A tale of two forfeits
You have probably heard of and perhaps even read Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities, but have you heard of or read about the tale of two high school teams forfeiting games and possible advancement in their basketball state championship playoffs?
Two teams, one in Georgia and one in Texas, have forfeited out of the playoffs, but for different reasons—quite different, actually. The Georgia team forfeited its regional tournament, thereby giving up any opportunity to advance to a state playoff berth. The Texas team advanced to the state semifinal game before forfeiting, one game shy of playing for a state championship.
Surely, there must have been compelling reasons for these forfeits. You be the judge of that. I find one reason compelling; the other saddens me.
In Texas, it was announced Monday that the Houston Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish high school, would forfeit its semifinal boys basketball game scheduled this coming Friday night in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class 2A state tournament because the game time conflicts with the Jewish Sabbath and the team does not compete on the Sabbath.
The school had avoided two previous possible forfeits when opponents agreed to change the game times and the game site facilities were available. After winning the quarterfinal game, school officials petitioned TAPPS to change the time of the semifinal to earlier in the day Friday or later at night on Saturday so there would be no conflict with the Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The appeal was denied, and now the team Beren defeated 62-49 in the quarterfinal game will advance to the semifinal game Friday night.
The TAPPS athletic director in denying the appeal pointed out that the school had been informed that the state tournament was played on Fridays and Saturdays and had agreed at the time it joined TAPPS that this could be a problem. He also noted that times and locations for the semifinal and championship games are set and announced in advance.
No TAPPS teams are allowed to play sports on Sundays, when Christians traditionally worship.
Beren’s basketball coach and athletic director said he was hopeful the association could work with the school, but he respected the TAPPS decision. The team has never played on the Sabbath and never will, he said, adding that his players know that and are fantastic at understanding it. One player was quoted in a news story as being disappointed but not frustrated with anybody.
For me, holding to a religious conviction is a compelling reason for making a particular decision. Sometimes, sticking with one’s faith requires decisions or actions with consequences that are disappointing. But having a conviction without the strength to carry through on it is also disappointing.
In Georgia, Warren County High School forfeited its scheduled regional tournament game with Hancock Central High School, thus eliminating itself from all postseason play.
Calling it “one of the most gut-wrenching decisions we have ever made,” the Warren County Schools superintendent took the action because she feared a brawl might erupt at the game. The opponent was Hancock Central High, and when the two schools played football in October the game was followed by a nasty brawl in which the Warren County coach was beaten with a helmet and had to undergo major surgery. The melee drew national attention, and the superintendent feared that violence would occur again.
In this case, the basketball team members reacted differently. They protested by gathering outside the school one morning and locking their arms in a show of solidarity trying to force the school district to register displeasure with the decision. One player, a senior, said, “We feel like nothing bad would happen. We feel like it would be a good game like always.”
Violence in our society and in our schools today is a very real problem. Because violence had already occurred this school year between the two schools, it may be understandable that fear of further violence would be a reason for concern. That it was a fear strong enough to be the basis for the decision to forfeit the playoff opportunity should sadden any of us.
Unfortunately, this tale of two schools is not a Dickens’ novel; it’s a real life tale in today’s world.