What’s Wrong With Running Up the Score?

    We’ve gotten used to Bill Belichick not being the most popular head coach in the NFL. Taping the Jets, now taping the Broncos, and the cynical, cynical act of letting Tom Brady punt on third down. So what? People would have him running up the score, which he was criticized for in 2007?

    I never understood the problem of running up the score, or actually the critique of it. Recent examples? West Virginia shredding through Clemson in a BCS bowl or the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees taking apart the Atlanta Falcons.

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    Nearly three years ago, Micah Grimes coached a girl’s high school basketball team to a 100-0 victory, and got fired shortly after. That was a commendable decision by the school’s headmaster or board of trustees or whoever decided to pull the trigger. Running up the score shouldn’t happen under collegiate level. Afterwards? Take your best shot.

    Professional athletes get paid for a living, very well. I always viewed sports as athletes trying to do their best, all season, all game. All four quarters of football, all four quarters of basketball and all 90 minutes of association football, or soccer, whichever your prefer. We’ll get to soccer later. There’s no education. There’s just winning, and making the owners money, although that doesn’t really fall into the high score formulas.

    College football and basketball? Pro sports, without the pay. National coverage, as big or greater than pro teams sometimes. There’s no need to pull off your starters or best players if you’re slicing through an opponent’s defense. Clemson players and coaches shouldn’t be spared because they played bad. Humiliation, sometimes, is part of the game. It can prove as a valuable lesson sometimes.

    When the Patriots kept putting incredible numbers in their undefeated season, people weren’t happy. No one is usually happy with what the Pats do. Criticism came from Falcons players themselves when Drew Brees kept throwing the ball so he can get a new record.

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    Players want to be remembered, and Brees deserves to get his name in the history books. He shouldn’t let off because multi-million dollar salaries can’t stop him all night long. And there’s nothing wrong with a little cynicism, even humor. It might be less than classy, but the Broncos will live with Tim Tebow as their quarterback, forgetting all about how Tom Brady punted against them.

    Maybe it’s a cultural thing. In European football leagues, soccer leagues, there’s never talk of running up the score and pulling off your starters. Maybe because you can only substitute 3 players and not the entire starting lineup. And maybe because sports if less of a business and the whole cultural standing of soccer is different than it is in the United States.

    More of a religion to some than business, and not just a cultural thing. Hatred between clubs is glorified many times, making the rivalries even better and fiercer. Of course, that can slide and turn ugly sometimes with fans who can’t tell the difference between fierce rivalries and violence. That happens on both sides of the pond.

    No one should feel sorry for defensive linemen making $5 million a season who can’t tackle properly. No one should feel sorry for head coaches of professional teams doing a bad job, as a whole during a season or in micromanagement during a game. Big wins are remembered, turned into history, marked and branded for players and fans for both winners and losers. That’s better than both teams playing their subs just to pass the time.