Friday, February 15, 2008

Blinding Ponies

Net Ball Action
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Like Grant Gifford of the Northwest College Trail Newspaper, I too was amazed to watch the deficiency of sportsmanship in the basketball game between the Lady Trappers of NWC and the women of Little Big Horn College. But from my vantage, I'm not as quick to lump all the blame on the visitors from Crow Agency as Mr. Gifford did in his brief and shallow editorial—indeed, I thought it was a two-way street.

The young woman from LBHC who was ejected from the game certainly had it coming, but the struggle/skirmish resulting from a loose ball between her and NWC's Ashley Buckner wasn't as one-sided as the writer made it out to be; and talking with other Trapper fans about it, I wasn't the only one who saw it that way. Simply put, both players should have been ejected for the incident. As they say, it takes two to tango (or tangle).

Admittedly I wasn't in attendance when LBHC coach Dominic Gaglia was called for a technical, but coaches drawing technical fouls for remarks directed toward the referees during a basketball game are hardly uncommon. As for Coach Gaglia's inaction following the conflict on the hardwood that lead to his player's ejection; could it have been that he felt frustrated with his team's performance and attitude, slighted by the referees, or was he simply displaying his coaching "style" like that of the stone-faced Tom Landry? Did Mr. Gifford talk to the coach after the game to verify his accusations? I mean, that's what a journalist would do, right... interview coaches after the games?

I'll confess that I'm not a basketball expert, but I do know a thing or two about sportsmanship. So, as long as we're making a critique on sportsmanship, I'd like to point out a "blown call" made by the home team as well.

Having dressed only six players for their game (and we don't know the true reason for this, do we Mr. Gifford?), it seems the Little Bighorn College Lady Rams never had a chance. I suspect the only time the game was close was the opening minutes of the game. So, it's safe to say, the game's outcome was probably never in doubt.

With a dark cloud over the game following the ejection, LBHC battled the Lady Trappers with only five players—and no bench. Then, early in the second half, one of the remaining five players for LBHC fouled out, giving NWC a "power-play" advantage of five-on-four—something that is common in hockey, but not in basketball. (At that point I was reminded of the book, Blind Your Ponies by Stanley G. West. Read it.)

And maybe it's just me, but I was a bit surprised that—up by over 20 points and facing a team with only four players who were no better than any one of their own—NWC didn't make it an even fight and stand down one of their players to the side court. What a classy gesture this would have been. No doubt applause would have followed from everyone in the crowd and perhaps cleaned up some of the bad blood between the two teams from the first-half skirmish. But NWC chose to keep all five players in the game, and to add insult to injury, maintained a rotation of "fresh horses" as the LBHC team dragged on.

I'd have understood our team's decision to keep all five players in the game if it were early in the season when playing time is critical, but this late in the season and with little at stake, it seems logical for a display of good sportsmanship to trump over pummeling one's opponent—for a change.

Perhaps I expect too much.

As their lead increased, the Lady Trappers were hardly illustrations of good sportsmanship themselves. You'd think they were losing the game in the demonstrations they put up when they thought they had been fouled (and probably were) or were called for a foul that wasn't all that obvious.

Lastly, the NWC advantage of five-on-four wasn't very impressive or overpowering, and I found myself cheering for the feisty, understaffed, and outgunned Lady Rams as they battled against a superior NWC team. With the exception of the score, such scenarios are hardly favorable for any team in the same position as NWC. Should they blow-out their outnumbered opponent, it comes across as running up the score, and if they don't succeed in blowing them out... well, everyone might wonder how they even won the game. The only respectable thing to do then (especially if the score is lopsided) is to keep the player numbers even.

In closing, perhaps the LBHC team didn't secure any votes in the good sportsmanship department that night, but the Lady Trapper basketball team also failed to recognize or simply ignored a unique opportunity to raise the bar of good sportsmanship.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is there any doubt left that the "machismo" attitude that is so pervasive in our national mindset trickles down to our youth who are at that point in their lives where they are entering adulthood? The signals they get from the policy of "thuggery" that our current leaders have set are the ones that they think they must adopt to be "grown up" (it's always the guys who never truly have been in a conflict that are so much in a hurry to throw their weight around when they have others to do the fighting for them).

The concepts of grace, fairness, caring for your neighbor, and humbleness are ones that are talked about for an hour on Sunday, and then left behind the minute they walk out the door. No wonder the rest of the world has lost faith in us. At one time these qualities were the ones that were taught AND practiced by our parents or grandparents and this is why the world looked up to us. The "tough-guy" brashness that we now have to hear from such pundits as O'Reilly, Matthews, Limbaugh, et al are just cowardice disguised in an attitude and loudness that our grandparents would have found to be incredibly repulsive. But youth will always copy the behavior of the times and reflect its attitudes.

Just my two cents,

Montevideo Man