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Is it Bullying if You Lose a Football Game?

Trophies are handed out to our kids just for showing up. Games are played without scores so no one's feelings will be hurt.
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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Do not let stories like this diminish the meaning of the word bullying.

Did you hear the one about the parent of a high school football player who claimed his son's team was bullied when they lost 91-0? Dad has filed a formal complaint against the winning team's school district, citing the coach for not pulling back his team's efforts during the game to keep it from being a blowout.

No, really. A coach called it bullying when his team lost. In football. A sport that is, inherently, bully-ish. But I digress.

Unfortunately, the state of Texas has no mercy rule, which many other states do have. Perhaps it's time they introduced this rule. Having watched my son play high school and college football, I know the heartache of losing, and sometimes losing big. I also know that losing is part of competing, as painful as it may be. Obviously, the winning team, which had been moved to a new division this year, is playing against teams that are no match for them -- this is not the first big win they've had this season. So, a little re-districting and all will be OK.

What bothers me about this story is that a parent felt it necessary to protest a loss suffered by his son's football team and call it bullying just because they lost big. If you read the article about what happened, it's clear that the coach of the winning team did everything he could to keep his team from scoring any more than they did.

From the article on

Buchanan's (winning) team, which is averaging 69.3 points a game with a 7-0 record, ran just 32 plays but scored on about every third one during Friday's game. Aledo rushed for 391 yards. It scored eight touchdowns on the ground, two each on passes and punt returns, and one on a fumble recovery.

Western Hills (losing team) had 79 yards rushing and 67 yards passing.

What bothers me about this story is that it reflects the unfortunate lesson that our children (and many parents) are being taught that no one ever loses. Trophies are handed out to our kids just for showing up. Games are played without scores so no one's feelings will be hurt.

What bothers me about this story is that it's being reported on a national news website. Let's focus on real acts of bullying and how we can share information to help those who are victims of it, both children and adults.

But what bothers me MOST about this story is how it diminishes the word bullying, discounting the very real and destructive bullying that happens to children every day, resulting in depression, anxiety and even suicide. Parents, teachers and other adults who suspect a child is being bullied should pay attention and get involved. Monitoring your child's social media accounts is especially important, since cyber-bullying is an easy and growing form of abuse among teens and even children.

It's also important to remember what bullying is NOT, especially among adults:

  • Having someone say something mean to you.
  • Having someone post something unflattering about you on social media.
  • Being called a bad name.
  • Getting your feelings hurt.
  • Being insulted.
  • Having someone disagree with you.
  • If someone doesn't like you.
  • Being unfriended on Facebook.
  • Being unfollowed on Twitter.
  • Being left out of a social event.

I have seen the word bullying used in an offhand and cavalier way by adults on social media on more than one occasion. It makes me crazy.

Bullying is the incessant and increasingly hostile use of words and actions to deliberately and harshly diminish a person's self-esteem, confidence and standing in the community, especially among children and teens. Bullying is about power and abuse. Bullying is about finding a weaker target and bashing them, whether physically or verbally, into a state of fear and submission. Bullying is about being a victim and waking up each day feeling terrified of what is coming.

Let's be careful about how we use the word bully. We don't want to see it lose it's meaning, it's impact, it's importance. Bullying is a terrible problem, but losing a football game is not.