Sports is the American way, we love winners, believe in fairness

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If there’s a game with more macho to it, someone is going to have to show me.

After wasting essentially three hours on FB on an overcast-rainy Wednesday (right? I’m not always 100% on days now, anyone else feeling fuzzy on that?), I’ve purged enough of my angst about political buffonery to write a legitimate blog.

Having planned on doing something ‘sporty-ish,’ my initial observation is that, lacking any juice from crowd excitement for the NASCAR and golf I peeked at, its less interesting than some of the (repeats of) NCAA action in baseball, football, lacrosse, and hoops I’d seen years ago. Of course, showing finals, or YUGE! upsets is part of that.

Duke (6-0) was #1 early in the 2019-20 season, and while they were a good looking pick in the NCAAs – where losing one is Death – coming up short to the Lumberjacks after 150 straight Ws at home versus non-conference teams was avoidable. If you saw it, SFA earned that  85-83 win by crushing the Blue Devils 36-27 on FGs, barely being outshot on 3-pointers (2-10, 5-15) and shot 11-17 FTs, but Duke made only 24 of *40* from the line, which will bite you just about any time.

When you lose like that, everyone has to do some unpleasant navel-gazing. Notre Dame beat Navy 43 years in a row (football), and you’d think beating on your little brother wouldn’t be any kind of thrill after that long. But, ask long-time powerhouse Nebraska how it feels when all those teams they pulverized in the Big 12 rejoiced when THEY finally won, or seeing the Huskers get their heads handed to them since they moved to the Big 10 (14 teams now, funky B1G logo).

Navy’s win against Notre Dame had to be better than sex – nobody’s father or grandfather ever got it while playing there.

UCLA (men’s basketball) beat California 52 times in a row, meaning our place *and YOUR’S* 26 straight years, and a common quote by ‘overdogs’ at times like that is, “I knew it would end at some point, it just sucks to be on the team when such strings end.”

Penn State (women’s volleyball) won 109 matches and four NCAA titles in a row  through 2010, and the UConn women’s hoops 111 games (plus four consecutive championships, two during the streak) in a row. The NCAA record for consecutive match wins is held by the UMiami men’s tennis, with 137 straight from 1957-64.

Minor political comment – THAT is what actual WINNING looks like.

The other side of the coin

How one ranks a DISASTER is often relative: When the British retreated from Kabul in Afghanistan (1st Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842) in January ’42, almost the entire British-Sikh force (750 British, 3800 Indian troops, 12,000 “camp followers” – families, not fans)  was slaughtered in Khyber Pass, “disaster” is *very* legit. In a fairly strong comeback, two British armies returned to crush the Afghans in Kabul in August, 1842.

The NY Giants beating New England 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII, when the 18-0 Pats were looking to become the second undefeated champions, that’s a loss, not disaster.

Super Bowl 51 – Atlanta (omg!) versus New England

Along with the annual NCAA hoops orgy, Super Bowl wins and losses determine who is held high (or regarded otherwise). For anyone who watched it, the Falcons seemed like they were poised to topple the Patriots dynasty after an eight play-85 yard drive early in the 3rd quarter gave them a 28-3 lead, 28-9 after three quarters.

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“A game that made grown men cry”is how its usually remembered, and Ryan, who had a 4,944 yard/38 TD Most Valuable Player season and a 17/23, 2 TD Super Bowl, has barely gotten the taste of ashes out of his mouth since.

You simply don’t forget losing a championship like that.

Choke? Well, there’s not a lot of ways to make losing in overtime acceptable when you’ve owned a team so totally most of the game. In the fourth quarter, a great tippped ball reception by Julian Edelman kept a Patriot drive alive, a sack-fumble against Falcon QB Matt Ryan led to a touchdown, and a unreal 43/62 for 466 yards and two TD day by future first ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady hung a 34-28 overtime loss on Atlanta instead.

The Worst – Georgia Tech pulverizes Cumberland 222-0

At a time where air-raid passing attacks in college football can score six-to-ten touchdowns with ease, and running up the score isn’t favored, knowing how this 1916 pasting came about should earn anyone a beer.

Cumberland had actually discontinued its football program before the season, but they weren’t allowed to cancel. Tech coach John Heisman (yes, that Heisman), whose baseball team had been thumped by Cumberland 22-0 that year – possibly while using ‘ringers’ – had actually offered the Tennessee college $500 to play or face having to pay $3,000 as the guarantee for the game. “A game that made grown men cry” is how its usually remembered, and Ryan, who had a 4,944 yard/38 TD Most Valuable Player season, and a 17/23, 284 yard/2 TD Super Bowl, has barely gotten the taste of ashes out of his mouth since. (FYI -You simply don’t forget blowing a championship that way.)

Cumberland only brought 12-16 players, Tech scored 63 points in the first and 63 more in the second quarter, held them to -42 yards rushing. Heisman, apparently with his blood lust sated, allowed the 3rd and 4th quarters to be 12 instead of 15 minutes long.

“That’s why we don’t play them on paper”

Having used two personal underdog stories throughout a long sportswriting career, this is still where they belong: An 8-2 win against Ithaca College by my rag-tag bunch of players called the Brockport State Women’s Ice Hockey Club, and a 6-3 semi-final win in the Upstate Rugby Championships by the Schenectady Reds over our arch-rivals (and aggressively un-humble) group, the Albany Knickerbockers.

My hockey team lost to Ithaca on our ice the week earlier 3-1, when IC scored an empty net goal with :02 left. I’d pulled our goalie with a minute to go, and we played textbook hockey, keeping the puck in their end, and getting six shots on goal, until they slid it the length of the ice to score. Terrific effort from a team with five freshman, but an L.

The next week, with only ten skaters, some borrowed equipment (several of them had intramural helmets without cages), only five players with green-gold jerseys and our outstanding goalie (Julie Dufresne) in a purple-yellow LA Kings jersey, four girls scored twice each. The four wet and stinking jerseys I borrowed from the men’s team Friday afternoon, didn’t wash – ooops! – but handed out before the game, that’s an underdog situation. Unforgettable!

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The rugby match was epic. The Reds hadn’t beaten the Knicks in 13 years, since they’d broken off from what had been a powerhouse and become the best team in the Upstate. Utilizing ‘rugby whores’ (give them a jersey, they’ll do what you want) to fill out a ‘B’ side, winning the championship was a hard core defensive effort over two days.

We held the Knicks scoreless until the last play of the game, essentially three straight shutouts, then they made a penalty kick because one of our players punched someone right in front of a referee.

Winning that championship was a two day, hard core defensive effort; holding the Knicks scoreless until the last play of the game was  essentially three straight shutouts.

In overtime, we made two kicks, they missed their second, which is how ties are settled in such tournaments. For anyone who has shaken the hand of someone who doesn’t believe they lost to YOU guys and says, “Too bad it had to get settled that way,” smiling and offering a “Yeah, right” is like winning the lottery. (Okay, maybe finding $10 in a pair of jeans in the dryer.)

I was also on the wrong side of 52-0 whuppin’ in another tournament (Saranac Lake) in 20 instead of 40 minute halves. As a bonus, on the last play of the game, an Old Blue player karate-shopped me in the ear as I attempted a tackle, then slid in for the score.

Ahhhhh, SPORTS! I have no idea how pro baseball, hockey, football and basketball will get things back on seasonal tracks, and I think a brother has sold his Panther seats, so I doubt I’ll see them any time soon, but its the American dream – anybody on any day can be a hero.

  Picture 
Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947

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