Eric Wormus

There is a commercial I’ve seen lately that kind of bothers me.

This little kid puts a fifth place trophy on the mantle above the fireplace that she presumably won at some karate tournament. The voice over announcer makes some speech saying that kids who eat dinner with their parents have better self-esteem than those who don’t. Then the little girl comes into the kitchen and her parents are beaming, calling her “Mrs. Fifth Place.” Maybe you haven’t seen this one, but every time I see it, it reminds me of how extreme our society has gone to protect “self-esteem.”

The latest case of politically correct, don’t hurt a kid’s feelings, comes from West Texas-probably the last place in the United States you would expect to see this. If you aren’t familiar with the case, a girl’s high school basketball team won a game 100-0. The headmaster of the winning team, Covenant School, was as angry and called the game “shameful.” The head coach disagreed and said his team played with “honor and integrity.” For his dissent, he was fired.

Something like this seems to happen on a yearly basis. Last year, it was Kennedy High School that defeated Evergreen 112-16 in a girl’s basketball game in the Seattle area. First comes the blowout, and then comes the apology.

Yet for some reason the only two sports that get criticized are basketball and football. A basketball team wins 100-0, or a football team wins 90-0, and it becomes a national outcry. But when a tennis match ends 6-0, 6-0 where is the outcry over that? If a golfer is 10 under par after 17 holes, should she just go ahead and triple bogey the next hole to make the opponent feel better? Or what about bowling. If one bowler is a strike away from a perfect game should he just throw it in the gutter so he doesn’t “run up the score”?

Most sane people would find it ridiculous in those contexts. So what’s the difference between golf and football or bowling and basketball? In a word, it’s defense.

I think we perceive a sport like golf differently because there is nothing one golfer can do to another to stop him from playing well. Visually, it looks worse to see a team get a steal when it’s leading 60-0 than it is to see a birdie when one golfer is up 12 strokes.

The one high school sport that is immune to this is baseball. Baseball has a mercy rule, so one team can’t run up the score too much, but that rule has nothing to do with sportsmanship. Unlike all other team sports, there is no time limit in baseball. The mercy rule is more of a time rule than a Good Samaritan rule.

Dallas Academy, the 0 end of the 100-0 score, has about 20 girls enrolled. Everyone in the area knew Covenant was a much, much better team. The game was scheduled anyway. There are 32 minutes in a high school basketball game. When a game is scheduled, a coach must demand that the players play the full 32 minutes, just like a golfer must play the entire 18 holes and a bowler must complete all 10 frames.

A team plays its hardest for those 32 minutes and the score will take care of itself. In this game, when the clock struck zero, one side of the scoreboard had a 100 next to it, and the other had a goose egg. The only thing shameful about the game was the aftermath.

In life, some people are just better at certain things than others. The sooner we stop shielding kids from this reality, the better off we all will be.