October 25, 2012

NEWCOMB | A Sports Birthday Wish List

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As I sit writing this column on my 22nd birthday (that’s right, you’re a day behind now that you’re reading it in the paper) I realize that I wish for a lot of things from the world of sports. Despite my superstitions and rituals, there is little to no evidence that any of my focused energy has had any positive results.

Ergo, for this column I am making a birthday wish list as it pertains to sports. By writing and publishing these hopes, they will come true.

#1: Northwestern Basketball makes it to the NCAA Tournament

Since the NCAA tournament started in 1939, Northwestern is the only team in the six major conferences to never have made an appearance in the bracket. This is an extremely daunting statistic, and especially depressing after Northwestern failed to make the tournament last season in the final year for Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer, John Shurna. Another fun fact is that Northwestern actually hosted the first NCAA tournament back in 1939.

Given that, Northwestern’s inability to make it into the Big Dance in its history is a constant burden to the program, and so for my first wish, I would like to ask that the basketball team make its first historic appearance in the tournament in my lifetime. Yes, that’s all I’m asking.

#2: Northwestern football wins a bowl game

I know! There’s a theme! (Spoiler alert: the theme is Northwestern teams losing.) Most near and dear to my heart is the Northwestern football team, which currently has not won a bowl game since 1949. With the exception of Otto Graham, Northwestern has had a very rough history when it comes to football. With a school that has fewer than 9,000 undergraduates on their campus competing against multiple schools in its conference with more than 40,000 undergraduate students, the odds are constantly against them.

However, given that Wikipedia describes that, after appearing in the Rose Bowl in 1949, Northwestern “plummeted to extended levels of futility from the mid-1970s to 1994,” they have much improved. Since 1995, they have made nine bowl game appearances, though they were all losses. I have seen six of these losses with my own eyes, and the overtime loss to Auburn in the Outback Bowl in 2009 is still one of my worst memories. Tampa is forever ruined for me.

In the same manner as my first wish, I need them to win a bowl game. This is for my sanity as well as thousands of other Northwestern fans that aren’t asking for a national championship or even a Big Ten championship. Just a win in December or January. Please.

#3: John Calipari stops coaching all things

John Calipari is a figure that encapsulates the problems with college sports. That is my personal judgment, but it is based on some pretty concrete facts. He is currently the head coach for the University of Kentucky basketball team, and is coming off of a national title victory with the Wildcats.

While this is a very prestigious honor to have to his name, he also has some less honorable accomplishments. He is the only head coach to have Final Four appearances vacated by the NCAA at more than one school. He has championed and perfected the “one-and-done” mentality for NCAA basketball players. He is also one of the few coaches whose Wikipedia page boasts its own “Controversies” subsection.

Given that, I want him to stop coaching. Not just college basketball, but really all things. He is not a positive influence on the game of college basketball, and he furthers the belief that his players are biding their time in college before entering the NBA rather than treating them as studvents. I also still harbor some hatred from their Sweet Sixteen victory over Cornell back in 2010.

#4: Bob Knight coaches all things

First and foremost, a quick shout out to Mr. Knight who also shares my birthday. Just a fair warning: he will probably be more angry that you did not wish him a happy birthday. It’s the two of us and Ciara that share this birthday. I’m sure that many of you will still remember that in 364 days.

There is an undeniable passion to the way in which Bob Knight coached NCAA basketball. He won more than 900 games in his historic career, and is an iconic coach regardless of sport.

He, too, has a section of his bio that includes “Criticism and Controversy” and his infamous toss of a chair onto the basketball court during an Indiana Hoosier game in 1985. Since the incident, he has made light of it by saying, “he saw an old lady standing on the opposite sideline and threw her the chair so she could sit down”.

There is a real need for coaches with personality. While Knight might be (read: is) over the edge, his passion for the game has made him one of the most revered coaches in college basketball history. This passion has a real place in college sports as long as its within reason.

#5: Charles Barkley narrates my life

This is by far my most ridiculous wish, but there is something unbelievable about the way that Charles Barkley speaks. He makes me laugh every time that he talks, and I find his commentary for the NBA to be truly hilarious.

I would be honored if he would narrate my life at all times. Just walk about five feet behind me telling everyone else what I was doing, and provide personal commentary to my life’s events. I think everyone would benefit from this situation.

There you have it. This is a life’s worth of sports birthday wishes. I am not delusional enough to think that all of them will come true, but I’m hoping one within the next year comes to fruition. Cheers to that.

Original Author: Annie Newcomb