Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Micah Grimes’ first interview? I don’t think so, Phil Taylor

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Tonight I opened up my Sports Illustrated (yeah, I still get print), and on the back page is a column by Phil Taylor headlined: “Public Enemy Number 100.”

It’s a story about Micah Grimes, the Dallas Covenant High girls basketball coach fired in the wake of worldwide scorn over his team’s 100-0 squeaker over Dallas Academy. No surprise, given the way backlash against backlash tends to grow over time, once everyone has calmed down a little bit, it’s a sympathetic piece in which Grimes is said to have weekly meetings with former players and refuses to sue his school for wrongful termination (though he definitely could).

“If I had it to do over, after halftime I would have asked the other coach if he wanted to end the game,” Taylor quotes Grimes as saying. “If he wanted to keep going, I probably would have suggested we shut off the scoreboard.” (As it was, Grimes tells Taylor he had the Covenant timekeeper keep the clock running after building up a 59-0 halftime lead.)

Whether Grimes is the monster many made him out to be, or whether he was a victim of circumstance, I don’t know. Like 99.9 percent of people (including Barry Horn, the Dallas Morning News reporter who first wrote about the 100-0 game), I wasn’t there.

However, I will take issue with one part of Taylor’s column: “Grimes tells you this is the first interview he has given since the Jan. 13 rout.”

WRONG!

Me, myself and I had the first interview with Micah Grimes, Phil Taylor! Perhaps Mr. Grimes fails to remember this scintillating, hard-hitting email interview conducted Jan. 26:

“Mr. Grimes, my name is Bob Cook, and I write a blog called Your Kid’s Not Going Pro. I know this is a difficult time, but I wonder if you don’t mind chatting with me about the Dallas Academy game and its aftermath. Thanks.”

Hi Bob, I’m going to decline an interview for now. I really appreciate your willingness to show my side of the story, but this whole thing is a little bit overwhelming right now, and I would like to let things die down. Thanks again.

Sincerely,
Micah

Um, OK, it wasn’t quite as detailed an interview as Phil Taylor got. But I asked a question, and got a response, so that counts!

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Micah Grimes gets fired

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My guess is, the next step in the Dallas Academy saga is Grimes suing Covenant of Dallas, where he coached until today. From the Dallas Morning News:

The Covenant School fired its girls’ basketball coach Sunday, the same day he distributed an e-mail and posted on a Web site that he disagreed with the school’s headmaster as well as the school’s chairman of the board, who have publicly apologized for Covenant’s 100-0 victory over Dallas Academy.

Kyle Queal, Covenant’s head of school, said former coach Micah Grimes “now only represents himself.” Queal said he could not answer if the firing was a direct result of his e-mail and posting.

Grimes’ e-mail and posting said, “In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls’ basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed,” Micah Grimes wrote in an email sent to The Dallas Morning News. “We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

(I’m looking for the personal web site. I will link to it once I find it. Here it is.)

So let’s review what turned an otherwise nondescript small, private high school girls’ basketball game into the latest referendum to where you stand on sportsmanship, youth athletics and what it means to be an American.

Jan. 13: Covenant School of Dallas beats Dallas Academy 100-0.

Jan. 22: The Dallas Morning News posts a story about the game, which gets almost instantaneous reaction from keyboard tappers around the world such as myself. Later that day, Covenant posts a note offering to forfeit the game. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban invites the Academy team to American Airlines Arena for an NBA game.

(NOTE: I emailed Morning News reporter Barry Horn tonight about how he was tipped off to this story. He said he read his paper’s own box score the morning after the game and made calls when he got back to work that Monday, Jan. 19. Horn doesn’t cover high school sports, but he “had seen Dallas Academy play this season and I had seen Covenant in the past.” He added, “I have always contended that the best stories in the newspaper come out of the agate or the briefs.” Oh yeah.)

Jan. 24: Covenant coach Micah Grimes sends an email and posts to a web site (not Covenant’s) that he disagrees with his school’s decision. Later that day, Covenant fires him.

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I’ll bet you were expecting a picture of Donald Trump.

Grimes seemed to know the guillotine was about to drop. From the Morning News:

Grimes did not immediately respond to repeated email requests for an interview. But his email and Web site post concluded, “I believe in the lessons that sports teach us. Competition builds character, and teaches us to value selflessness, hard work, and perseverance. As a coach, I have instilled in my girls these values. So if I loose my job over these statements, I will walk away with my integrity.”

Not if you spell “lose” with two o’s, you won’t.

Grimes, until Jan. 22 an unknown coach at an unknown school, is now an international lighting rod. (Horn noted in the story on Grimes’ firing that the original story got 665,000 page views, “an enormous number for a story on a local private school girls’ basketball game.” The previous quote was an example of extreme fucking understatement.) Either you support Grimes because, hey, what can you do when your team is that much better, or you want to tar and feather him for apparently keeping a press defense on for most of the game, thus allowing many, many backcourt steals and easy layups.

However, as President Obama would say, ahhhhh, let’s be clear here. No matter what Covenant says, Micah Grimes was not fired for running up the score. If so, he would have been fired after running over Waxahachie Prep 77-27, or crushing Irving North Hills 71-19. I’m guessing Terrell’s coach wasn’t fired after beating Covenant 79-33.

That the score had the potential to be 100-0 was not shocking, given that Waxahachie Prep had beaten Dallas Academy 66-4. Dallas Academy’s other losses, at least the ones I know of, were 66-4 and 49-7. (The team had two games scheduled between Covenant and Grimes’ firing, and I’m looking for those scores.) Should those coaches have been fired, too?

Girls basketball at the high school level, nearly four decades into Title IX, is still an area chock-full of blowouts, because some schools seem to have the funding or wherewithal to take it seriously, while others for some reason do not. Of course, nobody had nice, round numbers like 100 and 0 in their scores, so those other stompings aren’t newsworthy.

Also, that Dallas Academy is a school for special-needs students figures into that mix, too. Although lost in translation was that the school is not a special-education school in the way you usually think of it; it’s for kids with learning disabilities such as ADD and dyslexia, and it has had legitimate athletic success in other sports. Comparing the beatdown to Matt Dillon running down retarded kids in “There’s Something About Mary,” as a Chicago radio talk show host I once taught at Columbia College did on the air Friday, was not accurate, and made the school and coach look worse than they would have otherwise, which is an accomplishment. (By the way, in Grimes’ rebuttal on his own site, flightbasketball.com, he quotes an unidentified players on his team: “I have ADD and ADHD. There is nothing that separates me from anyone on the Dallas Academy girls team, so there is nothing that should separate the value of our sides.”)

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Carmen, is this revenge on me because I made you cover dance?

I’m not faulting Horn for his stories. I’m faulting Covenant for folding so quickly and obviously. If the administration thought Grimes was a good man when his team won 77-27, why was he a bad man at 100-0? Oh yeah, because the school’s good name was being slagged all around the world. I don’t know Grimes, and I don’t know whether he was trying to run it up. However, I don’t blame him for going down fighting. If Grimes hasn’t found a lawyer already, I’m sure one (or many) is finding him.

Forgive us our 100 trespasses

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Update on The Blowout of Blowouts:

The Covenant School in Dallas has posted a statement on its Web site feeling contrition for its 100-0 girls basketball pasting of Dallas Academy.

The Covenant School, its board and administrators, regrets the incident of January 13 and the outcome of the game with the Dallas Academy Varsity Girls Basketball team. It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christ-like and honorable approach to competition. We humbly apologize for our actions and seek the forgiveness of Dallas Academy, TAPPS and our community. The school and its representatives in no way support or condone the running up of a score against any team in any sport for any reason. The school’s board members, Head of School Kyle Queal and Athletic Director Brice Helton have acted to ensure that such an unfortunate incident can never happen again.

Covenant school officials have met with and personally apologized to Dallas Academy Headmaster Jim Richardson and Athletic Director Jeremy Civello and wish to extend their highest praise to each member of the Dallas Academy Varsity Girls Basketball team for their strength, composure and fortitude in a game in which they clearly emerged the winner. Accordingly, The Covenant School has contacted TAPPS and is submitting a formal request to forfeit the game recognizing that a victory without honor is a great loss.

Kyle Queal
Head of School

Todd Doshier
Board Chair

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Catholic Church Supply should say the Act of Contrition for charging $24 for 100 of these cards.

If indeed the Internet scuttlebutt was correct and coach Micah Grimes kept playing a press defense for most of the game, then Covenant should be apologizing. Blowouts happen, but when it’s 59-0 at halftime it’s not stretching to say you can call off the dogs. (Also to clarify: Dallas Academy specializes in kids with learning disabilities, but it’s for the likes of ADD and dyslexia. It’s not a Special Olympics team.)

But if Covenant was so ashamed at Grimes’ alleged conduct, it should have apologized the day after the game — not nine days later, after the blowout attracted national publicity. . Given Covenant had won many other games of the 77-27 variety, perhaps the school could have said something to Grimes previously about avoiding any rub-it-in-your-face conduct before playing a team that hadn’t won a game in four years. And offering a forfeit? That’s just patronizing.

As usual in this story, the classiest person involved is Dallas Academy athletic director and girls basketball coach Jeremy Civello. From today’s Dallas Morning News:

… Civello said his school accepted the “heartfelt” apology delivered by Covenant’s head of school, Kyle Queal, and athletic director Brice Helton.

Civello said the girls’ team, which hasn’t won a game in his four years there, doesn’t want to be credited with a victory it didn’t earn on the court.

“Covenant has a great team,” Civello said. “We wish them all the best for the rest of the season. We don’t think what happened is a reflection on those girls in any way.

“There are a lot of good people at that school. We hope this blows over.”

Win or lose, if your kids get one coach like Jeremy Civello in their lives, consider yourself fortunate.

The blowout of blowouts

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We have a Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools girls’ basketball final: Covenant 100, Dallas Academy 0. No word if Covenant fans got a free taco once the team reached triple digits.

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Not surprisingly, a score like this has resulted in a lot of soul-searching and teeth-gnashing about how much of a margin is too much, especially against a team from a school devoted to learning-disabled children, a team that hadn’t come close to winning a girls basketball game in four years of trying. Dallas Academy canceled its season, and Covenant is taking grief for not letting up after taking a 59-0 halftime lead.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Against Covenant, Dallas Academy was surprised to see an obviously superior team keep the pressure on until it scored its 100th point in the fourth quarter. “I’m sure they could have won by 30 points and still had just as good a time,” [athletic director and coach Jeremy] Civello said.

Civello, as is his custom, didn’t say anything to anyone from the opposing school after the game. He always allows for a cooling-down period. A week later, he has not been in contact with anyone from Covenant.

In a brief e-mail statement Wednesday evening, Covenant coach Micah Grimes called his team’s 100-point total “unfortunate.”

“It just happened, and we are not happy about that,” Grimes wrote. “Please know Covenant intended no harm against them. I see this as a real learning opportunity, so we can prevent this from happening in the future.”

Grimes was not available for further comment.

Kyle Queal, head of school at Covenant, a North Dallas Christian school, was not at the game, but he said there have been internal discussions about it and that more are coming.

“It was poor judgment,” Queal said. “I look at the box score and look at the box score, and it was not justified. It will never happen again.”

Edd Burleson, director of 236-member TAPPS, had a different description. He called the Class 2A, District 3 game an “embarrassing incident.”

“Our motto is ‘Competition With Honor,’ ” Burleson said. “I can’t see how the one school can live up to that.”

Anonymous comments following the story noted how Covenant fans classlessly cheered for every score. And we all know anonymous comments left on the Internet are ALWAYS the most accurate and well-reasoned interpretation of events.

Obviously, I wasn’t at this game. Nor was the Morning News reporter who wrote about it. So I don’t know for sure whether Covenant was really trying to rub it in.

The problem is what you do at any level of youth sports when it’s clear that the disparity between two opponents is so profound. How does each side, in effect, preserve the dignity of the other?

Again, not having been at the game, I can’t automatically say, ooooo, evil Covenant. After all, it scored only 12 points in the fourth quarter, so it was stepping on the brakes a little bit. The story doesn’t mention how long the starters played, but if the anonymous comments are to be believed, Covenant only has six players, so it’s not like emptying the bench and sitting the starters was an option. Even if it were, it’s harder for a coach to corral players who normally don’t get a chance to score. If anything, they’ll play a lot harder than the starters. Those players are going to want to take advantage of the chance to work on their own games in a live setting. A coach can tell the players to back off, but if a pass is thrown right into their hands and they have a straight shot at the hoop, that’s a hard opportunity to turn down.

And while it’s great that Dallas Academy wants to give girls a chance to say they played varsity basketball, perhaps the school is correct in re-evaluating whether interscholastic competition in that sport is what’s best for all involved. The school fields plenty of other teams that perform well, but in girls sports it’s hampered, according to the Morning News story, because it has only 20 girls (compared with 120 boys). As for the game itself, you might ask, why not just call it at halftime? Well, because if you have a game scheduled, everybody deserves to play all the way through. And perhaps the Academy coach wanted something positive, even one basket, to take from the game.

If you’ve been a youth sports coach or parent, you know that blowouts will happen, though maybe not to this extreme.

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My coed fifth- and sixth-grade team had two straight games where it was blown out by a combined total of 64-5. It wasn’t pleasant hearing parents of the other team cheer lustily when their kids were hitting baskets to put their team up 30. But I also realized that some of the kids hitting shots hadn’t scored points all season, so if this was their shot at scoring glory, so be it. I also wanted my team to learn a lesson at how to conduct yourself when you’re getting rocked. Namely, don’t quit, and remember how this feels, not only as an inspiration to make you better, but also to know how the other team feels if you put a similar hurt on them.

If there’s going to be any clear villain in this Dallas Academy debacle, the story implies (and some of anonymous commenters say right out) that it might by the contingent of Covenant fans who cheered not just for their own children’s success, but also for Dallas Academy’s failure, hoping their team would hit 100 and/or shut it out. If you’re that proud of it, fans, I except you to be sporting “100-0” shirts the rest of the season.

If nothing else, the Dallas Academy coach has taken something positive from his 100-0 blowout. From the Morning News:

Later on the 100-0 night, Civello told his girls the life lesson they could take from their loss: “I told them someday they will be on top in a similar situation and they should remember how they felt when some people were cheering for a team to score a hundred points and shut us out. Hopefully, my girls all learned a lesson in sportsmanship that will last them a lifetime.”