I am not a dedicated fan of football. I have never seen an entire NFL game. I have never watched any of a Super Bowl game. College football is okay, I’ve watched a few of those games, they seem slightly more honest and less commercial than the NFL. I do enjoy playing football. In 6th and 7th grade it was the standard after school game. Ashish had a NY Giants branded football that was the perfect size for 12 year olds. We got a lot of use out of that blue rubber football. Beyond those games my football experience is primarily made up of NCAA 2003 College Football for PlayStation 2.
I liked the NCAA football game because it was the first electronic football game I ever played that made sense on how to control the players. Because of this I became quite adept at the game, and it didn’t hurt that the computer AI wasn’t very good. I learned there were certain plays the computer seemed unable to defend against. For some people it might not be fun to play a football video game and consistently win games with scores of 101-0, but I enjoyed it. My goals would be to see how many points I could score, or how many yards I could pass for without the opponent ever scoring anything.
The game featured scripted comments from real NCAA sportscasters. There must have been hundreds of one-liners and short commentaries recorded by each of the announcers. I learned from these voice overs that there is a code of ethics in football that I don’t understand. Apparently, if you are at 3rd down and long, it is proper to punt the football. In the game, if you try to go for a completion at this point the announcers say it’s a bad idea. If at some point when you are in the lead you choose to do an on-sides kick, they say it is bad sportsmanship. Late in the game, again, if you are leading, they comment on how you should just run the football so the clock drains. I don’t understand their logic, but these are the things I heard a lot, along with one about trying to run up the score.
When you have a significant lead over the opponent, and you try to score more points, it is called running up the score and it is bad. Here is where I see a major conflict in society. We are taught to be competitive and to win win win, and to play our absolute best. We train children relentlessly in sports from the time they are four on through high school or whenever it is realized they don’t have a shot at making the Olympic team or playing professionally. But, if in all of this training they find themselves against a weaker team or opponent and they score a lot of points, they are vilified for running up the score.
I’d like to ask this: what is a high school football team supposed to do after they are up by four touchdowns? Should they forfeit the game? Should they stop playing their best? Do they throw the game? I don’t get it. We demand that they win, but when they win really well we shame them. You can’t have it both ways, Society, choose “everyone gets a trophy” or “let the best man win.” These are the options.
What do you think? Should people play their best or play to keep both teams in the game? Is it ethical to whomp your opponent by doubling or tripling their score? Is it ethical to play below your personal best to prevent doubling or tripling your opponent’s score? Are the people who detest running up the score of the same mindset as anyone who thinks that those who perform well in any arena of life need to be crippled so that those who do not perform as well have more of a chance? Is it better to pull down the best to a level of mediocrity or to boost the mediocre to improve their best?
And no, this isn’t only about sports anymore.