That 20-0 football farce
On Wednesday afternoon, my sports call-in programme on KLAS ESPN FM 89 ended early. My show normally ends at four, but when we carry live schoolboy football matches, I'm off air - at times, up to 45 minutes before that. I must confess that I don't always listen to the commentary. If it's a big match, I ensure I get the scores when it's all done. Otherwise, the game may well be going with me only taking a cursory interest.
Wednesday afternoon didn't seem as if it would be any different. I got off air at 3:15 to facilitate the coverage of the game between Manchester High and Winston Jones High. It wasn't expected to be a tight contest. Manchester have got off to a rollicking start in the daCosta Cup in what the experts call a weak zone. Prior to Wednesday, Manchester had conceded a mere three goals in eight games, while scoring 43. Those three goals came in one game, a 9-3 whipping of Belair, when it is reasonable to suppose that Manchester just got careless on the defensive end to a team to which they were far superior. Some even see them as semi-final prospects with them having an outside chance to win.
Winston Jones, on the other hand, have been struggling all season. They had conceded 36 goals in their eight games prior to the game against Manchester on Wednesday, while scoring four. Manchester had beaten them 8-0 when the two teams met in the previous round, so all indications pointed to a comprehensive Manchester win.
What happened in the game turned out to be almost a farce, even by schoolboy standards. I didn't set out to listen to the commentary in what I knew would be a one-sided game. When Winston Jones were 8-0 down and the first half still had five minutes to go, I began to pay attention.
Commentator Sean Grant is normally an exciting dude to listen to, but even he struggled to put life into this one. I have commentated on maybe hundreds of schoolboy football games in my life and the hardest part of the job is trying to maintain intensity and excitement in a drab, boring game. Usually, those monotonous games are the ones where there is no goal, or maybe where a team takes a lead and defends it against a clearly inferior team.
Wednesday's game was not one of those insipid 0-0 encounters. It ended 20-0 in favour of the Donovan Duckie-coached Manchester High. Despite the avalanche of goals, I don't think I've ever listened to a more boring football game. Sean and Ainsley Clarke were running out of adjectives to describe Manchester's dominance. It ranks as one of the most embarrassingly lopsided wins in schoolboy football's long history.
People have been calling for a two-tiered system in schoolboy football for a while now. Corporate Area Cricket has tried it now for years with the formation of the 'A' league, with little or no complaint. I was never sold on having two different leagues in schoolboy football. It was neither here or there for me. I knew the cream would eventually rise to the top. After Wednesday's debacle, I am beginning to have second thoughts. Maybe ISSA should, too.
Twenty-nil pummellings do nobody any good. The school that won can take little pride in its performance. The victory is pyrrhic, at best, and can feel like beating up on a child unable to defend himself. There are few bragging rights to be gained by a black belt in karate whipping the ageing, overweight man at the beach. Indeed, we may cry shame on the victor.
The shock and embarrassment that a 20-0 scoreline can do to the players on the losing team is incalculable. Spectators can take little satisfaction from this kind of sports masochism. Maybe it's time that ISSA look to have two different leagues in schoolboy football after all. Maybe the time has come for ISSA to separate the haves from the have-nots as far as the ability to play at a certain level is concerned.
I'm not now suggesting what method they should use to separate the teams into two leagues, but more results like this is not helping the credibility of the league. Those schools with little or no football interest and without any workable programmes should probably not be on the same field with the schools that are.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.