Grinnell player scores 138 points; everyone loses

Bullies come in all shapes and size. Man, woman. Adult, child. Criminal and non-criminal. Athletes can be bullies, too. So can coaches.

A bully move is, at heart, the act of lording over someone else -- dominating someone else -- because you can. You take their sandwich at lunch. Push them down at recess. Laugh at them in the school hallway.

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Score 138 points at the gym.

That was a bully move by Grinnell College on Tuesday night, by the player who did it and by the coach who wanted it to happen. Don't get lost in comparisons -- Are you saying that scoring 138 points is the same as beating up a smaller kid? -- because not all bully moves are the same.

But that was a bully move, scoring 138 points simply because you can. Grinnell didn't need 138 points from Jack Taylor to beat Faith Baptist Bible; they won by 75. They got 138 points from Taylor because the coach at Grinnell, David Arseneault, wanted some headlines -- here I am, giving him another one -- and because the kid, Taylor, didn't have the character to say no.

Grinnell won 179-104, and that 104 scored by Faith Baptist doesn't mean the school is good at basketball. It means Grinnell stopped playing defense once Faith crossed halfcourt. Grinnell didn't entirely quit defending -- it was pressing the whole game -- but its plan was to force a turnover in the backcourt (and get the ball to Taylor for another shot) or give Faith a layup and hurry the ball back up the court (and get the ball to Taylor for another shot).

That's Grinnell's style of play, and while I wouldn't want to coach that style, my problem isn't with the style itself. My problem is with the nature of this scoring onslaught, the way Arseneault identified Faith Baptist as a weaker team, a blank canvas upon which he could let Taylor paint a masterpiece.

Had the score been close at the end, and Taylor was still playing -- and still shooting -- because Grinnell needed it to win, I'd have no problem with what happened. But that's not what happened. Grinnell was winning in a blowout, but Taylor kept shooting. Why? Because Arsenault wanted the attention, and because Taylor didn't have the character to say no.

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