0-14. As a Columbia sports fan, you may want to jump to conclusions and lament the less-than-dismal record between our football and men’s and women’s basketball teams so far. However, the lack of wins has not stopped this from being an exciting season of Light Blue action.
People cannot make blanket statements based on these winless records, and with the national coverage devoted to this week’s marching band story, such assumptions have already been made from media who have not even viewed this football team. (On this controversy, I believe the band used poor judgment in reciting such lyrics for the football team to hear, but it was a far worse decision for the athletic department to ban the band from Saturday’s season finale. It’s unnecessary to go that far to send a message, and they should have known it would attract all this negative publicity. Clearly they realized they made the wrong judgment based on the fact they revoked the ban.) However, I would personally not like to dwell on this nonsense, which detracts from the myriad of fun games and moments we have witnessed from our winless teams in the last two months.
Columbia sports also received national publicity last week for something on the playing field—its matchup against the defending champion Huskies. The score of that game was the lead score at the top of ESPN.com’s page, the game was SportsCenter’s second highlight, Jeremy Lamb’s dunk over Mark Cisco was that night’s top play and went viral, and ESPNU’s announcers effusively praised the Lions throughout the broadcast. Columbia was described as resilient, gritty, and scrappy on multiple occasions during the game, while at the open of ESPNU’s postgame, after being asked to analyze Jeremy Lamb’s unearthly performance, analyst Jay Williams said the following: “Well both him and Napier had exquisite performances but … I’m actually excited to see Columbia.
They showed a lot of heart in this basketball game, and this is a team that if they just think Harvard is just going to walk away with this title, teams like Yale, Penn, and Columbia could be really competitive in this league and rally to push Harvard to the limit.” Granted, this statement would probably not be agreed upon by anybody who closely follows the Lions, but I was shocked with how little praise was offered on campus and especially by this publication.
I understand that UConn was not running on all cylinders and that coach Jim Calhoun was flat-out disgusted with his team, but in the final minute, the Lions pulled within single digits of the fourth-ranked defending Big East/national champions! I don’t care what the circumstances may have been—the Lions showed poise, players such as Blaise Staab stepped up, and every time it looked like the Huskies were going to blow the Light Blue out of the water, Columbia resiliently battled back. In fact, you can make the argument that if the Lions had improved their dreary first-half shooting, they could have been within striking distance for much of the second half.
Meanwhile, even though the football team has failed to see victory this season, they have written quite the narrative in 2011. At WKCR, we are billing tomorrow as “Win-Or-Go-Winless Saturday,” and indeed it may be a historical occasion, as the Lions will try to prevent their first winless season since 1987, part of the infamous 44-game winless streak. However, we also billed the fourth game of the year as “Win-Or-Go-Winless” Saturday, so you would think after that loss dropped the Lions to 0-4, watching the Light Blue would be something of a chore—it has been anything but.
The following week, Columbia played what was probably the most exciting game in the Ivy League this season, when they nearly upset Penn on homecoming, which would have ended the Quakers’ 16-game winning streak on national TV. Of course, despite putting up an inspired effort, the Lions beat themselves in the final quarter. The next week at Dartmouth just proved the importance of Sean Brackett and was entertaining for the glimpse of how remarkably inept the Light Blue is without him. Then came the Snow Bowl against Yale, which brought surreal conditions that also made national headlines, and Columbia nearly pulled off a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback in a blizzard. The fact that the Lions were tied at halftime with the first-place Golden Pants was another surreal moment. And last week Columbia was kind enough to let the Cornell offense set all sorts of Ivy League records.
I understand this may seem like I’m grasping at straws, but actually the Lions have legitimately made this season fun. The problem has not been the effort, but pretty clearly, it has been the coaching. It takes one piece of evidence to demonstrate this: Columbia has been outscored 117-20 in the third quarter….117-20! That reveals the Lions’ coaching staff has not been making appropriate halftime adjustments.
In fact, based on the season so far, I can map out exactly what will happen in tomorrow’s finale. Columbia will win the toss and defer, and their defense will play inspired in the first half. Courtesy of one successful drive by Sean Brackett and one big turnover, the Lions will have a lead until the Bears tie the game in the closing seconds of the first half. At halftime we will all fool ourselves into thinking, “Wow this could finally be the game we win.” But of course then comes the third quarter. Enough said. As usual the Lions will be driving, down two touchdowns with five minutes to go.
They will then burn their timeouts instead of using them for a possible final drive, and thus Columbia will fall just short in the end since there will not be enough time on the clock. This has been the formula this year and the reasons why changes at the top will be made in a few days.
It is also a formula that has made the season fun to watch. With Harvard having already won the Ivy title, most of tomorrow’s Ivy football suspense will once again be at Baker Field. Admit it, with an Agho-less men’s basketball team, you will soon crave the days of winless Columbia football.
So support the Lions tomorrow on “Win-Or-Go-Winless-Saturday,” and hopefully the excitement will soon stem from changes and winning in the years to come.
Ryan Young is a Columbia College sophomore. He is a sports broadcaster for WKCR. firstname.lastname@example.org