What happened at Leland Tuesday was not right

During the heart of football season last fall, I wrote a column critical of the Starkville High School football team for running up the score on Greenville High School.

I would be a hypocrite if I did not hold a local team to the same standard.

I was not at Leland High School on Tuesday night. I was covering another local high school basketball game at the time.

But, when I heard that the Leland girls basketball team defeated South Delta 81-0 in the first round of the Lady Cubs district game my heart sank a little bit.

I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around how one basketball team could beat another basketball team 81-0. It just does not make any sense. There are so many opportunities in a basketball game to score that to be shutout seems incomprehensible.

Let me be clear.

I believe that the adults in charge, including the Leland head coach and the game officials, failed to protect local Delta kids from humiliation.

I did an Internet search about shutouts in high school basketball and found that there have been a couple over the last few years in the country. These game stories were picked up by national news media and told to the entire country. For the sake of the South Delta girls, do we really want to have this story told to the entire country?

I have left a message for the South Delta coach to call me, but the coach has not returned my calls. It is totally understandable and I plan on leaving the coach alone.

I interviewed the Leland coach after the game, and she told me that the South Delta coach was angry. Wouldn’t you be? She also told me that she tried to give the South Delta team a couple of shots. I believe she should have tried harder.

I also believe that the adults refereeing the game could have found a way to get South Delta a few points. I know that these refs are doing a thankless job, and I have tons of respect for what they do. But, one of them, should have put the big picture in mind and found a way to let South Delta make a free throw or two.

In a lot of ways, I admire the Leland girls basketball team. After being eliminated in the semifinals of the state tournament last season, they have come back this year with a ferocious spirit. They have hammered one team after another and are truly a great team. I am still pulling for them to win the state championship.

But what the team did on Tuesday night crossed the line. I believe the head coach owes the South Delta coach an apology. I also think she should spend her next practice having her players write letters to the South Delta players apologizing for their actions. That would be true leadership.

Although it is hard to define bad sportsmanship, I believe it is similar to what a Supreme Court justice said about another topic, “You know it when you see it.”

I talked to another local girls high school coach about this topic, and he tried to persuade me that it was the South Delta team’s fault for not being able to score. He said, “this was high school basketball, and not rec league.”

To that I say, baloney.

High School athletes are still kids and they are not professionals. We should always try and look out for them

In the end, it really does not matter who wins and loses these games. In the end, all that matters is the life lessons these children learn through the sports they play. Sportsmanship and learning to look out for the little guy are two of these lessons.

It is kind of ironic that I am writing this column.

I read and watch so much today about how parents and schools are doing so much to prevent bullying, and I roll my eyes a bit. From what I remember about growing up, high school is a tough time for an adolescent. It is a time that most of them begin to learn about the truly harsh realities that life will certainly throw at them during different parts of their lives.

I believe that high school sports does a good job, for the most part, in helping to toughen these kids. There are winners and losers in life just like on the athletic fields.

And, in the end, if the worst thing that ever happens to a high school kid is that they get embarrassed playing a high school game than they have lived a pretty blessed adolescence.

Listen. I know I have a pretty comfortable gig here as the sports editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. My job is to 99 percent of the time write positive stories about young athletes accomplishing great things.

But, if I stayed silent while seeing some of these young athletes not being treated fairly, I would not be worth a hill of beans.

David Healy is sports editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. He can be reached at dhealy@ddtonline.com