A shameful statement by Murray Bergtraum

First, praise to Epiphanny Prince. Scoring 113 points in a 32-minute game is an incredible athletic achievement -- and if, as reported, she made 54 of 60 shots, that's even more incredible. I'm sure many were layups, but even making 54 out of 60 layups is no mean feat.

And Prince's performance highlights a season in which she has proved wrong some who doubted her intensity. She has played a high level all year, and clearly established herself as one of the top players in the country.

All that said, even accounting for the marvelous skills of Prince, the 137-32 Murray Bergtraum win was a disgrace to the coaching staff and the school. There is simply no reason to humiliate another team, regardless of the level of the play and regardless of whatever might have contributed to the desire to run up the score and let Prince get a national record.

Coach Ed Grezinsky, who transformed Murray Bergtraum from just another New York City high school into a national power, must shoulder most of the blame for this disgusting display of excess. At every level, from local rec leagues to the NBA, responsible coaches recognize that there are two teams on the court, and that the players wearing different-colored uniforms deserve respect, no matter what their talent level.

Kobe Bryant had 62 points after three quarters of an NBA game, and Phil Jackson sat him down -- even though the NBA is in the entertainment industry, and Bryant's abilities are the reason people buy tickets and TV networks spend millions on pro basketball. When Bryant scored 81, it was in a close game that demanded his presence, and you'll hear no complaint from me about that total. The object, after all, is to win, and if the best way to win is for the star to shoot every time down, then that's what you do.

In Northern California, Jacki Gemelos, another elite high school senior, took 41 shots in game, and there was criticism of her and her coach -- but the game was relatively close (a 15-point margin at the end) and Gemelos was the offensive option that won the game.

But there no excuses or rationalizations for Prince scoring 113 points in a 105-point win. She should have sat down in the second quarter, started the second half, played for a few minutes and called it a night. Why? Let me count the ways.

But there no excuses or rationalizations for Prince scoring 113 points in a 105-point win. She should have sat down in the second quarter, started the second half, played for a few minutes and called it a night. Why? Let me count the ways.

Greed. The ugliest of human emotions, this was all about greed. It was about going back for second, third and 113 helpings of cake. There was no sharing, there was no sense of team, there was nothing but feeding an individual ego. Again, this is not Prince's fault, but there was no need to stuff so many baskets into one line of the scorebook, just as there's no need to eat every piece of pumpkin pie just because it's there.

Prince scored 113 points because she could, not because she wanted to, or needed to, just as bullies beat up other kids not because they need their lunch money, or even want it, but just because they can. And just as bullies need to be shown that might is not right, so players like Prince need to be shown that talent is not justification for greed. The gift of talent needs to be balanced by the lessons of moderation and humility, which were not delivered by Grezinsky.

What has been taught. So what has Prince been taught? And what have other youngsters with exceptional gifts been taught? That they should rub lesser humans' noses in the harsh facts of their inferiority in this one small aspect of life? That they should beat down whoever they can beat down? That taking all you can is the proper way to act? That talent justifies humilation?

Grezinsky may believe that he taught Prince that her hard work paid off by putting her name in the record books, but he's wrong -- and sadly, too many talented athletes around the country, male and female, will now feel it's somehow OK to engage in an orgy of ego gratification by piling on the points against lesser athletes.

What has been learned. Prince has learned that if she's greedy, and if she uses her talent like a bludgeon, she will get her name in newspapers all around the country. Other young athletes have learned that excess will get them headlines, and that humiliating opponents results in praise and adulation.

Wouldn't it be a little better to learn that talent is ephemeral, and that there's always someone better, and that what goes around comes around? Wouldn't it be a little better to learn that every athlete who comes to practice every day is equal to every other athlete on the most fundamental level? Wouldn't it be better to have learned that a number in a record book means nothing compared to the kind of person you are?

Respect. Respect your opponents. The game is played by two teams, and one of them wins. Most often that's the most talented team, but talent is a random gift. An athlete is an athlete, regardless of talent level, and it's important for young people to realize that respect should be given not based on talent (or looks or make of car) but on character. I know nothing about Bergtraum's opponent is this disgraceful exhibition, but the players deserve respect for being on a team, and making the sacrifices demanded of any group of athletes playing high school sports. It goes without saying that the coaching staff at Murray Bergtraum did not give them that respect.

Respect your team. The benchwarmers practice as hard and as much as the starters, and they deserve minutes just like the starters. Because they are less talented doesn't mean they can't play or shouldn't play -- they should be given every opportunity to display their hard-earned skills, and having one player score 113 points denies them the opportunity to show what they can do.

Respect the game. Basketball, like any sport, is a contest, and the best games are those played between opponents of relatively equal abilities. When the outcome is determined, as it was early in this game, then there's no need to hammer home the message about who is better. Yes, the subs should play hard, but that's as it should be -- everyone should play the game hard every second they're on the court. But that's much different than having one of the best players in the nation pursue an individual goal at the expense of both teammates and opponents.

Respect yourself. Epiphanny Prince didn't make the decision to keep herself in the game, and it's asking a lot of a 17-year-old to realize that what she's doing is wrong in this kind of a situation, so there's really no blame on her. But the coaching staff, from Grezinsky on down, should have known better. If Grezinsky wasn't going to take her out, then his assistants should have asked him to. If the coaching staff wouldn't, then a school administrator should have said something. Parents and fans, adults all, should have made it clear that this kind of greedy excess reflects badly on Prince, the school and everyone associated with the program.

To indulge in this kind of display smears everyone involved, and the adults should have realized this -- and prevented this disgraceful outcome.

Long ago, and in dated rhyme, Grantland Rice wrote:

'When the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks not that you won or lost
But how you played the game.'

The Murray Bergtraum coaching staff should think about that old-school message. What will be said about them, and the young girl in their charge, when all is said and done? How did they play the game? And how would they feel if the tables had been turned, and they had to watch their team, the young athletes they've worked so hard with, be humiliated by someone who was blessed with superior gifts, but led by coaches who had no heart?

Sometimes the mirror can send a powerful message -- and everyone associated with Murray Bergtraum's basketball program needs to spend a little time in front of one tonight.

And then they should issue a public apology to their opponents and everyone involved in high school sports.


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