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Pollock: Dolphins win brings up memories of local high school blowouts and ‘mercy’ rules


A column by senior sports columnist CHUCK POLLOCK

Who would have thought winning a National Football League game by 50 points would create such a controversy?

Well, it wasn’t exactly the margin of victory, but rather the Dolphins “settling” for a 70-20 triumph over Denver Sunday afternoon rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to tie the NFL record for points in a game.

With the ball deep in Broncos territory, Miami coach Mike McDaniel had backup quarterback Mike White call three inside running plays, then a kneel-down with 30 seconds left rather than try a potential record-tying 38-yard field goal.

And while most observers saw it as a merciful decision, there were a number of dissidents who either felt a team should always go for the record OR that the decision was insulting to coach Sean Payton and his reeling squad  … inferring the Dolphins found it so easy to score they weren’t even going to try anymore against such a lesser opponent. 

THE BESPECTACLED McDaniel, who looks more like a college freshman who remembered to comb his hair but forgot his chemistry book, offered an eloquent defense.

“I’m very okay with the decision, and I think the team, notably the leaders of the team supported it, the captains supported it,” he said. “It’s not the way you want to get the record. I would hope that if the shoe was on the other foot, the opponent would feel the same way. That’s called karma. I’m trying to keep good karma with the Miami Dolphins.”

McDaniel added, “It felt like chasing points and chasing a record and that’s not what we came into the game to do. That doesn’t have a bearing on the overall season outcome … the message that I thought it would send wasn’t really in line with how I view things.

“I think that’s awesome for a regular-season record. You can have that and suffer the same fate as we had last year. I don’t care about that regular-season record. It would have been cool but what we’re trying to do, I think that would be talking out of both sides of my mouth if we tried to send the field goal team on and squeeze in an extra three. It’s not really what I’m about.”

McDANIEL’S point about karma is well-taken and I lived half of it during my college days.

My junior year at Ithaca College, the 1965 football team, of which I was play-by-play man, went 8-0. One of the victims was American International which fell 50-6 on South Hill campus.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.

After a meaningless late touchdown, Ithaca lined up to kick the ball off, but American International intervened. It wanted to kick off. Who knew the scored upon team had an option and that’s exactly what AI took?

The message was “You want to score so badly, here’s the ball back.” As a broadcaster it was embarrassing.

Twenty years later, American International came back to Ithaca and never took its foot off the gas in a 41-8 win. Of course, IC had a different coach and players, so it became karma by delay, but clearly the memory lingered.

TO BE sure, there’s not much margin for mercy on the pro level where athletes are paid to perform and learn to accept the outcome as it unfolds.

In college athletics, there’s much more room for sportsmanship.

And, scholastically, that should be the key word.

Shortly after I started at the Olean Times Herald, in the early 1970s, girls sports were in their infancy. One basketball season, Johnsonburg, well-coached and loaded with skilled players, won several games by scores such as 107-4. I wrote a column saying no player should have to go home after losing a basketball game by 100 points. Of course the J-burg parents argued those scores were merely a tribute to the greatness of their team.

That memory crossed my mind on Saturday when I saw that the Bradford High football team had lost to Central Clarion, 86-0, the night before.

The Owls trailed 56-0 at intermission before the “mercy rule” kicked in for the second half.

Was 86 points enough?

Is Bradford that bad, or Central Clarion that good?

All I know is, a reasonable coach would have found a way that the BHS players didn’t have to take the two-hour bus ride home knowing they had just lost by more than a dozen touchdowns.

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at

Past column by Chuck:

Did the Bills find a middle linebacker in win vs. Washington?

Pollock Predicts: Take the Bills over Washington

• Why Week 2 has the makings of a must-win

• The new look AFC East after one week

• Pollock on the Week 1 loss

• Bills season prediction

• A pre-season final win erases memories of the Steelers loss

• Where were the tight ends in the preseason win?

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