On the right side of karma

Karma can be a son of a gun.

That is one of the most important things to remember as you make your way through life. What goes around doesn’t always come around, but when it does it sure can be a poetic thing of beauty.

It can be really good, as we expect for Butte middle school student Tucker Winston (more on him later). Or it can be really, really bad as one would expect for a basketball coach in Bozeman.

It’s hard to say if karma will come back to bite the Bozeman varsity girls’ coach for blatantly running up the score on the very young Butte High Bulldogs last Tuesday at the Butte Civic Center, but I am sure glad I’m not the one who has to answer for spitting in the face of good vibrations.

The Hawks won 86-32 in a game that saw the clock running continuously because of the 40-point “mercy rule” for much of the second half. The game ended with three Bozeman starters still on the floor, and the Hawks ran a full-court press and fast break until the very end.

Of course, there is a couple of ways of looking at the issue of running up the score in high school sports, and, admittedly, I tend to be way too overprotective of our Butte athletes.

Some people will surely argue that a team has to keep playing regardless of the score, and I can see that point. The goal is to win the state championship, and that seems to be a real possibility for the talented Hawks.

And, one could argue that the Hawks were simply trying to get better so they can play their best at the state tournament. Up 40 or down 40, a good coach is always coaching until the final buzzer.

The Bulldogs could have also been an unintended victim of the “mercy rule” itself. Some coaches apparently feel the clock is taking mercy on an opponent so they don’t have to.

That is a major flaw in the “mercy rule.”

Another flaw is that running the clock continuously takes court time away from the coaches and players. It makes it harder to get subs into the game, and when they are in the game it seems like a joke.

The “mercy rule” also adds embarrassment to a big loss because it draws more attention to the score, too.

When a high school basketball game is lopsided, both teams would be better suited to use the full 32 minutes. The winning team can allow their backups to develop and gain some valuable experience.

The losing team can use the time to get better.

A “mercy rule” makes that time a waste because often both teams end up throwing in the towel once the clock takes off.

Of course, there would be no need for a “mercy rule” if there weren’t coaches like the one in Bozeman, which leads me to the counter point.

If coaches would just do the right thing, we would never have to say the words “mercy rule.” And no matter how hard you might try to justify it, running up the score on a collection of 15 to 17 year-old-years is classless. Really, there’s no other way to put it.

The Bozeman Hawks didn’t appear to be working on getting better that night. It looked like they were trying to score 100 points, and they certainly would have if the clock would have stopped on a dead ball. It appeared they were trying to embarrass the Bulldogs.

I don’t worry about the Butte High players because I know they’ll bounce back. Even though the team hasn’t won much, it is full of players who have moxie.

While their fans stewed, the well-coached Bulldogs probably moved on from the loss right away.

Someday those players might get a chance to get some revenge on the Hawks and their merciless coach. Karma says they will. In some way.

One night after the Bozeman coach recklessly defied karma, Tucker Winston did the exact opposite in the very same building.

Winston, an eighth grader at East Middle School, found a wad of cash on the floor while he was working as a ball boy. It was $870, to be exact. Not a bad find for anybody.

So, you have a split second to make the decision. If you find that kind of money, what do you do?

We’d all like to say that we would turn the money into the proper authorities, but we know humanity way better than that. There is a large percentage of people out there who would pocket the money and walk away.

Sure, it would be like stealing, but it would be very, very hard to get caught. I would like to think that I would have handed the money over, but I can’t say that I would for sure because I have never found $870 before.

You have to make up your mind very quickly, too. You can’t put the money in your pocket and then change your mind 10 minutes later.

You can’t say, “I didn’t see any money,” only to change your mind and say, “Oh, you mean this money?” Even if you eventually give it back, you will look like a crook.

Tucker, though, didn’t hesitate. Well, at least he didn’t hesitate for long. He immediately gave the money to Bill Melvin, the manager of the Civic Center.

A while later, the man who dropped the money came back looking for it, as you can imagine. He was an administrator for one of the schools with teams playing in the Western A Divisional basketball tournament.

The money, presumably, was for paying for expenses for the boys’ and girls’ teams from that school.

Thrilled to get his money back, the man gave Tucker a reward of $40, which is a pretty darn good haul for an eighth grader.

Tucker is one of the top two fastest boys in the East Middle School. He plays football, basketball and baseball, and he’s good at all of them.

He comes from good athletic genes, too. His mother, Cindy (Sparks) was a great athlete at Butte High, and his father, John, was a standout at Butte Central.

Next year, Tucker will be a Butte High Bulldog, and you can bet you will hear his name many times for the next four years.

Sure, Tucker might not be on a state championship team with the Bulldogs, but it has to be comforting for Butte High fans to know that he is headed for high school walking on the right side of karma.

That Bozeman coach? Well, not so much.

— Bill Foley, who apparently has been walking on the wrong side of karma, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 8 comments

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  • Jeff Malby
    March 1, 2016, 7:48 am

    Great story and comments.Bill.

    • Kate Swensen@Jeff Malby
      March 1, 2016, 11:07 am

      Bill, your article is fantastic but I would like to add one more point to it. As an eighth grader I watched the varsity coach run up the score against opponents beating them mercilessly. I felt sorry for the girls on the other team. I didn’t know how sorry I felt until two years later starting varsity with a young squad, it was payback time. Every coach pounded us, one game we only could put up 13 pts at the final buzzer. Now I understand why the other coaches wanted to get their due revenge on our coach, but it was us that felt the wrath, the embarrassment, the humiliation, the tears. And this type of payback can affect a kids self esteem and self worth for a lifetime. I wish coaches would think about the choices they make on the sideline and how it will affect the players later on in the game of life.

  • John Amtmann
    March 1, 2016, 10:51 am

    Very timely and insightful Foles, thank you!

  • Charlene
    March 1, 2016, 1:58 pm

    What an awesome story on Tucker Winston. But then again, he has the Butte roots – and we all know – most Butte people are good people – high values and a sense of family. Obviously this child has a wonderful family – as they raised him right….and so nice that he is recognized here. Good deeds shared are even a better glory….well deserved Tucker!

  • mtlbp
    March 1, 2016, 7:30 pm

    I agree on Tucker, but not on the whole karma aspect. So this Bozeman coach doesn’t have the same Karma by being a great person, coach, teacher, and wife? A person that relates with the students in a way that helps them in their future endeavors. I believe great karma is bound for a person like that!

  • mtlbp
    March 1, 2016, 7:30 pm

    I agree on Tucker, but not on the whole karma aspect. So this Bozeman coach doesn’t have the same Karma by being a great person, coach, teacher, and wife? A person that relates with the students in a way that helps them in their future endeavors. I believe great karma is bound for a person like that!


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