A Basketball Blowout and Its Celebration Raise Theological Questions

Grinnell’s coaches, in other words, kept their star guard on the floor and shooting, and kept up their full-court defensive pressure, against an opposing team they were leading by 50, then 60, then 70 points. A college 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.

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