Saturday, December 29, 2012

The No Mercy Rule

67 to 9. In 1964, I was point guard for the 7th grade basketball team that played against a squad of 8th graders from our school. I still recall the double teams and the traps, my inability to get the ball past mid-court. That loss may be the most vivid memory I have of any sporting event in which I participated growing up.

Last night I spoke of that game for the first time in years. Pine Plains is a small town in upstate New York. One of their basketball players, a senior back-up guard, is a friend of our family. Each of the past two years we have traveled to watch him play at a Pine Plains home game.

While the town is small, the players are not. There are three who are true Division I caliber. They will some day soon likely be playing for teams filled with athletes who dominated at their high school level. At  6'3, 6'8 and 6'9 these players are sometimes both literally and figuratively head and shoulders above their competition.

This team steamrolls almost every opponent that comes before it. Their favorite opening gambit is the alley oop. In that instant, in the first moments of the contest, dominance and intimidation are established. A high arcing pass is made to one of the twin towers waiting underneath the basket. As the ball reaches its apex, up rises the player to meet and redirect the ball into the net with a resounding dunk. It is a statement of purpose which has already been used on several occasions early in this season.

The two squads squaring off last night had played one common opponent this season. Pine Plains, in its usual show of force, had been victors by 26 points over Coleman Catholic. When Webutuck High School faced this same Coleman team, it lost by 64 points. Webutuck had not won a game to date.

I arrived at the gymnasium shortly after the contest began. I looked up at the scoreboard to see what I had missed in those few moments. Barely three minutes in, it was 16 for the home team. There was no score on the Visitor's side. As I took my seat, I heard of the massive dunk off the alley oop only seconds after the opening tip off.

It appeared that the tallest player out on the floor for Webutuck was shorter than the shortest player among the starting five for Pine Plains. Their point guard looked, size wise, like he belonged in an elementary school game. He appeared to be barely over five feet tall and seemed as young as his diminutive stature would suggest.

I watched the double teams and traps, the switching on defense, all the elements of a team well coached. By the end of the first quarter, the score was 28 to 9. In the second quarter, the team from Webutuck did not score a single point. The half-time tally was 50 to 9. There was an endless succession of steals and dunks. Pine Plains seemingly could do whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted on the court. Still, the stars of the Pine Plains squad remained on the floor. The senior back up point guard whom we had come to watch played a total of one minute and seven seconds in the first half.

At half-time most of the conversation among the group of us that were together was not of the greatness of the home town heroes. Instead, we wondered why the first team was still out on the floor. Why, when the opponent was of such inferior quality, was the opportunity not taken to put your reserves in? Give your stars a token appearance, let them dazzle and build up a lead that could not be challenged, and then put them on the bench to be witness, not participant.

The people in the stands were no longer rooting loudly for the home team. Rather, most of the cheers were reserved for those very infrequent moments when the figure changed beside the "Visitor" sign on the scoreboard.

As the second half began, the Pine Plains starters returned to the floor. Within moments, it was now 60 to 10. There was talk of starting a chant to put in the reserves. One of those in our midst spoke of leaving and heading off to dinner.

Finally, the stars were removed. The player we had come to see, scored 6 points. In the end, the scoreboard read  89 to 29.

I remember looking up when the Pine Plains tally had reached 67. The number next to Webutuck read 13. My mind flashed back to that day in 1964 when the team I was on watched helplessly while our opponent ran up 67 points on us. I understood that half a century from now, many on the losing team would still carry the memory of this evening with them.


Anonymous said...

I was also at this game. In the 1960's, Pine Plains were the stars of Dutchess County, beating every large and small school soundly. The "wagons" rolled in every game resembling the parade to away games in HOOSIERS. Pine Plains amassed over 50 consecutive wins over several seasons and held the high school consecutive win record in all of New York State for many years.

I, too, cheered for #1 on Webutuck. He had guts and confidence but a complete lack of basketball sense as he, at what appeared to be a diminutive stature, attempted to drive into a lane dominated by the "redwoods". When he scored on two foul shots I applauded.

