There is Never an Excuse for Embarrassing an Opponent: Grinnell vs Faith Baptist

Liam Day insists that Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor’s 138 point game may break a record, but it also shows a problem of corrupted priorities. 

On Tuesday, Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor scored 138 points in an NCAA Division III game against Faith Baptist Bible College, a game Grinnell, unsurprisingly, won 179 – 104. The 138 points are a new college basketball record, Division I, II, or III.

The reaction has been almost universally positive, NBA players registering their awe by Twitter and in interviews. I am going to play the role of contrarian. Grinnell should be embarrassed by this.

Grinnell’s men’s team plays a unique brand of basketball. They press all over the court on every defensive possession and push the ball offensively, shooting mostly three-point shots. They’ve led the country in scoring in 17 of the last 19 years and in 3-point shooting in 15. Because they play at such a fast pace, they will substitute, on average, at least one player every two minutes, often subbing out all five players at the same time, like a hockey line.

In Tuesday’s game, Jack Taylor played 36 of the 40 possible minutes. He attempted 108 shots, 71 one of them three-point shots, 58 of them in the second half. A half being 20 minutes long, that averages out to just about 3 shots attempted per minute, during a half of basketball in which we can assume that, at least for most of it, Grinnell was winning by anywhere from 50 to 70 points.

Excuse the pun, but what, precisely, is the point? What is the point of leaving Jack Taylor in for most of the game when leading by such a large margin? What is the point in allowing the young man to shoot three times per minute when already blowing the other team out? Even if it were only to allow Taylor to break the old record, which was 113 points, the coach, David Arsenault, could have removed him from the game 24 points earlier than he did. Even if the coach left Taylor in the game after breaking the record, there was no reason to continue to push the ball and have him shoot three shots per minute.

There is never an excuse for embarrassing an opponent. To do so for the sake of breaking a record is to demonstrate a complete lack of priorities. Grinnell’s mission statement reads, in part, that “the College holds that knowledge is a good to be pursued both for its own sake and for the intellectual, moral, and physical well-being of individuals and of society at large.” It’s difficult to see how that mission was fulfilled Tuesday.

When we talk and write about the corrupting influence of athletics on colleges and universities, we’re usually talking about large public universities. Tuesday’s game against Faith Baptist Bible College demonstrates that athletics can corrupt at all levels of competition, from Penn State to Grinnell.

About Liam Day

Liam Day has been a youth worker, teacher, campaign manager, political pundit, communications director, and professional basketball player. His poems have appeared at Slow Trains Apt, and Wilderness House Literary Review. His op-eds and essays have appeared in Annalemma Stymie, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. He lives in Boston, where he works as a public health professional. He is the Sports Editor at The Good Men Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @LiamDay7.


  1. It seems to me that what we have in this article is an effective strategy and skilled players. That they do significantly better is not embarrassing another team, even if the other team feels embarrassed.

    When I was younger, we played a sport called broom-ball, it’s akin to hockey in many ways. Once, a team from another city came to play us. They didn’t play us, they *slayed* us. They were easily 100 times better than we were. They demonstrated excellent skills at all levels of the game.

    While that was happening, some of the parents whose children were on our team started arguing about the unfairness of it all, appealing to minute technicalities of obscure regulations that have not been applied for years. They made appeals to to our self-esteem. The score was something like 75 to 0 (1 point at a time). The complain was so bad that they turned the scoreboard off and ended calling it “a demo game”.

    *That* is embarrassing the other team.

    I was having my butt handed to me and I had nothing but respect and admiration at the other teams fitness, discipline, teamwork and technical excellence.

    It is an error to punish or limit those who do well, and to falsely reward those who do poorly.

    • John Anderson says:

      I was one of the smaller guys in the dojang, about 5′ 7″ and 140 to 150 pounds. So when one of the two girls didn’t show up, I would sometimes have to spar them. I always took it easy on them. I was afraid they’d get hurt, but it also felt like I was disrespecting them as an opponent and one of the promises we made when entering the dojang was to respect our classmates.

  2. John Anderson says:

    “There is never an excuse for embarrassing an opponent.”

    A lot of my friends went to the same dojang that I did. I’d become friends with most of the people I didn’t know too. Sometimes we sparred and most times the matches were loose. Sa Bam Nim didn’t make us follow the protocols that you would normally follow in tournament. After scoring a point, we’d sometimes talk trash to each other. That would be embarrassing an opponent also, but it was also a form of sibling rivalry. Friendship may make a difference.

  3. Isn’t it possible that the coach decided to reward a kid by letting him get the record, and then wanted him to push it as far as he could so that he could have the record for as long as possible? I’m inclined to believe that this was about his own team and rewarding a player rather than about the other team. And…I think I’m fine with that. If they were going to score 170 points anyway (and they probably were; it’s not like Taylor was the most efficient point on the floor), why does it matter who was doing it?

  4. There is some validity in what you say. However, I would argue there’s a difference between a sport like swimming or track, in which one doesn’t compete head to head against one’s opponent, but, rather, against a clock, and a sport like basketball, in which one does.

    Moreover, you don’t address the question about why leave the kid in the game, even after he’s broken the record. You could even make the argument that doing so and allowing him to continue to take all the shots actually hurts the team. Not giving other players shots in a game setting means they will be less ready to shoot the ball when a time later in the season comes when they might be needed.

  5. “There is never an excuse for embarrassing an opponent. To do so for the sake of breaking a record is to demonstrate a complete lack of priorities.”

    There is no evidence they were trying to embarrass their opponent. They were doing their best and I don’t see what is wrong with that. I would think it would be more embarrassing and arrogant if they took it easy on their opponent. This is what Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps were both criticized for.

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