My basketball career wasn’t exactly loaded with highlights. I was a bench-warming guard for Cathedral who usually only played when the game was already decided. Because the Hilltoppers weren’t very good, that meant I saw a lot of action when we were losing.
That was the case when we faced Duluth East on our home court my senior year. East, a much larger school with a very good team, featured a 7-foot center who went on to play college basketball. The Greyhounds were rolling over us as usual, so of course, I was on the court in the fourth quarter.
We were trailing by at least 60 points as East inched closer and closer to the 100-point mark. They had either 98 or 99 points with just a couple minutes left to play. I had the ball at the top about 20 feet from the basket when I turned it over (big surprise).
The player who stole it quickly lofted the ball over my head. As I turned I saw for the first time that the 7-foot, college-bound star was standing at midcourt waiting for the pass. He was floating out there doing what is known as cherry picking.
He took the ball, ran down the court ahead of me and went up for a dunk. I had nearly caught up to him. I was close enough to have grabbed him as he jumped. I could have laid a shoulder into him and brought him down.
Instead, I did nothing. The kid slammed the ball home and the Greyhounds hit the century mark in points. Their bench went nuts—it was as if they had just won state.
All these years later, I still regret not taking him down. Sure it would have been a foul and I probably would have been ejected. But I would have prevented the humiliation of having my nose rubbed in it during an already embarrassing night.
All these years later, I’m still pissed East’s coach would leave his best player in the game. And that not only was he still playing, he was cherry picking. It was a blatant disregard of sportsmanship, and it showed an utter lack of class on the coach's part.
To listen to Keith Brooking, he’d have you believing that was comparable to what the Vikings did Sunday at the end of their 34-3 victory over the Cowboys. In case you somehow missed this, Brett Favre threw a touchdown pass on fourth-down late in the game and Brooking, a Cowboys linebacker, took umbrage. He charged to the Vikings’ sideline and began jawing at the players and coaches.
“I just thought what happened at the end of the game was disrespectful,” Brooking said in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “It was classless and all the things that are in that category. I’ll say it to the Vikings organization and whoever is over there calling plays. It wasn’t the right thing to do at that time. Period.”
Here’s the deal though, Brooking, this is professional sports. You get paid a lot of money to do your job, which is to stop the other team from scoring. You failed to do that time and again on Sunday.
It’s possible Brooking’s postgame comments included his admission that the Cowboys were badly outplayed. I don’t know. But what was published and reported made Brooking look bad … really bad. Even without the final touchdown, the game was never close. How much better would he feel if the final had been 27-3? Or 30-3 if the Vikings had kicked a field goal instead of going for it?
In pro sports, you play as hard as you can for the entire game. People pay good money to be there and they deserve an honest effort. Just because the Cowboys quit, doesn’t mean the Vikings had to, also.
That is the fundamental difference between what happened on that basketball court 24 years ago and what took place in the Metrodome on Sunday. In pro sports, there is no running up the score. That’s a term used for situations when amateurs sometimes find themselves badly overmatched through no fault of their own.
A high school coach who encourages his team to keep pouring on points against an overmatched team teaches his players it’s all right to humiliate someone with less talent. A professional coach who does that teaches his players there is no letting up, especially in the playoffs.
The stupid part of this whole thing is how short everyone’s memories are. In Week 17 of the season the Cowboys led the Eagles 24-0 with 2:26 left to play. On fourth down with the game long decided, the Cowboys opted to throw from the shotgun at the Eagles’ 35.
Of course, Tony Romo was sacked on that play, so the Cowboys didn’t have to face accusations of running up the score. Odd, I don't remember Brooking saying anything about that.
I really forgot how much the North Stars and Blackhawks hated each other. The rivalry even tops anything between the Packers and Vikings, I think.
Yet tonight I'll be cheering for the Hawks as they face the Wild. Believe me, if the North Stars hadn't left Minnesota I never would have become a Hawks fans. But that's not what happened. Norm Green up and stole the team away from Minnesota, leaving me to look elsewhere for a home team.
Still, it's fun to look back on the old days and remember how much we hated the Hawks. For old times' sake, join with me once more in this memorable chant that echoed through the Met Center: Secord sucks! Secord sucks! Secord sucks!