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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

In a recent Deadspin story, Deadspin is a sports website, a writer referred to a Pennsylvania High School team as cowardly.

The team’s offense? They held the ball for three minutes because the opposition declined to force the action. Aside from referring to a bunch of teenagers as cowardly for their performance in a game, the writer is wrong on another count.

The decision to hold the ball has nothing to do with intestinal fortitude. It’s common sense.

I believe I’m correct on this, but the vast majority of teams go into a game with the intention to win. So, if I take a lead into the fourth quarter and I own the basketball and the other team decides to sit back in the lane and not force me to shoot, I’m a coward?

What kind of bass-ackward thinking is that?

The piece in question is obviously advocating for a shot clock. But, in what universe can the offense be blamed for holding the basketball.

Again, I may be wrong, but it is my impression that a team cannot unilaterally hold the ball. You cannot yell at the other team, “Hey, I’m winning, don’t play defense.”

The photo accompanying the story shows the offensive player standing near the top of the key with the basketball on his hip? There are no defensive players pressuring him. The defenders are standing in the lane, hands at their sides.

Yet, the team with the lead AND the basketball is to blame?

This “logic” defies me.

The defense is equally capable of dictating the action. If you don’t want the other team to hold the ball, do something other than whining. You cannot claim the offensive team is cowardly if you don’t come out in an aggressive defense … engage, force the action.

What are you afraid of?

It is preposterous to think the opposition should fall on the sword, to take action that enhances your chances of winning. Who thinks like that?

There are consequences to defensive inaction – it’s called defeat. Yet, people are more than willing to blame the offense for taking advantage of the lead. Putting the lead at risk when the defense isn’t forcing you to … that’s just stupid.

Finally, when did it become acceptable to refer to a bunch of high school kids as cowardly because of the way a basketball game was conducted?

Many fans recoil in horror when a college coach criticizes a player for performing poorly. I’d like to have a quarter for every time Saluki coaches were accused of throwing their players “under the bus.”

Again, the purpose of prep sports is not to entertain fans in the stands. We justify the existence of interscholastic competition for calling the playing surface an extension of the classroom. Shouldn’t that education be as much about critical thinking as well as physical prowess?

What lesson, exactly, is to be gleaned from refusing to take an advantage someone is handing you?

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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