One of the most impressive things about the Prince George Cougars season so far is their ability to avoid losing streaks.
Their longest losing streak this year is two games. As coaches and players will tell you, avoiding a losing streak is crucially important.
After you lose a few games in a row, you start to tense up. You grip the stick too hard and you forgot some of the basics of the game.
This, of course, leads almost always to more losses, more tenseness and, at some point, the thinking becomes “How are we going to lose this game?” instead of “What can I do to make sure we win this one?”
There have been a lot of bad teams who can testify to what I just said, as well as some teams that were actually doing quite well until disaster struck. In the very short term, the Detroit Red Wings of 1942 won the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals over the Toronto Maple Leafs, then lost four straight to lose the series and the cup.
In a slightly longer-term, the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies led the National League by six-and-a-half games with 12 to play, and ended up finishing second to the St. Louis Cardinals. The play that probably summed up what happens when you get into a losing streak happened fairly early in the streak. Chico Ruiz of the Cincinnati Reds was on third base in the sixth inning of a scoreless game. Frank Robinson, already one of the top hitters in the league was up to bat, and swung at the first pitch from Art Mahaffey.
Ruiz noticed Mahaffey hadn’t looked over at third before he threw the first pitch to Robinson, so on the second pitch, he broke for the plate.
Mahaffey was caught completely by surprise and threw a pitch high and wide, which catcher Clay Dalrymple couldn’t catch. Ruiz scored the only run of the game.
The next day, Phillies manager Gene Mauch was razzing the Reds during the game about the steal of home. That, to me (with the benefit of hindsight), seems like the sign of a manager who is already losing confidence in his team.
There are other teams who have made a tradition, if you will, of losing, Until last October, it had been 108 seasons since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The Maple Leafs haven’t hoisted the Stanly Cup since 1967.
And then there are the teams, especially expansion teams, which earn the title ‘lovable losers’ The New York Mets epitomized that, finishing their first season in 1962 with 40 wins and 120 losses.
Team owner Joan Payson was taking a round-the-world cruise during the season, and was getting phone calls every day about the team’s progress. The bills for the calls were starting to add up, so Payson asked the team to call only if the Mets won.
“That was the last we heard from the team that summer,” she said later.
So if your team, whatever the sport, seems to be slipping away, just remember the Mets.