Allowing a thoroughly defeated opponent to score a consolation point

I was having a discussion with a friend last night where I suggested that it was a common practice in sports for a team that is badly outplaying their opponents to allow them to score a goal in the last few minutes of play as a way of expressing sportsmanship. She said this was rubbish.

Unfortunately my less than encyclopedic knowledge of sport (don’t watch or play it) meant that the best I could argue in defense was a vague “I’m sure I’ve heard of it happening before” and I promised to find references to prove myself right.

Well, I’m not having much luck this morning finding any references to where this may have happened… So I turn to you - please help me out and link to some examples of teams allowing an opponent a last minute consolation point.

Some rules:

It must be a team game. We were talking about football (English) and rugby, but I’m not limiting it to that.

One of the teams (I’d assume the winners) must be high level i.e. an international or top league team. It can be in a friendly / exhibition game against an outclassed opponent, so the losers can be of any level.

I can’t believe that this happens at all in competition play, so bonus points for any references to times that it has.

It must be clear and obvious that the losers scored the goal because they were allowed to by the winners. I’m not looking for occasions where a losing team fought back to score a last minute point against a team that were actively stopping them.

Okay then. Have I got a leg to stand on here, or will I be apologising on Monday?

IMO, it’s not the case in US professional sports. There is considerable prestige associated with having allowed no scoring by your opponent, which acts as an incentive for good defense right to the end of the game.

A small point in the other direction is that when the score difference has reached the point that a comeback is pretty much impossible, it’s reasonably common to send in the “second string”, to give playing time to players who may rarely see it. But this is by no means the same as allowing a “consolation” score.

Not quite the same thing, but I saw a college women’s basketball game once where one of the opposing players was one basket away from setting a record, but had broken her leg. At the very beginning of the game, our team stood aside and let her get the score, then their team let us get one to match it, before she subbed out of the game and play continued as normal. Later, I heard that this was extremely controversial, which was a shame, since (even aside from the friendly gesture at the beginning) it was the best basketball game I’d ever seen.

I don’t remember who the team was with the injured player, but the other team was Villanova, and it would have been some time in between 1995 and 1999.

University of Connecticut, and the player was Nykesha Sales.

That would seem like the opposite of sportsmanship to me. Sort of the leading team rubbing its superiority in the trailing team’s face. “See? We’ve beating you so badly we can afford to give you goals.”

I can see the idea of the leading team pulling its first string and sending its second string in to play. But the second string players should still play competively so that the trailing team still has to earn any goals it makes.

I think it’s very bad sportsmanship to drop your level of play so your opponent can score, unless you are playing with a little kid. Or your boss–but this isn’t going to come up much in team sports. You are making a concession that most people would find kind of insulting, you’re not showing them your best game.

On the other hand, I think it’s considered kind of unsportsmanlike, when you’ve got the win in your hand by a big margin, to continue to thrash your opponents. You don’t need to win a football game by 100 points, for instance. But when you’ve got the momentum going, it’s hard to stop.

In Ice hockey or baseball, it’s usually the feeling that you want to “get this one” for your goalie/pitcher, and so you most definitely do not want to let up on the team.

Also, in the world ice hockey juniors here in Canada, we’ve had it in the past two years where Canada (always one of the heavy favorites) plays a second world country with little hockey experience (Albania, Kazakhstan, etc.) and throttles them 20-0. The problem is that in the preliminary round, like in the FIFA world cup, a goal differential is the tie breaker between two teams with the same record. So if, for example, Canada were to let up after goal #10 against the Kazakhs, and the U.S.A. and Finns (to give two random examples of more thoroughbred hockey nations) both decided they were to score an even 30 a piece, even if the records among all three teams were identical, only the U.S. and Finland would move on in their bracket. Thus, there is a negative incentive to let up against a weaker opponent.

Never heard of it. It wouldn’t be consolation, just condescension. What does happen is that the dominant team will pull the starters and use the opportunity to get its bench players some playing time, for which they’ve worked just as hard as the starters.