The problem with the game wasn't that the score was one sided. Pine Plains has an opportunity to be ranked number one statewide and thus must demonstrate that they can dominate their opponents. The issue is how Pine Plains played the game with such a margin after the first quarter. They forgot the fundamentals, attempted to do ally oops at inappropriate times and even received 2 technicals called against the most dominant player, resulting in his ejection. The score wasn't the problem. The arrogance was!

Pine Plains should have used this as a scrimmage, freely subbing throughout the game but leaving a dominant player on the court to work with those less graced with height and ability. The coach should have used this opportunity to develop the bench so during difficult games they could provide a breather for the better players. Five subs will never be in a tight game together as they were last night. Thus, the team learned very little from last nights performance.

Anonymous said...

What about the fact Pine Plains received 3 Technicals total, 2 on one of their stars, suspending him from the next game, in fact he was suppose to leave the gym last night.
Why risk having one of your starters getting injured when your already up thirty, forty, or fifty points. You think the coach would've noticed when the fans stopped cheering for the home team and half of them started routing for the under dog.
If anything was learned lastnight, Webutuck learned what unsportsmanship is.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your hurt feelings many years ago. Every athlete wants to bat 4th and play shortstop. Many simply can't. Our society is driven by the desire to consider feelings over results, equality of results over equality of opportunity. As a result, the move to stop keeping score is growing as is the movement to no longer rate our students from 1st to last with the result being that we no longer have valedictorians or we have 20 or more. No hurt feeling regardless of the consequences. But in reality, everyone doesn't deserve a trophy, everyone can't be first, and sometimes losses can be humiliating. But, as I suspect in your case, each of us has strengths which counter our weaknesses. The little point guard on the other team had a tough night, but maybe he's the top student in his class. Anyone think it would be appropriate for him to fail a couple tests so that the gap between his marks and those of the weakest student isn't as wide?

Contrary to your point, the Pine Plains team has a relatively inexperienced coach however good he may someday be. They are not now well coached. And I am truly sorry for you having to drive so far to watch your friend's son play a limited amount of time. But here's the thing. This kid has a chance of playing on a state championship team. And in 20 years he won't be lamenting the fact that he got limited floor time. He'll be proud that he made the team, and so will his wife and kids.

I didn't graduate from Pine Plains and I don't know any of the players. I came to see a great team and I did. But I concur with the first response. The answer isn't the score.

As a previous responder said, do what's right for the team. Substitute and train the players because at some point this year Pine Plains will play a formidable opponent. They will need a bench capable of stepping in.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for some time and encourage the Pine Plains fans to read your archived posts. Bet your story is pure BS but is used as a metaphor to get across your belief that the U.S. is an unjust country.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is ridiculous

Anonymous said...

Do you know the saying when you assume it makes an ass out of you and me. Well your blog makes you sound like an ass and degraded the Pine Plains basketball team. If I am correct you attend one basketball game a year. Besides your friends one son, do you really know any of the other players on the team. Do you know their abilities? Sounds like you don't. Well did you know that 4 of them play basketball all year round? Did you know that one of the players passion in life is to play for the NBA? Did you ever stop to think that not all people excel in every sport. Ya know I find it funny that whenever a team excels that people become critical. Why is that? Life is a learning journey. you have ups and downs. Maybe some of the second string basketball players excel at other sports and get lots of playing time. Oh wait they do because I know who they are. Maybe the four boys that start at the basketball games are not good in other sports. Oh wait, not all of them play other sports. Did you know that? If you had a son who was on that team and was as good as those four boys what would you tell him? Hold back and be a good sportsmen, don't try to be the best that you can be.. Don't hurt anyones feelings. I sure as hell would tell my son to give it your all. afterall you only get as good as you do from practice and perserverance. Not sitting on your butt!!! I hope that Pine Plains goes all the way this year and I bet so do all the players on that team. In twenty years who is going to care if you weren't a starter when you have a plaque that says I was apart of that. I would rather be apart of that team than not. You my friend need to get over your insecurities from your childhood. I bet you were an wanna be athlete that didn't excel and this is your way of feeling a secureness you lack for. Also I would like to say you also have degraded the coach of the Pine Plains Basketball team as well as our schools name. Shame on you. You also have caused players to have hurt and confused feelings of some of the players. Again Shame on you. You are a pathetic human being. if you are going to print a article in your blog get your FACTS straight. When all is said and done this is all jealousy. Oh and one more thing, if any of the other schools were in our position, do you think they would have mercy on us? Probably not. you don't rise to the top being considerate in sports. People like you irritate the hell out of me. Get a life my friend, get a life.

