Although these words are being written before the calendar turns to 2018, there’s always reason to feel optimistic as a new year begins. Here is my personal wish list for ways the sports world can give us all a little more to cheer about.
-Reducing the number of bowl games in college football is a great start. There were a total of 41 games (including the “playoff” semifinals that happened New Year’s Day) played since Dec. 16. Of course, predicting the winners for anyone involved in a pool is next to impossible.
If the number of bowl games grows any more for this year and beyond, we may reach critical mass. Next stop: sports apocalypse.
-SUU grad Miles Killebrew is living the dream in the NFL. Playing football on Sundays is awesome, but playing for the Detroit Lions may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
In his rookie year, Killebrew, a fourth-round draft choice, made the playoffs in 2016. With a loss at Cincinnati in Week 16, the Lions failed to qualify for the 2017 playoffs and Jim Caldwell’s future as head coach is very much in doubt.
Killebrew has finished the second year of a four-year contract that pays him around $750,000 a season. He’s playing for an organization that’s won exactly one playoff game in the last 60 years (1991) and hasn’t won a division title since 1993.
On the positive side of things, at least Detroit has made the playoffs 12 times since its last NFL title in 1957. It could always be much worse.
When it comes to the Super Bowl, the Lions are one of only four teams that haven’t played in the NFL’s ultimate big game. Jacksonville and Houston are on the list, but they have a somewhat-valid excuse in they’ve been around for less than 25 years – the Jaguars arrived in 1995 and the Texans came into the league in 2002.
But the fourth team on the no-Super-Bowl-for-you group is one that’s just plain awful. As of this writing, the Cleveland Browns were on the verge – and very likely since they were scheduled to play their final regular-season game at Pittsburgh against the Steelers on Dec. 31 – of joining the Lions as the second NFL team ever to have a winless 0-16 season.
The futility and all-around ugliness goes back a lot further than that.
Once 0-16 is secured, the Cleveland Browns will have won four games – in the last three years. Since the organization returned from a three-year exile in 1999 after former owner Art Modell moved the old group to Baltimore, the Browns have had two winning seasons – 9-7 with the only playoff appearance in 2002, and 10-6 in 2007.
When the Lions went 0-16 in 2008, they drafted a quarterback out of Georgia named Matthew Stafford. He’s led the team to three playoff trips since he arrived. The Browns don’t have an impact player coming down the line, even a rumored one.
And that’s a big reason why Miles Killebrew can count his blessings. Good things really do take time and are always worth fighting for.
-For all the positivity of the preseason, the SUU men’s basketball team got a jolt of reality that smacked them squarely in the face Dec. 28. They got Big Sky play started on the wrong foot with a 104-99 home loss to Montana State, its first of the season in six games.
Yes, the Bobcats got their revenge for the first-round loss at last year’s tournament, but a bigger problem may be emerging.
When you can’t stop teams on the defensive end, all the scoring in the world won’t make any difference. The T-Birds allowed two Montana State players to have 30-point nights – Tyler Hall with 36 and Harald Frey with 30 – and the pair combined to make 12 of the team’s 14 3-pointers.
To date, SUU’s lowest point total allowed has been 68, and that came against two NAIA programs – Benedictine Mesa and San Diego Christian. With the way things have gone against everyone else, look for more shootouts similar to the one that happened Thursday.
It will be a long road ahead for the faithful, a cautious one for the skeptical.
Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @TommyZee81 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.