Friday, May 26, 2006

Football Falls Prey To The Nanny State

Local sports news, with an interesting twist: Connecticut cracks down on high school football blowouts. (Apparently this was the subject of much discussion on ESPN radio's national programming yesterday.)

Put simply, the rule proposed by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) football committee would suspend a high school coach for his game the following week should his team win by more than 50 points. The rule has been making the rounds here in Connecticut as the Cochran rule, named for current New London head coach Jack Cochran, whose teams have been known to ring up huge deficits on opponents. (I know this from personal experience. In 1997, Cochran's Bloomfield team, which featured current NFL All-Pro Dwight Freeney, defeated my team of Conard-West Hartford 53-0.)

As an ex-high school football player, I can think of innumerable reasons that such a rule is not just stupid but threatens the very integrity of the game.

As the lonely libertarian, I can see this rule quite clearly as part of the nanny state mentality that demands "fairness" and doesn't want kids to have their feelings hurt.

What's the real issue here? Obviously, no one likes a bully, and there's a whole realm of sports ethics which tell us it's wrong to run up a score on an opponent. But just because something is wrong, doesn't mean we need to have a rule for it. Certain aspects of sportsmanship (like running up a score) are not amenable to rules. This is the same problem we see in our everyday lives, where our political leaders look to pass laws for every problem they can think of.

What's ignored is the law of unintended consequences. In this case, what may well happen with such a football rule is that younger players and backups wouldn't really get a chance to play, as any late game scores could get their coach suspended. Obviously, this is the antithesis of what sports are all about. Just imagine if when Rudy finally got in the game, he was told not to do anything because the game needed to be winded down.

The point is, we don't need rules for everything, and just because a rule is well-intentioned does not mean that it's a practical rule. Just keep in mind- something can be wrong without the force of a law or a rule behind it.


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