Mac Engel

June 11, 2014

UIL’s proposed ‘Aledo Rule’ needless

Losing 91-0 isn’t fun, but this proposal could do more harm than good to young athletes.

The docket read, “A proposal for 11-man football mercy rule.” It may as well have read, “The Aledo Rule.”

There already exists a mercy rule in football — it’s called a clock.

On Tuesday afternoon in Round Rock, the UIL again demonstrated that no one can justify a paycheck any better then a bureaucrat on a power trip trying to solve mama drama.

The current crisis is the need to explore ways to ensure parents don’t get their feelings hurt when their son’s football team loses by a wide margin in high school football games.

The case of Aledo v. Western Hills is the reason the UIL is considering this mercy rule.

As uncomfortable as Aledo’s 91-0 win over Western Hills this past October was, the “need” to create a mercy rule is more embarrassing. This does nothing but further weaken a kid as he prepares for life’s realities, its disparities and its sometimes lopsided scoreboard.

“I personally don’t agree with it,” Western Hills coach John Naylor said Tuesday. “It’s football.”

Thankfully, the UIL rejected this proposal, but the fact it even considered it for a second is pathetic.

There was a time when football and a slew of other sports were hailed as wonderful tools to teach life lessons because the consequences were mostly just an inconsequential final score.

Instead of offering a high school football player real life lessons, such as 91-0, we now offer more playoff spots and mercy rules.

“It could actually make the kid feel worse,” Naylor said.

Because the kid realizes he requires pity to avoid reality.

We don’t need a mercy rule. We don’t need more playoff teams. We don’t need anything else to make sure we all feel like we’re all winners.

What we need are more parents telling their kids either to get better, to deal with it and stop pointing their finger at everybody but themselves for their situation. That is the way the world works, and sometimes you are going to lose 91-0.

What we need is less of this “everybody gets a trophy” garbage that does nothing but create the illusion of success. A mercy rule in this instance kicks the can down the road for a kid who, when life offers no “mercy rule,” will find out that nothing can protect you from 91-0.

That the only way to deal with 91-0 is by living through that relative pain.

“After we beat Wyatt [84-7], I was getting letters from Wyatt parents telling me to keep doing it because it was going to make their son better and to try harder,” Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said.

Just as there is no need to rub a kid’s nose in anything, there is no need to paint lipstick all over this ugly little pig called life.

Life can be beautiful, and it can be 91-0. To act like it is one and not the other is a lie.

Adding a mercy rule belongs in the same category as angry parents suing a teacher or a school because of their kid’s grade. Not everybody earns an A. Maybe the term paper was just a C, or maybe your kid isn’t the next Michael Jordan or Stephen Hawking.

It is nearly impossible for an authority figure in a kid’s life to make an impact when he is routinely usurped by the parent who insists his kid is right and better and more special than everyone else.

We need to collectively stop making our kids’ shortcomings somebody else’s fault.

All this mercy rule does is perpetuate the stereotype that is fast becoming a reality: No one softens up their youth better than Americans. In our strident belief in The American Way, what we really work and lobby for is for everything to be easy and to be handed to us so we can all feel like winners.

It would be wonderful if 91-0 never happened. It would be great if we lived in a world where we all had houses on the 18th green, parents didn’t divorce and no one ever lost his six-figure job.

That’s not life. That’s a lie.

In life, as in football, every now and then, amid all of the potential splendor and joy, we are going to get smoked 91-0. What 91-0 does to us all depends on how we choose to react.

The better, albeit more difficult, avenue is to get used to 91-0 now so the next time it happens we can deal with it a little better. Or maybe avoid it all together.

Just as there is no mercy rule in life, there should not be a mercy rule in Texas high school football.

After all, both life and football already have mercy rules — they’re called clocks.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at

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