Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Homecomings and Disappointments

Columbia's homecoming is this weekend. They're playing Penn, a team to whom our Lions will surely lose. That's what Columbia does: they lose football games. They did it just last weekend, suffering a 29-0 drubbing at the hands of Lafayette, just a week after putting 32 points on the board against Princeton in one of our best offensive productions in recent memory. They lost that game too, though.

In my four years at Columbia, I can't remember a single homecoming game where the home team won. It certainly might have happened; but even if it did, the victory doesn't stick out in my mind, instead getting lost among the flood of disappointments. And yet, every year, we trudge up to Baker Field and cheer on the Lions, hoping this might be the game that starts a winning streak. It of course never happens, but we all remain optimistic.

So why do we still bother? Why do we head out, year after year, hoping for the best but expecting the worst? It's certainly not specific to Ivy League college football; people still show up at Oakland Raiders games, after all, and I've even met Tampa Bay Devil Rays fans in person. We're resigned, mostly, to the reality of our mediocrity, and we're never surprised when our team fails to pull out a win. The situation makes those rare victories all the more exciting; it's not just a win, but also a pleasant surprise.

But is that why we do it?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Let's Try This Again

Fall is here, college football is beginning, and I suppose it's time to give this blog another shot. Although I certainly had good intentions the last time, the fact is that in the spring, there isn't much to write about besides baseball, and let's be honest -- there are already more than enough Mets blogs out there on the eBays, and I couldn't possibly compare to the quality of writing that's out there already.

Which is not to say that there isn't a ton of writing on college sports already. But there's comparatively little coverage, I'd say, of the competitive wasteland that is Ivy League sports. There's even less coverage of the consistent mediocrity that is the Columbia Lions. And so the re-launch of 44 In A Row will hopefully bear a closer relationship to its namesake: the trials and tribulations of the Lions, the Ivy League, Division I-AA, and craptacular college football in general.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Opening Day... Sort Of

It's 3pm on a Wednesday in February, and baseball is on the radio. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. Sure, it's still winter, there's snow on the ground, there's a cold wind blowing along Park Avenue, and there's over a month until Opening Day. But today, right now, the Colorado Rockies are taking the White Sox to the cleaners, and it may as well be summer.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Wind-Up...

Spring training is in full (ahem) swing. Position players have reported, pitchers and catchers have been working for a week, and it's time to start figuring out who will stay and who will go. Obviously, the big question mark for the Mets is the mound, where 23 members of the 40-man spring training roster hope to play (and that's not counting the additional 10 NRIs hanging around Port St. Lucie). With exactly seven days until the first exhibition -- an NLCS rematch against the Cardinals at Tradition Field -- there's not much time left to cut the pitching roster down to a manageable size. It's going to be very, very interesting to see how the next week plays out, that's for sure.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Ladies and gentlemen, today is the first day of 2007 Spring Training. Baseball season is almost here, and summer is on the way. Today? Is a good day.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Admission of Guilt

The big news of the past week has been college football signing day. "Signing [insert name of probably-overrated high school phenom] will absolutely send us to a bowl game this year!" Everyone who went to a Division I school is excited, some justifiably, some not. But it's a happy time of year, regardless.

Except for me. It's time for a confession. I went to a Division I school, but we're Division I-AA in football. And this isn't just any Division I-AA school. This is Columbia. Long-time holder of the NCAA record for most consecutive losses, with 44 in a row (now, thankfully, second to Prairie View's 80 straight losses in the 1990s). The only team in Ivy League history to go without a conference win in both football and basketball in the same season. Number four on ESPN's "Worst College Football Teams of All Time". There's mediocre, there's bad, and then there's Columbia. Not that we don't have decent players -- Steve Cargile (Class of 2004), was signed to the Denver Broncos active roster toward the end of December, and Marcellus Wiley, DE for the Jaguars as of the end of the 2006, has had a productive 10-year career after going in the 2nd round of the 1997 draft. But the team, as an institution, has been remarkably effective at only one thing: losing.

My optimistic side thinks that maybe 2007 will be the year Columbia finally turns it around. Not that I'm expecting to win an Ivy League championship, or even finish above .500 again (this past season was the first time in a decade that we had done so). No, my goals are more realistic. I'll be happy if the players don't go into the game expecting to lose, if undergrads even occasionally show up for the games, and if we can tailgate at Baker Field again.

Homer Simpson once said, "When it comes to sporting events, it's not whether you lose... it's how drunk you get."

Let's hope so.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

As the slow march toward spring training continues, it's impossible to not notice the amount of attention being paid to the Mets' pitching rotation... or lack thereof. The lack of a solid fifth starter is certainly disconcerting, especially where we are right now, mere weeks away from the day when pitchers and catchers are expected at Port St. Lucie. Yet I have to believe that the Mets, as a team, have a pretty firm head on their collective shoulders when it comes to the right way to fill a hole in the lineup.

In an article today, Marty Noble quoted Tom Glavine as saying, "I think our organization was smart in not spending the money on [Barry] Zito." Glavine is stating what's turned out to be a pretty fundamental truth for Major League Baseball in general, and the Mets in particular. After all, when was the last time a big-name, big-money acquisition worked out the way we thought it would? Mo Vaughn, who began the 2002 season by falling on his face (literally) in the Angels clubhouse and ended that same season as a multi-million dollar drain on the Mets' roster? Pedro Martinez, who for all his experience, and all his clubhouse charisma, spent the entire playoffs on the DL?

Now, I'm in no way discounting the impact that Pedro had on the regular season, nor do I question the very real effect he has on the clubhouse as a team leader. At the same time, though, situations like that are endemic to a MLB system that values past performance over future potential. The Mets, on the other hand, have been one of the few teams that have shown a proven ability to avoid the temptation of, say, a $126 million deal with Barry Zito. The Mets' biggest stars -- guys like David Wright and Jose Reyes, the backbone of the squad from both a on-field performance and public perception sense -- all grew up in the Mets farm system. The Norfolk Tides were clearly able to produce players that made major contributions to the major league team, and AAA players have always been critical to the success of the Mets. The core of the 1986 team all spent time in Norfolk: Darryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra, Dwight Gooden, and Mookie Wilson, just to name a few. Now, there are questions as to whether the newly-affiliated New Orleans Zephyrs will be a competent replacement for Norfolk, especially considering that the Zephyrs didn't have a particularly strong 2006 with the Washington Nationals.

The point, though, is that the Mets have to trust the farm, because the farm has always been good to them. Rather than looking to spend tens of millions of dollars on a "proven superstar" that could very well not live up to expectations, the Mets need to do what they do best: save their money, and promote from within.