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Parasiliti: Streaks are hair apparent

March 31, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

Sports can get into your hair.

It happens more for some than others. That’s not a bald joke, but then again …

Teams ride the wave of success.

Athletes always proclaim they are just trying to do their part.

And how many baseball players shag flies during an afternoon at the ballpark?

OK. Before you give this subject the brush off, let’s get to the root of the analogy.

Lately, sports news has been like gossip at one big beauty salon. Most of the talk revolves around streaks and how they highlight and add color to a season.

And those streaks become permanent stamps on a season.

Consider the time spent talking about the Miami Heat’s 27 straight wins and the awe it created.

It was the showcase of many other runs of luck.

The modest win streaks of other NBA teams were dwarfed by the Heat’s attempt to surpass a 33-game run the Los Angeles Lakers constructed during the Nixon administration, seven presidents ago.

In the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are riding a 15-game win streak, traded for half of the league’s power structure to keep the surge going.

And maybe one of the more infamous strings of results — going in the wrong direction — was provided by the Baltimore Orioles, who lost the first 21 games of the 1988 season, taking them out of the pennant chase early. In one month, they were 20 percent of the way to completing a 107-loss season.

Here, in Washington County, there have been streaks at both end of the spectrum.

The Hagerstown Community College baseball team ended a six-game losing streak this weekend.

This comes on the heels of the men’s basketball team’s run of streaks — runs of 11, 10 and seven wins. But they were defined by a two-game skid that ended the 2012-13 regular season right before tournament time.

On the high school level, South Hagerstown has been putting ends to long runs of futility, two coming just this week. The boys lacrosse team put a halt to a downward swing that lasted four years, and the softball team recorded a victory to end a 39-game regression.

And just barely in the rear view mirror is a 55-game chain of losses suffered by the girls basketball team a couple of seasons ago.

Streaks are one of the buzz words used as building blocks to sports coverage. Just like statistics, they are a way to classify a season for teams or individual athletes so they can be placed in the correct drawer of history’s filing cabinet.

Most streaks, though, usually just label teams, not define them. They give a team a personality and a “Hello. My Name Is …” badge. These streaks don’t guarantee success, but they do control the confidence and character of teams.

Teams on long win streaks tend to become cocky and overconfident, while long losing streaks promote a lower level of self-esteem and doubt.

And neither is accurate.

During the Heat’s run, the wins piled up like firewood, but there were questions about the furnace.

The defending NBA champs made themselves the favorites to repeat, but that isn’t guaranteed.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra fretted over the nearly two-month run of successes.

“We were hanging on and not getting any better,” he said.

In contrast, HCC’s basketball team won 22 of its first 24 games, but coach Barry Brown will tell all who listen that it was losing the last two regular-season games that put the Hawks in position to make a run to the NJCAA Division I tournament.

And on the darker side of things, one win can easily change the disposition of a team. Freshman pitcher Katelyn Mehrling gave South softball a glimmer of hope Wednesday with her 3-1 victory over Brunswick.

“We’ve struggled for the last few years,” South coach Angela Jefferies said. “Now we have someone who can take over a game. … She gives the rest of the team confidence.”

And there lies the key to streaks. They don’t guarantee anything but attention.

The Heat would give up their 27-game string of honor just to win 12 straight in the playoffs en route to a second straight title.

HCC got more out of two losses than the basketball team ever learned in the first 22 wins.

And South Hagerstown learned that even when it’s darkest, there is a light at the end of the tunnel … and that winning feels pretty good.

In reality, the defining moment isn’t the streak. It’s how teams respond in the next game after one ends.

Ask the Baltimore Ravens, who lost their regular season finale before running the postseason table to win the Super Bowl.

Championships, not streaks, are the lasting legacy.

And those are the moments that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or bobp@herald-mail.com.

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