hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


January 30, 2014

Sport debacles leave me empty


I once covered a prep school football game where it was 45-0 at the half. Much as the losing team tried, it was no match for a more superior squad. The winning coach benched his regulars and instructed his reserves to show some leniency.

He didn’t tell them not to score, but demonstrate humility and honor in the best interests of the sport.

After losing by eight touchdowns, a coach I know refused to shake his opponent’s hand at mid-field following the defeat, except to say some parting words.

“Someday the shoe will be on the other foot,” he grumbled.

Several years later, the coach retaliated with a cast of veterans and intentionally ran up the score much as his adversary did. There was no love lost between the two.

I’ve always held Dan Marino in high esteem as an NFL quarterback and had to feel just a little remorseful when his Dolphins were crushed by the Jaguars, 62-7, in the play-offs to end his career. I would not have liked to see my career end on such a dour note.

I fail to see any redeeming factor in a score that’s literally off the charts such as those of the UConn women in basketball. How do you get your team motivated against a powerhouse that could probably hold its own in the professional ranks?

“Sometimes it’s better to have played and lost than to not have played at all,” I heard a coach once remark in an after-dinner speech. The team he was addressing hadn’t won a football game in three years, having lost 33 games in a row.

He may as well have been preaching inside a vacuum because the players in that room felt demoralized and empty. Nobody likes to lose, unless you’re a born pessimist. The worst thing about being so defeated is the public sympathy that goes with it.

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