The final score was 61-13 as the boys of fall in Nassau County, NY, left it all on the field. Two undefeated teams heading toward playoffs, the Plainedge High Red Devils and the Cyclones of South Side High School, met on the grid to battle for division leader.
Then a fourth-quarter touchdown by the Red Devils violated a Nassau County sportsmanship rule designed to prevent dominant football teams from embarrassing lesser programs and sent coach Ron Shaver into a one-game suspension.
According to Nassau’s “Section 8 Lopsided Score Committee,” you can win – but not by more than 42 points. That seems like a ridiculous, arbitrary number for an equally ridiculous policy geared to satisfy the participation-trophy crowd.
Plainedge Public School Superintendent Edward Salina responded to the committee by slamming the policy and the call to “discipline” his coach – for winning. Salina issued a scathing rant on paper, leaving no doubt about his lack of respect for the decision:
“I can state for the record that their rule is not working. I am all for treating everyone justly, but it is my opinion that Coach Shaver was ‘done wrong’ by this group of self-professed experts on sportsmanship. What are you teaching children by saying play fairly but now you are playing too well, don’t play anymore for the rest of the game. Where’s the life lessons? Who appointed these people to run this kangaroo court, being the judge, jury, and executioners? I have knowledge that there are cases in Nassau County where the score was over 42 and this group took little or no action.”
It was an epic rant. And completely on point. Heck, even the opposing coach, Phil Onesto, agreed and spoke on the record – defending Shaver. “I had spoken to coach Shaver, I told him I had no issues.”
It’s simply another notch on the belt in the sissifying of America.
Inclusion is a tough word for true athletes attempting to fund higher education through scholarship or perhaps even make it to a professional league. Numbing the drive to win isn’t helping anyone. There was once a time, way back in the dark ages, when kids had “tryouts” to be accepted onto a sports team. Students without the talent to survive two-a-day preseason training were weeded out long before the first battle on the field. Cheer squads, baseball, track, football, even choir: All have a baseline threshold to be met. And not meeting that baseline keeps kids out of the injury zone. Not everyone should don a sports uniform, and the simplest definition of sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.”
There’s no room for participants who can’t pass the rigorous athletic requirements, and it is not safe for them to suit up against a stronger, more athletic team. It’s especially dangerous in football. There is a reason for conditioning. That’s why teams have managers. That’s why teams have marching bands, pep clubs, and drill teams – so interested people can be a part of the team process. What’s the point of having 40 cheerleaders on the sidelines who can’t run, jump, do the splits, or even a cartwheel?
It’s also why you leave your best athletes in the game against an undefeated team – to claim a big win and be the best that day on the field, no matter how many points you rack up.
Coach Shaver’s suspension kept him away from his team on its last preseason game against the Lynbrook Owls. By the third quarter, the Red Devils had amassed a 36-0 lead, and then they simply were forced to perform exactly what the silly “lopsided Rules Committee” demanded. They stopped playing their best. Faced with losing another coach, they began a humiliating strategy of punting on first down, taking a knee in the end zone. Humiliating for both the Owls, as they did not work for or earn any respect from fans in the stands, and the Red Devils, who were forced to make a mockery of the game.
Coach Shaver handled the absurd one-game suspension with grace but did get his sentiments out in the public for his team’s morale: “The spirit of the rule is to prevent better teams from running up on lesser programs and sportsmanship and dignity and all that stuff. I get it. That didn’t happen.”
As one parent said, “’Beat them, but not too badly’ has no place in sports.”
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