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Tarnished crown
(Published March 25, 2002)

D.C. public high school sports don’t get much attention in the local news media beyond passing mention of who won and who lost the varsity competitions.

But the community should be paying more attention to how those games are being played.

Winning isn’t everything. And, especially in high school, interscholastic athletics should be a tool for teaching children much more than how to win.

Many public school districts throughout the country recognize that participation in competitive sports can be used as an incentive for students to perform well academically and as a valuable training ground to hone students’ abilities to deal appropriately with the pressures and disappointments of life.

Sadly, the District’s public school officials are fouling out.

Look no further than the recently completed varsity girls basketball season to see that the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association – the league in which D.C. public high schools’ teams compete against one another – is in big trouble.

A prime example is Dunbar Senior High School’s Lady Tiders. They won this year’s DCIAA crown, but far too much battling was involved in the team’s efforts to reach the top. The casual reader can be forgiven for failing to see the buried references in press reports. Although some adults have been quick to blame this year’s problems on a single Dunbar player’s behavior, the actual fighting on the court got so bad in mid-season that Dunbar’s entire team was temporarily suspended from league play.

These are the DCIAA champions – setting the standard for their peers.

This year’s girls’ City Title Game at MCI Center on March 9, pitting the D.C. Public Schools varsity champs against the Catholic school champions, had to be stopped before regulation time expired because the Dunbar girls couldn’t maintain sportsmanlike conduct.

Getting to the City Title Game was quite an achievement for Dunbar’s girls. For the Lady Tiders, it was the first City Title Game appearance in school history.

Dunbar’s girls were trailing the St. John’s Cadets 74-65 when the game was stopped in the fourth quarter. They not only lost the game, they also disgraced themselves and their school.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s turn the table. If Dunbar had been winning when the fight broke out, would the Lady Tiders have deserved to win?

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator