While the likes of Kevin Ware and Mike Rice have dominated college hoops coverage in the countdown to the 2013 Final Four, the New York York Times’ Samuel G. Freeman proposes Jack Taylor’s 138 point performance for Grinnell versus Faith Baptist last November as, “the most significant contest this season”, though not for the reasons you might first suspect.
While Taylor earned the admiration of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, Freeman questions the ethical and religious implications of a game that saw Grinnell, “keeping up their full-court defensive pressure against an opposing team they were leading by 50, then 60, then 70 points…acollege that prides itself on its values — rigorous academic standards, commitment to the common good, historical involvement in the abolition and Social Gospel movements — inflicted a defeat so absolute that it borders on public humiliation.”
Sporting tradition has always made allowances so the vanquished can save face. Youth leagues have a “slaughter rule” to halt lopsided games. Football quarterbacks with a big lead hand off the ball rather than passing it. Basketball teams run down the clock instead of running up the score. Coaches pull the starters and send in the bench warmers. Very little mitigation of that sort happened last November at Grinnell.
And beyond the question of athletic ethics, the rout has taken on an overtly religious cast. Jack Taylor, an evangelical Christian, attributed his achievement to divine intervention.
In an interview with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Web site, in which he alluded to a parable about talents in Matthew 25, Mr. Taylor said of God: “He definitely multiplied my talents that night. His fingerprints were all over that game.
“What strikes me in this story about Grinnell is that you have the unapologetic, brazen appeal to ‘Jesus’ right alongside the unrepentant quest to make a name for the school, the team and the player,” said Amy Laura Hall, an ethics professor at Duke Divinity School who is writing a book about muscular Christianity. “Would the story have even come across our radar if the coach had consciously pulled the player out, and kept the score more sportsmanlike, and missed the chance for a moment of fame, on principle? I wish that were the story to cover, this week after Easter, but it isn’t.”