Although this World Series matchup was not something the prognosticators remotely saw coming before the season, it really can’t come as a surprise that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are the two teams that will represent their respective leagues Wednesday night. In the last decade, when the games have mattered most, these are the teams that have usually managed to come through.
The Cardinals have reached an incredible eight of the last 14 National League Championship Series and will appear in their fourth World Series in 10 years tonight. The only one of those appearances they lost came in 2004… to the Red Sox. Boston also has a pair of championships in the last decade. You need not look any further than their clutch designated hitter, David Ortiz, as a big reason why.
The Cardinals’ stretch as a postseason mainstay began in 2000, in the same month that Columbia football last won its Homecoming game. The Lions’ streak is definitely an example of not coming through when it matters the most, to say the least.
As I have noted in recent columns, there is nothing in Ivy League football that remotely resembles a postseason, let alone a World Series. But the Homecoming game certainly is the closest thing to it. Columbia students and alumni watch every year. Not that a win at Homecoming would change the entire perception of the football program, but it could at least mitigate the current impression of ineptitude.
That’s not to say that the current perception is incorrect. Aside from the one exciting flea-flicker followed by Marcorus Garrett finding the outside on his touchdown run, there was nothing that resembled a “drive” for the Lions on Saturday. And as the offense went 0-13 on third downs, the defense, while playing relatively well, did not do much better, surrendering 11-22 third-down conversions. Penn had several self-inflicting wounds, but Columbia could not take advantage. And as the Quakers always seem to do, they found a way to win a close Ivy matchup when it mattered.
In fact, senior punter Paul Delaney was deservedly named the Lions’ Homecoming MVP. Delaney has been the best, most consistent player for the Lions this year, but having your punter win MVP is probably not a good sign for your team. Yes, he’s a senior on a young team, but punters only get a chance when the offense fails.
If you want to call Homecoming their midterm, then the Lions earned another poor mark. But it’s difficult to believe spending even more time in Butler (or Dodge, or Campbell) would have made much of a difference—the test was just too difficult.
Firmly established as a cellar-dweller, the Light Blue will have a tough time making any type of noise in its final five games. It is important not to go winless, but what the Lions do in these final five games (short of upsetting No. 23 Harvard) will not change what they’ve established. At this point, they have to play for their own self-respect and realize they are young, so any positive momentum should bode well for next year—especially if quarterback Brett Nottingham is back.
Of course, that will be a difficult task. Columbia’s most manageable second-half games all come on the road, where they have lost 14 straight.
As of Wednesday afternoon, I have finally finished my five midterms as well. And while I didn’t hit five home runs like the all-time elite postseason hitters Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz, or go 0-5 like Columbia football, my experience tells me that regardless of how I did, it’s time to start making my best adjustments to move forward and reach finals.
And as difficult as that may continue to be for Columbia football, the team can look to the last-place 2012 Red Sox for inspiration. While the Lions will struggle to change the public perception around campus, it is still up to them to fight through it.
And hopefully give me more reasons to drive to Dartmouth than just to watch Paul Delaney fire off a bunch of great punts.