Anonymous said...

Pure bs and jealousy

Anonymous said...

You have no idea what you are talking about. For most of the game the starters played with the second and third string. At the end of the game all the second and third string were on the court. Are you telling me that you would have told a second or third string kid not to shoot or play hard when his mom, dad and friends are in the stands. We have all been on the side of getting our asses kicked at a sport in highschool it hurts for the bus ride home and for about ten minutes after then you go on. Pine Plains has taken many a beating in Football far, far worse I know because I was on the receiving end on more than one occasion, it happens. Toughen up, the world isn't all roses and sugar plumbs.

Anonymous said...

It was nice of you to attend the game but you are SO wrong in writing about it. If you need to get things off your chest about your insecurities of your past, you really should be writing in a private diary. Pine Plains is a small town and when someone hears of someone writing in a blog about the game, word gets out. Henceforth, now I am expressing my opinion of your writings.

This is a VARSITY team you are writing about. Not modified. These boys work hard, some work all year round to get to the level they are. Are you at any of their practices to see what goes on. Maybe some of the boys don't deserve to play because of their antics at practice, or didn't go to practice, or failed a subject. I was bought up on the theory you had to EARN your position. Whether you start or not or even play depends on how hard you work for that spot. Just because you are a senior doesn't entitle you to play - EARN IT! If you want it WORK for it, PRACTICE HARD!! THIS IS A VARSITY TEAM!!!!!! How come you never commented on the not too long ago loss that Pine Plains JV boys basketball team had against Red Hook. They lost like 75-9 and the Red Hook coach continued to press our team. Red Hook never let up. Our boys got thru it. If you were to go to any other town either near the city or near Albany - those teams will never let up. Why should we?

You mentioned in your blog about arrogance. ???? You yourself said you were not there for the opening ally oop play,so what makes you think it was arrogant? which by the way was AWESOME!!! I have been to many Pine Plains games and I have NEVER seen any arrogance on the floor by any Pine Plains basketball player. For your information, these boys are playing basketball, whether it by ally oops, dunks, 3pt shots or fast breaks - it is all part of the game.

You feel a little humiliated by the the fact that Pine Plains scored so much. I was more humiliated by the fact I saw a Pine Plains bench player laughing after he scored two of his six points. To me, that is more humiliating to Webatuck than being outscored or dunked on, which again, is part of the game.

Maybe you should advise your friend, if he wants more play time he should do something about it - to change the things he may or may not be doing. Just being a senior doesn't cut it.

Let the coach coach whether it be good or bad. He is the coach. He may have his reasons that we as the crowd knows nothing about.

I think people need to stay out of it. If the kids have a problem with their play time it is up to them to do something.

All this technology, I believe is not a good thing.

I feel like you have opened up a big can of worms by voicing your opinion on this game in your blog and letting it be known that you even wrote something.

Keep coming to our games. These boys are GREAT and they deserve to have a crowd, but don't deserve to be knocked by someones writings.


LFS_10 said...

For you to write about this game in a negative way is ridiculous. As a resident of Pine Plains it is great to have a team of this caliber to root for and get behind. Would you have written this article if you didn't have a personal connection with one of the players? NO. So why did you feel that it was acceptable to attack a coach that you know nothing about. His job is to prepare his team to go out and compete at the highest level that they can each and every game. Just because the score is lopsided you don't stop competing. There are always things to work on as a team and a coach. How many victories like this do you think Red Hooks former coach Rod Chando had on his way to the NYS Hall of Fame? Did you write about those?

