Monday, June 19, 2006 | 7:03 a.m.
There shouldn't be rules about running up the score in high school football games.
There shouldn't have to be.
It should be like playing with matches, or honoring thy father and thy mother. If you have to put it into writing, there's something wrong with the system.
Apparently, the system in Connecticut needs an overhaul. Or at least an oil change.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has adopted a "score management" policy - opponents of the Taiwan Little League team know it as the "mercy" rule - to prevent teams from piling up points. Beginning this fall, when teams win by 50 points or more, their coaches will be suspended for the next game.
I would just make them write "I will not be a bad sport" on the chalkboard 500 times.
At first glance, this score management policy seems like a good idea. But so was the Hindenburg.
For starters, isn't 50 points a bit much? That's like slamming the barn door when the horse is out grazing in the pasture at Calumet Farms.
Unless your team has an oil derrick on the side of its helmet and the other team has Frank Reich warming up on the sidelines, four touchdowns should be plenty.
Then what do you do when you're ahead 49-0, and the other team fumbles? Not fall on the ball? How do you tell the third-string quarterback that he has to take a knee with the end zone - and a date with that cute cheerleader who just loves the guys who score touchdowns - just a few tantalizing yards away?
And what happens if the fourth-string running back, who's been taking his lumps at practice all year, breaks into the secondary untouched? Does he pretend to trip on his shoelaces to prevent scoring and keep his coach off the suspended list?
During my high school career, I was the "spankee" much more often than the "spanker." I'm here to tell you that if I'm going to get beat 87-6, I'd rather have a bruise to remember it by, not uncontrollable laughter ringing through the ear hole of my helmet.
That said, Gary Maki, the third-year coach at inner-city Rancho High, sometimes wishes there was an equivalent to the 10-run rule in Southern Nevada. During the 2004 season, his Rams lost by scores such as 68-0, 72-0, 44-0, 49-2 and 67-24.
Maybe getting blown out like a picture window on the Gulf Coast during hurricane season builds character. Last year, Rancho seldom got routed and even won two games.
Still, Maki says there are better places to find self-esteem than on the bottom of the opposing fullback's cleats.
"I don't think you're proving anything by running our program into the ground," he said, rattling off the names of schools whose coaches he'd like to meet in a dark alley.
"We're a little inner-city school, trying to get things going against these suburban schools that have the best facilities, the best technology, the best of everything. Then people run up the score and our kids don't want to play, because we're lousy."
Basic's Cliff Frazier is the dean of Southern Nevada high school football coaches, having spent 23 years walking the sidelines at Basic High, the past 15 as head coach. The Wolves have had their ups and downs, so Frazier can talk from both sides of the scoreboard.
"Coaches know the difference," Frazier said about what is acceptable in a 49-0 game and what is better left for a game of Madden on the Xbox. "You can't tell a second-string kid that he can't run with the ball. But you can tell the quarterback not to pass, and you don't try on-side kicks when you're ahead by three touchdowns."
I asked Maki, whose team still practices in a city park because its new field on campus isn't ready, if Southern Nevada should follow Connecticut's lead and adopt a blowout rule.
"Really, if people had ethics, there wouldn't have to be a rule," he said.
Frazier added his "amen" to that. He said the line between beating somebody by a big score and hitting them upside the helmet with it is really not that fine.
"Teams that have class know the difference," he said.
"Teams that don't are never going to get it."