Saturday, February 4, 2017

I heard there was a football game tomorrow

Don't jinx it, don't jinx it, don't jinx it, don't jinx it.

Do not jinx it.

Yes, folks, that's right. As the biggest sporting event/entertainment bonanza/advertising expo of the year approaches tomorrow, there is one thing at the forefront of my mind. And that is that we can not jinx it.

Many of you, I assume, have little care for Northwestern men's basketball, but we few that do are a tortured lot. I need not recap the situation for most of you, but I will. There are five men's basketball programs that have been a part of NCAA Division I since its inception and not reached the holy land of the NCAA Tournament. Of those five, one of them plays in a power conference. That Northwestern has never reached the Big Dance seems at times both obvious and improbable. Hell, even Rutgers reached the Final Four once upon a time. The Wildcats' history has no bright lights beyond a retroactively awarded national championship in 1931.

So, while many in the sporting world have focused on the Falcons or Patriots over the last two weeks, with the Giants out of the mix, my focus has been singular. For the first time in a long time, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Northwestern began this week 18-4, third in the Big Ten and nationally ranked for the first time ever in February. To miss the tournament at this point would require a disastrous finish. Even a 4-4 record in the final eight games should see the Cats through, and there are winnable games to be had on the schedule.

This was is so momentous that it's almost enough to make you forget that Super Bowl LI is this weekend.

But much of that optimism took a steep dive Wednesday night. As many of us let our heads run away with preliminary plans to book flights for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern went into West Lafayette and got positively walloped by Purdue. Now, like so many other Wildcat fans I am pulling my hair out and agonizing, wondering if I was too overzealous to look up flight times in and out of Buffalo on the same day.