Make a venn diagram. Put fans of Bill Belichick in one circle and fans of Rick Pitino in the other. The overlap is minute, a sliver full of Massholes with Antoine Walker jerseys and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward championships. Outside of those four guys (all named “Sully”), everyone in either circle hates everyone in the other. Still, they were all on message this week when accusations of “running up the score” hit the Patriots and the Cardinals at the same time. That message was this: Shut up.
As painful as it is to side with two of America’s most fearsome clipboard-wielders, their supporters were right. Assholes? Sure. Correct? Definitely. The reason is simple: There is no such thing as “running up the score.” The idea is predicated on the notion that there is a reasonable score that accurately represents the game and allows both teams to leave with dignity in tact. That’s fine in theory, but sometimes an accurate representation of the game is shaming in and of itself.
On Sunday, Lions center Dominic Raiola decided to vent his frustration about Tom Brady declining to take a knee on Zach Moore’s meniscus. Fortunately, he failed to pointlessly injure a player while trying to make a point. To the Raiola’s way of thinking, the Patriots were showboating at the expense of his number-one-ranked defense. Maybe he was right, but that’s not Belichick’s fault - or even, ultimately, his decision. The coach told his offense to go to work. The opposing coach told his defense to go to work. The result was embarrassing, but it was what it was.
Pitino put it well, if slightly strangely, when he denied running up the score in Louisville’s 87-26 win over Savannah State. “We played four white guys and an Egyptian,” he told a press conference. He left the second half of the comment unsaid: Our white guys, North Africans and benchwarmers are better than your starters. The final score reflected the matchup between Savannah State and the dregs of Louisville. It was embarrassing, but it wasn’t “run up.”
Nevermind the fact that watching a masterful performance (something sometimes described as a blowout) is good clean fun, there’s no reason to whine about a loss if you’re playing to win. You didn’t win. The numbers in the record book are less significant than that one letter: “L.”
The only forum in which Americans seem to embrace the blowout is politics. If a congressman had a dollar for every time a commentator said “running up the score,” he wouldn’t have to spend the rest of his term selling out his constituents to corporate interests. Still, when things started getting seriously red earlier this month, no one talked about "sportsmanship.” That’s because we're all taught to believe that our government reflects national attitudes. Guess what? A 34-9 drubbing now accurately reflects national attitudes about the Patriots and the Lions.
Brady for President.
Photos by AP Photo / Phelan M. Ebenhack