February 15, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
by Dave Long

In the late great TV show M*A*S*H thereís an episode where Colonel Potter is shooting foul shots at a makeshift basket to relax after a rigorous stint in the O.R. As he runs off a streak of 15 straight Maxwell Q. Klinger happens by and starts telling one and all the Colonelís going for the camp record of 31. As the growing crowd counts him down toward the record the excitement builds. None of it, however, pleases the increasingly testy Colonel, who goes from a guy trying to relax to one with the weight of the world now on his shoulders.

Ultimately he succumbs to the pressure and the disappointed crowd retreats after the quest ends one shy of the record. Even though it was 1950 when almost everyone shot foul shots underhand, it wasnít all that realistic. Itís more likely actor Henry Morgan had to do it that way because heíd never seen a hoop before that scene. Still it was a pretty good Hollywood example of the captivating quality a streak can have on those who follow them. And also how the presence of a streak affects those trying to make it grow.

Streaks were in the news last week, which ended in a mixed bag. The good news is that the winning streak of your Manchester Monarchs lives on, as a 3-2 win over Springfield Sunday made it 12 straight. Central Basketball, on the other hand, got hit with the Hippo Sports curse, as after writing about its amazing 46-game winning streak over three years last week it came to an end at Nashua South on Friday. And then there were the Boston Celtics setting a team record for futility with 15 straight losses and moving to within five of the NBA record by reaching 18 on Sunday night.

All three had a lot of people talking, as streaks good and bad really do catch attention. Probably the greatest was Joe DiMaggioís 56-game hitting streak. It captivated an entire nation in the days when there was no 24-hour news cycle or minute-by-minute updates from Sports Center. Still the public found ways to see if the streak lived another day, even though it took a lot more effort than going to a Palm Pilot for instant results. Like at Fenway where brother Dominic DiMaggio was kept in the loop by attendants listening to the radio inside the Green Monster. TheyĎd yell to Ted Williams in left when something happened, who in turn would then shout over to Dom in center what happened.

That streak had two real magical qualities. First it let DiMaggio completely overshadow Williams during the 56-game span even though The Kids out-hit Joe D in EVERY offensive category. It also catapulted the Yanks on a run where they clinched the pennant on the earliest date in history and by the largest margin after languishing at .500 until it began.

I suspect once the Yanks got rolling in 1941 they felt pretty much invincible and Iím guessing thatís what the Monarchs have been feeling since they entered the Zone two months ago. They are blowing away the division when top scorer Noah (thing or two) Clarke isnít even among the top 30 scorers. Their version of DiMaggio is goalie Jason LaBarbera. Heís been the backbone of a defense thatís given up an AHL-low 121 goals. Itís not just him, of course. He sat out Saturdayís sandwich game of three played at the V over the weekend and Barry Brust stepped in to pitch his own shutout. The 3-0 win vs. Worcester kept a scoreless streak alive that reached 172 minutes before ending in Sundayís 3-2 win over Springfield. It suggests the guys along the blue line, and up front as well, are playing the kind of D that lets a team allow the fewest goals in its league and thatís show you win.

Like when things go well and you expect things to go right, when they go bad, players wait for the sky to fall at the most inopportune moment. Thatís the case with the Celtics, who still have won more titles than anyone in NBA history despite last winning in 1986. That memory makes the whole thing seem surreal, but they are a train wreck first derailed by injuries to anyone who mattered. Itís not the only reason, as inexperience, not being able to close games out and some players turning out to be not as good as the brass (and I) expected have conspired to put them in the Greg Oden sweepstakes. The question is, if it ever ends, will it beat down the young guys for good or make them tougher.

In a way thatís what the Ms will face this spring. Their stellar season and confidence building streak are on a collision course with the franchiseís woeful record in the playoffs. Itís true there are many new players who shouldnít be affected, but I still think it creeps in and is about getting over the hump where winning round two will be easier than round one. Thatís the way it was for the Red Sox in 2004, who easily swept the Cards after surviving the devastating loss of 2003 and the tong war with the Empire the next year. Thatís why I think itíll be different this time around. The Monarchs have what the Sox had in 2004 ó the best defense. In baseball itís called pitching. In hockey itís goaltending. Thatís what wins come playoff time, so I like their chances.

The championship is what was on Doc (10) Wheelerís mind too and not the 46-game streak after it ended. Heís right that the goal of a championship-caliber team is to win the last game. But as the years go by and, itís clear what an astonishing accomplishment winning 46 in a row is for anyone and that, of all of us who have tried to do it, only a handful have ever pulled it off.

So it is, without question, something to enjoy and savor.

Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).



2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM

2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat