Stupid Football Arguments: Running Up the Score


Editor’s note: Every football season, it seems like certain arguments/discussions happen every single year between football fans. Some of those arguments are stupid and should never, ever happen again. This series will look some of the worst. (Previously: The Worst NFL Team vs. The Best College Team)

In Olympic men’s basketball yesterday, the American squad of NBA superstars absolutely destroyed the Nigerian team 156-73. That’s an absurd, you-have-your-video-game-on-too-easy-a-difficulty-level score right there. The Americans have since taken some criticism for “running up the score.”

Now, let me be clear. I HATE to see a team run up the score…at the youth level. If you are coaching a basketball team for 10-year-olds and you win by 83 points, YOU should be ashamed of yourself. There’s no reason to win by that much other than to feed an adult’s ego. Even at the high school level – what’s the point of winning by a huge margin? Play your subs, switch players around…do SOMETHING.

But for adult, high-level athletes? Come on.

This isn’t really the place to debate Olympic basketball sportsmanship protocols, but what the heck: no, the USA didn’t run up the score.  It’s not like the Nigerians don’t know how to play basketball. Most of their players are American-born guys who played D-1 college ball. Ike Diogu was a top-10 draft pick. And while African teams typically haven’t done well in international competition, the Nigerians earned their Olympic spot in an all-continents qualifying tournament. The Nigerian basketball team is full of legitimate basketball players. It’d be more insulting to them if the Americans STOPPED trying.

Nigeria just ran into a buzzsaw. The USA shot insanely well, so a game they ordinarily would have won by 40 or 50 turned into an 83-point beatdown. Whatever. Doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. Nigeria can get some pride back by winning another game and qualifying for the quarterfinals.

I suppose you can make an argument the Americans should have let up because the odds were so stacked against Nigeria. The USA is obviously a much wealthier, much larger country, with a much better basketball program. Okay, I can buy that a little. The teams aren’t on a level playing field.

Which brings me to the NFL. You hear the “running up the score” nonsense once in a while in the league. The best example was when the (hilariously 18-1) 2007 Patriots absolutely crushed everyone in their path for a month straight, including a 56-10 destruction of the Bills. In Buffalo. Ugh.

As horrible as that was, and as much as I loathed that Patriots team, I never once felt Pats coach Bill Belichick was running up the score as they scored touchdown after touchdown. Because there’s no such thing as running up the score in the NFL.

Why? Because all 32 NFL teams are on a level playing field. There’s a salary cap. The league gives every team a ton of money via the TV deal. Hell, the league helps crappy teams by making sure they get the best draft picks!

If you can’t win in the NFL, it’s because your players suck and your organization sucks. And if that means you lose games by 100 points, too damn bad. Don’t want to lose games so badly? Play better. Coach better. Everyone plays by the same rules you do, so no excuses.

Let’s never hear “running up the score” when talking about American pro sports again, especially the NFL.