On the demonization scale, it actually could be worse this week for Albert Haynesworth. For example, instead of stomping someone’s head, he could be the Connecticut high school football coach whose team just stomped an opponent by 56 points. As wickedness is reckoned these days in Connecticut, that would rank you as more evil than Saddam but still not quite as bad as Pat Summitt.
Apparently upset that Dallas lineman Andre Gurode had the audacity to block him on a scoring run by the Cowboys, Fat Albert noticed that Gurode’s helmet had come off, then stomped Gurode’s unprotected face as he lay on the ground. Gurode required 36 stitches to close the bloody gashes around his eye and did not return to the game. Neither did the unbloodied Haynesworth, who continued to argue about the injustice of it all even after the refs pointed him to the exit.
On Monday, the NFL suspended Haynesworth without pay for five games. He has company this fall, of a sort, in the person of Dave Cadelina.
Cadelina coaches the football team at Bridgeport Central High School in Connecticut. Like Albert, he too was suspended for unsportsmanlike conduct. In beating crosstown rival Bassick High by eight touchdowns, Cadelina’s squad violated a rule against winning by more than 50 points.
Like most nutty regulations, this one was born of good intentions. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), which governs high school sports in the state, had noticed a number of blowout scores—one of which resulted in a post-game fight. With nary a thought about unforeseen consequences, the Governing Body Geniuses decided that the best way to stop coaches from running up scores was to enlarge the rulebook.
Cadelina, the first Connecticut coach to prove that when running up scores is outlawed, only outlaws will run up scores, isn’t exactly the heartless character the rule was supposed to deter. As the losing coach from Bassick—and even the game referee—told the CIAC, Cadelina did everything he could to limit the score. With his team up 35-0 early in the second quarter, Cadelina emptied his bench, stopped passing and instructed his subs simply to run plays up the middle. The third-teamers nonetheless scored two more TDs before halftime against an opponent that hadn’t won a game in five years.
When one of the benchwarmers burst up the middle and ran untouched to the end zone, making the score 55-0, there were loud groans from the Bridgeport crowd. “What was he thinking?” one parent was overheard to say.
Frankly, rules like this color our perceptions of New Englanders down here in the real America. What were they thinking when they hatched this abortion?
In this situation, as both the winners and losers acknowledged, the only way Bassick was going to score was if the Bridgeport defenders were ordered to fall down. Had that happened, the Bassick coach said, his players would have been much more embarrassed.
Lord knows there’s a special room in hell, next to the pit reserved for people who use their Blackberries in the car, for coaches who run up huge scores on hapless opponents, keep flinging the football late into the game, and don’t pull their starters until the fourth quarter.
Still, the Connecticut rule should remind us that sometimes an unmercifully public whuppin’ is a tonic that, to invoke the favorite phrase of old jarhead football coaches from hoary antiquity, “builds character.”
Once, when we were up 55-0 just after halftime, my old jarhead coach, a Marine veteran of Guadalcanal, took pity on our pitiful opponent. He didn’t want to run up the score. Every time we got the ball, he made us punt it right back on first down. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t regard that well-intentioned gesture as an even greater humiliation than an 80-0 loss.
The youth sports leagues that don’t keep score and give everyone a trophy strike me as similarly misbegotten, probably by some Connecticut Yankee Volvo-driving psychology major. Regardless of whether the parents choose to suppress it, the kids always know the score.
If the CIAC had chosen to implement a mercy rule that ended games when teams went up by 50 points, it could have been hailed as “man law.” Unfortunately, it also would have been a commonsense solution. One of the laws of the universe, which trumps man law, is that when adults are involved in youth sports, common sense can never apply.
In a minor victory the other day, Cadelina successfully appealed his suspension—but only because the losing coach spoke up so strongly for him. Woe be unto the next schmuck who forgets to tell his boys to quit while they’re ahead.
At least now it makes more sense to me why the first George Bush didn’t pursue Saddam’s army to Baghdad in 1991. Old George, dontcha know, is a son of the Nutmeg State