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Quitters Never Prosper...Or Do They?

Updated on April 3, 2014

To Quit, Or Not to Quit

You may have been told during your childhood that quitters never prosper, but in certain situations in sports, sometimes it's the norm. Is it ever OK to stop giving your all during a game? I'll explore both sides below.

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The Issue

Here's the situation: Team X and Team Y are going head-to-head in a [insert a sport with a clock here] game that has gotten way out of hand. Team X is ahead 100 to 0 and has the ball. There are 0.1 seconds remaining in the game.

Let's first assume we're talking about football. To come back and win, Team Y must take the ball away 13 times, make it all the way down the field and score 13 touchdowns (and convert each of the subsequent two point conversions) without letting the other team score once to win 104 to 100.

Now let's look at basketball. In that case, Team Y would have to take the ball away 34 times, make it all the way down the court and score 33 three pointers and 1 two pointer without letting the other team score once to win 101 to 100.

Admittedly, both situations are wildly far fetched, but they both serve to illustrate the question at hand: is it OK for Team X to "run out the clock"?

My wife and I have had several heated debates about how the end of a typical sporting event transpires when the game is all but decided. Normally, I would be thrilled just to be having a conversation about professional sports (football in particular) with my wife, who is often disgusted with the athletes involved and their prima donna antics and astronomical salaries. To her, they receive far more money and attention than they are worth. Professional ballet dancers and other professional performers are more deserving of that sort of fame. I do agree with her to a certain extent, but am still sucked into the appeal of professional sports like a mindless fly is to a bright, shiny bug zapper.

We openly disagree with each other on this topic, but I believe we have finally come to accept (or at least not refute, second guess, and downright mock) each other's viewpoints.

My intent in writing this is not to prove that my opinions on this topic are correct. I'm more interested in documenting our seemingly endless debates regarding whether it is OK to run out the clock, perhaps as some sort of therapy. Allow me to list the arguments of both sides.

Just Be Sure You Don't Quit TOO Early - Learn from these people.


The Two Sides of the Story

My Perspective:

- Team X should kneel the ball/dribble out the clock in this sort of situation.

- There is no reason to risk injury in continuing to play when, for all intents and purposes, you (Team X) have won the game.

- There is no reason to continuing to play and risk being the laughingstock of the millennium by allowing Team Y the opportunity of winning the game.

Her Perspective:

- Team X should not quit. They should keep playing until the final whistle/buzzer.

- There is always risk of injury in sports, and that shouldn't be an excuse to stop playing regardless of the time remaining in the game and the score differential.

- Quitting is worse than having a chance of giving up your lead, no matter how large it is.

I completely understand where my wife is coming from. As she has pointed out many times in our "discussions" (yes, that is a euphemism), this type of behavior would not be acceptable in any other circumstances ever to be conceived (believe me, I've tried to come up with one - feel free to come up with something in the comments).

Let's look at some examples of her viewpoint. Could you imagine the star of a Broadway play cutting off the finale halfway in, figuring that the rest of the performance had been so mindbogglingly awesome that the audience had already gotten their money's worth? Even if a fast food worker stopped flipping burgers with 5 minutes left on their shift, we wouldn't tolerate it, regardless of how long they'd been working or how magnificent their flipping had been that day.

Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be if a computer manufacturer realized as they were about to ship the first batch of a new line of laptops that there was a minor flaw that no one would ever notice. Fixing it would require a costly and time consuming process. In this example, the manufacturer is way ahead of the game, and would only stand to lose if they remade the laptops. According to my wife's stance on the subject, you never quit while the "ball" is still in play, so you don't stop working on it until it's ready. This example still might not translate exactly, since we're starting to get into a question of ethics.

My response to these examples is always the same: we're comparing apples and oranges. The nature of sports is unique in that the game is decided at a certain point and there is no benefit to continue playing the same way you were at the beginning of the game, only a slight risk of injury or allowing an embarrassing comeback.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that your wife is always right, even if it's about football.

Is it ever OK to kill the clock in sports?

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