There was a famous example late in the 1968 baseball season, in a game between the Tigers, who had already clinched the pennant, and the Yankees, who were on the skids after decades always at or near the top. Mickey Mantle, clearly in his last season, had been stuck for several weeks on 534 lifetime home runs, tied with Jimmy Foxx behind only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays on the all-time list. With the bases empty and a 6-0 lead, McLain, who had already won 30 games that season, let Mantle know he was going to groove one for him. Mantle didn’t quite believe him as he took the first pitch, but after fouling off the second pitch he was all over the third consecutive fastball down the middle, and hit it into the upper deck. McLain winked at Mantle as Mantle was rounding the bases. As Joe Pepitone came up to bat next, he signalled to McLain where he wished McLain to throw, but McLain preffered to buzz the ball right past Pepitone’s ear.

As far as I know, there is no film footage of this out there but I have heard a tape of the Yankees’ radio call with Phil Rizzuto and Bill White, and they described just what was going on.

I guess I could add that none of the principals, particularly McLain, were often considered a model of the All-American boy.

I was taught in grade school that you had to do this in Volleyball if it was almost a shutout. The ball was turned over right before the final serve that would win the game. But then, when I told other people this, they thought it was silly.

I don’t see any reason to be offended in that context. Why should one side never get to play offense? It’s very possible that serving in and of itself is what allows you to win.

Because it’s a competition?

I assume we’re not talking about playing checkers with your 3 year old.

“That ball was half hit before I swang at it.”

I’m not seeing anything on Wikipedia’s page on Volleyball about this, but I know that in American football and baseball, the games have a deliberate offense/defense switch. How does Volleyball work? Can whoever wins the coin toss keep possession of the ball for the entire game as long as they’re scoring? And is one game the entire match? (Ah, I see why I’m getting confused. I conflated beach volleyball rules with indoor. I’ve only ever played friendly games of beach volleyball. No wonder the Wiki entry on regular volleyball seemed so foreign! :slight_smile: )

Edit: Never mind the previous questions as I’m unconfused now, but I am curious what a game of indoor volleyball is like BigT, if you’re willing to share a story.

Not the same thing, but our local kids’ baseball and soccer leagues have a “mercy rule” that if one team has 20 runs or goals to the other team’s 0, the game just ends.

Rizzuto maybe, but Bill White didn’t start broadcasting for the Yankees until 1971.

The mercy being extended to the poor spectators.

I do remember comments by announcers of professional sports in the US suggesting it was un-sportsman-like to continue to play very aggressive offense when the other team was skunked, but never any suggestion that the defense should let up.

But this was many years ago, and the practice did morph into allowing your offensive bench to get some high pressure playing time (no one wants to blow a shut out), as mentioned above.

Could this be some cricket thing?

No, in professional sports never.

I, however, also disagree with the let-down in US sports, particualrly American football, when teams will try their utmost not to score when winning by a large margin. I understand second and third stringers, but let them go for it. And the end-of-game series of kneel-downs should be a capitla offense.

Thanks for all the input, guess I’ll be writing an apology email this morning…

Just to clear up a couple of points though - Firstly, yes, both myself and my friend thought that the whole thing was condescending. This is is partly why I thought I remember hearing about it so clearly; I can picture myself watching the news thinking “Sportsmanship? I’m sure the opposition feel worse now than they did before!” on more than one occasion.

Secondly, I only really assumed that it happened in the type of friendly games when the opponents were outclassed before they even got on the pitch. For example an international team playing a league club as part of a warmup (which has been happening a bit on the run up to the World Cup) might score three or four goals then ease right back so that the league club can score (Condescending? Sportsmanlike gesture showing that the one-sided scoreboard wasn’t reflecting the quality of play on the pitch? Could go either way really). As I said in the OP I doubted that this would ever happen in competition play.

Anyway, thanks again - I’ll now go back to wondering whether any of my memories are real.

Ah, you’re right, I guess he would have had a hard time combining Yankee broadcast duties with playing for the Phillies. I guess the other was Frank Messer, then, the other long-time guy of that era.

Sorry, it was too long ago.

Agreed that letting up on defense doesn’t really happen, except by putting in second- or third-stringers.

But letting up on offense does happen. In fact, in American football at non-professional levels, it’s considered by many to be poor form for a team to keep passing when it’s up by a lot.