If you think there’s going to be a lot of attention focused on that game, so do I.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.


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