An individual scoring a record-breaking 138 points in a basketball game is impressive. It also has sparked some spirited debates about such feats.
After reading that article the questions to answer are these: Is it part of the game? Is it good sportsmanship or poor sportsmanship? Or is it just about doing your best?
But first let’s put this into a runner’s world.
- If you could run a 2 mile race on a track fast enough to lap all the competition 3 times in a 2 mile race would you?
- If your cross-country team was clearly superior to another do your runners go 100% and see how much you can beat someone by? Or is it any better/worse to run as a pack just in front of the #1 runner from the other team and then all blast away in the last stretch? (Scoring in XC would yield a perfect score of 15 for this team regardless.)
Would it make it different if that lead runner in the two-mile track race set a record? Would it matter in your mind if the record in question was at a certain level – such as meet record, personal record, state record, world record?
Of course there is no single answer. There are coaches and athletes who will contend that if it is a competition and you play within the rules then it’s OK. Others will believe that to give anything less than your very best is a waste (channeling Prefontaine here) you always go 100% right to the end. Some will contend that the context will determine if it is proper. If it is a record then the margin of victory wasn’t so much about beating the competition by ridiculous amounts as much as it was about pursuing a record. If that is so, you would also support the basketball scoring record scenario. And yet others will believe that these are over-the-top in-your-face victories. In fact it might be seen as a form of taunting – something that draws penalties in some major sports now. Are “feelings” and “egos” and “reputations” supposed to be protected by letting up or is it everyone for himself/herself to the finish because that is what “competition” means?
Maybe it isn’t so much the record (points, score, times) but how we go about getting there. Of course every situation is different with many variables. And like in a court of law, change a variable and the decision might be different.
In November of 1981 Barney Klecker came to Tucson with the sole purpose of setting the American 50K record. In order to do so it had to be a sanctioned race on a certified course with real competition (a by-yourself time trial doesn’t count). Ken Young arranged for about 15 local runners to line up at the University of Arizona track (yes, 125 laps – and every one recorded) to race Barney. I finished in 3rd only a minute behind 2nd in 3:48:18… and over one hour behind Barney who lapped us about 30 times in the race en route to his American record. I was OK with it then, and I’m OK with it today.
1975 I was the #1 running for Nichols College (a very small private school) in a cross-country meet against the larger Southeastern Massachusetts University. Their top 12 runners go through the first mile in five-minutes flat with me tagging along. That pack chatted off and on throughout the race as they hovered 30-50 yards in front always looking back to keep an eye on me. With a little less than 800 meters to go in the race, they “floor it” leaving me in the dust and leaving no doubt about where I belonged. I wasn’t OK with it then. I’m not OK with it today.
But… that’s just me.