The goal of a every basketball team is to win games and every player on the bench for Pine Plains should be aware of that. If they wanted to be part of a team where everyone has equal playing time they should have joined track...
It's sad that one of you most vivid memory growing up was a loss...Did you ever think that 20-30 years from now members of the Webutuck team might look back and tell people that they got to play against the 2012-2013 Pine Plains Team in a positive manner...If you play sports long enough your going to lose, its part of competition...

Anonymous said...

The author of this blog , Robert Scott Nussbaum is a 70 year old lawyer from New Jersey. What gives him the right to bash coach LoBrutto after seeing him coach one game? Can we please cut coach LoBrutto some slack!! Since he started coaching Pine Plains, they have gone 41-10, won back to back Section 9 Championships,1 division championship and is currently ranked #2 in the state. I understand he has/had a lot of talent but we have all seen teams in Pine Plains with talent who didn't perform up to their full potential. Coach LoBrutto spends countless hours, YEAR ROUND, to helping these young men improve their basketball skills. He's faced with a very good problem this year. He has a very talented team who will blowout 90% of the teams they play. Keeping players sharp and developing skills, while balancing the delegate egos of teen age boys is not an easy task.

Mr. Nussbaum, It seems you grew up to be a successful lawyer despite your PTSD inducing, 7th grade basketball beat down. Did you ever think of how this “article” would affect the teenage boys you are writing about?

Anonymous said...

Well said. Hooray for u

Anonymous said...

So mr nussbaum what do you have to say for yourself now? I would love to hear your blog thoughts now!!!!

Robert said...

I am sorry that my remarks appear to some to have been incendiary. That was not my intent, nor was it my intent to challenge the greatness of what is clearly a remarkable basketball team. Pine Plains is justified in feeling proud of everything this team has accomplished to date and to be excited about its endless possibilities.

My piece questioned whether in sports there is a role for compassion. Clearly there is a strong difference of opinion. I thank those who have taken the time to read my thoughts and respond.

Anonymous said...

Then you should have left names out of it !!!! Damage is done !!!!

Anonymous said...

Stay in the hell out of Pine Plains you hack. The so called "fans" who posted negative comments should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

WOW... Someone stated that coach Lobrutto has a record of 41-10....... Try saying that all of the other basketball coaches that have been training these boys have a record of 41-10.

I agree that the all-star players and starters are the ones that need to play to win the game and get the job done... but these bench players work their asses off to just make these starters better.

These bench players have earned their spot on this team and deserve a chance to get on the court once the starters have accomplished their job and then some. I am a firm believer that the goal is to win.... but when the game is past winning, and more to show off... Don't you people think its time to give these dedicated subs a chance?

I think these comments have too many assumptions that are not stated in this blog. There is no damage done whatsoever.

Best of luck to Pine Plains this year, I'll be rooting for you.

Anonymous said...

Rhinebeck 78, Webutuck 37.....

Anonymous said...

Pawling 54-19, Roundout 54-18, Coleman 101-37, Millbrook 66-22, Spackenkill 66-23, Faith Academy 66-47.
Don't think the boys from Webutuck are going to be crying about loosening to the #2 team in the state 50 years from now.
If Pine Plains goes on to win a state championship Webutuck players will be bragging to their grand kids that they put up 29pts.

Anonymous said...

I remember during my short time at Webutuck , the small "C" school beat up on the "B" School Pine Plains a few times in hoops, and the hometown fans didnt like it!!! My last journey as a coach at webutuck i coached JV Baseball and beat Pine Plains in their own tourney and the players, coaches, AD, parents, etc.... CRIED and CRIED cuz I had a freshman (14) yr old boy pitch against Sophmore & juniors (15-17) yr olds, but the kid played varsity but 2 nd base, but never pitched in varsity....