I can't imagine how this will be played out in reality (actually, that's a disingenuous cliche' -- as I'm about to imagine that very thing) ...
Your team is 49 points ahead -- any more points, and your coach will be suspended. What do you do? ...
a) start running REALLY slow, like in movies and commercials, when they slow down 2 lovers running towards each other b) pretend the ball is a hot potato, and drop it every few seconds c) right from the snap, start sprinting (so you don't get tackled) to the wrong end zone, in order to give up a safety d) right from the snap, close your eyes and throw the ball up in the air as high as you can e) in the huddle, and as a team, deliberately agree to "face-mask" or "clothes-line" every opposing player possible, in order to get so many penalties that it guarantees points for your opponent
If I were young, I'd pick e (I used to be a little bit of a rabble-rouser).
I never much cared for organized sports when I was young, I didn't like the idea of having a team depend upon my poor to mediocre athletic skills (as in baseball) and I didn't like the pressure of having everyone's eyes on me while I was fielding a ball or was at bat. (I enjoyed other sports like swimming where I could simply perform alone and without the overwhelming attention of an audience, and liked to play football with my friends, but not on a ballfield.)
In my first year of summer-league baseball, my team had a 2-18 record, one of the wins was by default. The other win was a rout where my team beat the team with the best record in our division. How we won so lop-sidedly, I don't know - but the way the other team was cursing it was obviously not a thrown game. But I got my first hit and scored my first run in that game, against the best pitcher in the league. If that game had been ended according to a mercy rule, I would not have gotten that run.
Do you remember that "thought experiment" that Leonard Peikoff describes at the beginning of his speech, "Why Businessmen Need Philosophy"? He asks his audience to consider what would happen if people tried to implement egalitarianism in football.
And now that far-fetched fantasy is actually happening.
I don't know if this is funny or horrifying. Probably both.
When I was in highschool, I observed a girls' soccer game where our team was ahead by 10 goals and showed no signs of stopping. Instead of ordering them not to score, the coach told them they could only score if they did it off a cross (a strategic measure that is very important to be able to do well against a difficult opponent). So instead of just "running up the score", they get strategic practice. I think it's a good idea, anyway.
However, one of our players ended up taunting the opponents by doing push-ups when she failed to make a goal (something the team does when in practice). I thought it was funny at the time, but now would agree that it was disrespectful. They knew the other team was going to be easy to beat--there's no reason to rub it in their faces.
Uh, not to imply that I think there should be a restriction on scoring. That IS asinine. It should be up to the team.
In the book Reagan, In His Own Hand, Reagan discussed a variant of girls basketball that was very common in some states. It has six players on each side, instead of the typical 5. Another difference is that only 3 of the 6 positions were allowed to shoot the ball. It had a very different game dynamic than the 5 man sport.
He talked about it because there was a lawsuit being filed at the time. The lawsuit argued that the 3 girls in back who were not allowed to shoot were being discriminated against!
As for running up the score against a team that's not as good, I don't see it as a bad thing. One thing about playing with someone who's a bit better than you is that you get an opportunity to really push and adapt. I played baseball for years, and I would much rather have the best pitcher in the league giving it his best then going easy on me. When you play with someone that good, you really have an opportunity to improve your game. You'll still lose, but if the goals is to play well, and not just win, it's a great opportunity.
When I had a soccer team in college, I was much happier when we played very well, even if we lost. One game we got slaughtered, but our team really played together better than we had before. If the game you are in is the only thing that's important to you, and improving your abilities means nothing, I think the game will ultimately be unsatisfying. And you won't continue to improve. Eventually you'll be on the losing side.
Of course one of the ways better teams lose is over-confidence. They have the other team beat and slack off - then they get hit by a come-back. It happens often in sports, which is why the score run up is important to allow. It is easy to know that it is a run-up after the fact, but no one know for sure until the game is actually over.
Joe's comments in #7 are about what I'd say. And it does make sense for the high-scoring team perhaps to put self-imposed burdens upon itself such as Ben mentioned in #6 in order to take the opportunity to improve its performance.
Having been on a team with a 2-18 record, we didn't exactly enjoy losing but we certainly wouldn't have felt better if we knew that the other teams had been holding back.
After I got out of college, I worked at Texaco and one day we had a company game between two company locations. I was a track man in college, had never played organized basketball, only pickup. But all my shots were falling, which never happens. At halftime, I had 19 points which I think was more than half my team's points. So, to be egalitarian, the second half they benched me. They didn't let me play a single minute.