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It’s Hard to be a Good Sport if You Don’t Think You Can Win

January 3rd, 2020 by dk

As we search for answers to relieve homelessness in our community, we should note what happened last Saturday in Abington, Scotland at a soccer match between crosstown rivals.

Abingdon United is near the top and Abington Town is at the bottom of the Hellenic League, which is roughly equivalent to the short-season instructional league our Ems play. It’s a professional team, but just barely. Town has only two wins this season, and their match with United was not going well.

Town found itself down 8-0 when they headed into the locker room at halftime. They never returned. Rather than face another 45 minutes of humiliation against United, the players and their manager slipped out the back door and went home.

“The game started off fine, there was no nastiness or anything like that,” United secretary John Blackmore told BBC. “There was a reasonable crowd there of about 160 people and they were as gobsmacked as anybody else. We want to win a game, but not in this sort of fashion.”

Abington United received a win by forfeit. The losing team’s manager quit the next day.

“At halftime the team made a joint decision not to return to the playing field, as they felt unsupported and undervalued by those higher in the club,” Abingdon Town’s manager Tranell Richardson tweeted. “I completely supported their decision. I asked for help on many occasions and none was provided.”

The rebuilding of the Abington Town team will take longer than expected. What does this little mishap in Lanarkshire county have to do with homelessness in Eugene?

Consider Saturday’s match from the Town players’ point of view. The players agreed there was zero chance that they could win the match, so what was the point of continuing? The opposing team would not be denied their win. The spectators weren’t being given a good game to watch. The easiest solution didn’t look illogical, so they left.

Plenty of people that you and I will pass on the street today feel like they are down 8-0 and there’s little or no chance they can come back from the deficit they’re already facing. To stay in the game would only be inviting further humiliation. Why bother? The winners will still win, and the crowd will move on. The back door beckons.

It’s hard to disagree with the root of their despair. Without a good education, a decent credit rating, and reliable family support, the second half can seem not worth the trouble. Especially if they feel “unsupported and undervalued by those higher in the club.”

Of course, that’s not how the game is supposed to be played. Whether you resolve to redouble your effort, reduce your expectations, or reform the system, something meaningful could happen in the second half.

I fear we’re not reckoning with the reality that second-half turnarounds are getting harder and harder. Living on the street, aggressive panhandling, feeding addictions — for some, this is refusing to play the second half. We lack a cogent, collective response. When they ask why they should bother, we don’t have a good answer.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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