Friday, December 04, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Nets fans, wounds will heal

The moment the fan-held sign appeared on my television screen, my 11-year-old soul became conflicted.

I don't remember who the Orioles were playing that day in 1988, but I know they were on the road, and I know they hadn't won a game yet.

Obviously, this fan knew that, too. That's why he held up the piece of poster board with his simple prediction: "0-162."

Seemed possible, really.

What do you do as a fan when your team starts 0-21? Laugh? Cry? Bail? Stay the course?

I suppose we can ask the folks in New Jersey that in about a week.

The Nets fell to 0-18 on Wednesday in a way only an 0-18 team can. At home, they allowed Dallas to shoot a staggering 81 percent in the first half. The game was never close.

So, you still want this ghastly team, Brooklyn?

But at least when you're unconscionably bad, you're making news. Nobody's talking about the Timberwolves (2-16), Knicks (4-15) or Warriors (6-11) right now; they're talking about the record-setting Nets, who'd better beat Charlotte tonight if they don't want to go 0-82.

Maybe they'll get some unsolicited inspiration. The day after the Orioles dropped to 0-18, manager Frank Robinson received a call from President Ronald Reagan. The most powerful man in the world offered his support.

"He said, 'Frank, I know what you're going through,' " Robinson said, according to Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle, who covered the team for The Washington Post at the time.

Robinson's reply? "With all due respect, no you don't, Mr. President."

Are you listening, President Obama? Kiki Vandeweghe needs you more than Chicago ever needed the Olympics.

My advice to Nets fans: Chin up. In time, you'll come to appreciate this. Cal Ripken Jr., whose father lost his job as manager six games into the streak, wrote a children's book called "The Longest Season" that chronicles the 1988 campaign.

For some reason, I've read it to my kids. (You might not want to pick them for any sandlot teams anytime soon.)

There was no mention of the 0-162 sign in the book, but I remember my 11-year-old reaction well.

I laughed and kept right on watching. Gave the clever guy his due.

Then thanked God when he was proven wrong.

n n n

Perhaps Frank Beamer and the Hokies should have consulted a few nerds before this season.

We all figured it was just bad luck when Tech lost its first 10 coin flips this year. But according to a report this week in the San Jose Mercury News, researchers have determined that flips aren't as fluky as we thought.

The study showed that a coin is at least 51 percent likely to land on the same side it started on the thumb. Depending on the flipping motion of the flipper, it can be as much as 55 or 60 percent, the newspaper reported.

No captain worth his thigh pad should ever ignore this fact.

Then again, maybe Beamer got an advance copy of this report; the Hokies have won their past two tosses.

n n n

Eagle Rock resident Mickey Campbell knows what most people think about Al Groh. He understands that the former UVa coach turned off many fans with his gruff personality and seemingly arrogant attitude.

Still, Campbell has a hard time feeling the same way.

When his father, Allen, died in 2007, Campbell asked UVa if he could borrow a Virginia football helmet to display at the memorial service. Mickey described his dad as a lower-middle class man who loved UVa his whole life but never had much to donate to the program.

The folks at UVa agreed to let Campbell borrow a helmet provided he put down a deposit, which would be refunded when he returned the headgear.

But when Campbell arrived on campus, he got a surprise: A helmet he was told he could keep, with Groh's handwriting on it.

"To Allen," the message said. "A great Wahoo. Al Groh."

Nine years is a long time to make an impression. During the past week, Groh has been unapologetic about the one he made as coach.

In this case, though, the guy in the glass should be proud.

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