The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper saying he will not apologize "for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity."
Given that I didn't witness the contest, I can't say a lot beyond speculation about the ethics of this particular scenario. However, it does seem to me that playing with honor and integrity would involve not taking 3 point shots in the 4th quarter of such a lopsided game. Sport philosophers Nicholas Dixon and Randolph Feezell have offered arguments about this type of situation. Dixon argues against a received view concerning sportspersonship that he calls the Anti-Blowout thesis:
It is intrinsically unsporting for players or teams to maximize the margin of victory after they have secured victory in a one-sided contest.
One of the strongest points in favor of his view raised by Dixon is that it is not true that those who suffer lopsided defeats have been humiliated or diminished as humans. The only cause for shame in such a situation would be giving up, if one is on the losing side. And in a competitive game, when part of the purpose is a determination of athletic superiority and excellence, there is nothing immoral about running up the score. (For more, see Dixon's "On Sportsmanship and Running Up the Score'," Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (1992): 1-13).
On the other side of this issue, Feezell argues that even if it isn't always wrong to run up the score, it usually is and strong overriding factors must be present if the following Revised Anti-Blowout Thesis is to be overridden:
It is prima facie unsporting for players or teams to maximize the margin of victory after they have secured victory in a one-sided contest.
For more, see Randolph Feezell, "Sportsmanship and Blowouts: Baseball and Beyond," Journal of the Philosophy of Sport (1999): 68-78. Both papers are also reprinted in Sports Ethics, edited by Jan Boxill.
Given the above principles and the ESPN account, was it wrong to run up the score?