Lately, when I've read the part of my local newspaper's sports section that's devoted to coverage of high school sports, I've seen nothing but overly lopsided basketball scores.
The score of a game played between two teams from Dallas, TX was 100-0. A local high school girls team has lost all of its games by 20 points or more. It seems like every time I see the result of a high school basketball game, it's extremely one-sided.
The only time a game is ever close is when two similarly-ranked teams in the paper's Sweet 16 play each other.
The other high school sport in which blowouts are common is football. My school's football team was good, and they won a lot of games this past season by 20 or 30 points, sometimes even more.
Sure, it's fun when your school's team—the team you might currently be playing on or may have played on in when you still went to school—wins all the time. Blowing every opponent out for a while is even more fun. But eventually winning every game by a significant margin gets old. You need competition, some excitement.
Otherwise each game you win easily makes you feel like you're only playing to go through the motions and get another win, another notch on your playoff seeding belt. You miss the rush that a close game used to give you, back when you still played close games.
But it's like a nightmare you can't wake up from when your team is the one going all season without winning a game—maybe not even close.
I speak from experience when I say that losing every game by 30 points doesn't help a student's already-shaky self esteem caused by teasing peers and personal insecurities. It takes the fun out of a sport because you're not getting to do what made the sport fun in the first place—make shots, force a couple turnovers, throw a touchdown pass, execute that perfect pancake block, whatever.
Not to mention the damaged relationships that constant lopsided losses can cause. Teammates, who are often friends, sometimes turn on each other. That happened to me personally.
An old friend of mine is a perfect example of both of these situations. He and I used to play basketball together. Basketball was one of the things that defined our relationship. We both tried out for the school team one year, and we both made it.
But early into the season it was clear that the team was terrible, a laughing stock and mockery of what good school basketball is supposed to be. Despite our best efforts, we still couldn't come close to winning any games. Nobody was having any fun. Basketball was just a chore we all dreading doing. It didn't take along for my friend's frustration to boil over.
As we headed down to the locker room during halftime of an early-season game, I thought out loud, "Well, we're doing better than we were." I wasn't being sarcastic, and it was true. We were only down by 25, as opposed to 35 or 40. But my friend took the comment the wrong way and lashed out at me, shouting at me to shut up! His jeer stung badly.
I hadn't meant any harm by what I said; I had actually tried to lighten the mood and loosen the guys up by looking at the positive side of things. But my friend brutally shot me down. That didn't end our friendship, but it definitely hurt it and separated us quite a bit.
Nobody benefits from losing every game by a wide margin. Nobody benefits from winning every game by a wide margin.
This is why every state should have a mercy rule for every applicable high school sport. A mercy rule would create some parity in high school sports, or at least enough to end blowouts early. And that's what high school sports need.