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Rollins: Appreciate Northwestern sports teams because they win more than one would think

Khadrice Rollins, Managing Editor

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Nobody’s favorite team wins as much as they would like it to. Not just at Northwestern, but at most colleges across the country.

As Wildcat fans, it’s easy to personalize losing and look at it as an epidemic exclusive to Evanston, but that simply isn’t the case. Although NU’s history of failing in football and men’s basketball makes it feel like Cats teams have been significantly worse than their peers, they are not really that far off.

On the grand scale, NU’s 19 varsity teams are quite comparable to the majority of schools. Kelly Amonte Hiller helped start a dynasty on the lacrosse field by racking up seven national titles in an eight-year span. Claire Pollard coached the women’s tennis team to 16 consecutive Big Ten titles. And since 2005, NU’s wrestling program has sent at least three wrestlers to the NCAA Championships each year besides 2010. Additionally, during that span, the wrestling team has turned in nine top-15 finishes at the NCAA Championships and matched a program-best fourth-place finish in 2007.

The Cats can compare with anybody. Take Duke for instance, a school many look at as an elite athletic institution thanks to the success and national attention of its men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s lacrosse team. The Blue Devils have 16 national championships in all sports in school history compared to the Cats’ 11 national titles. And Vanderbilt, another school in a major conference and similar academic standing has just three national titles in school history. Simply put: NU sports as a whole are just as good as most colleges you can think of.

Yet, very few people would ever come to that conclusion if they spent time talking sports with the average Cats fan. The conversation would not focus on fencing coach Laurie Schiller racking up win after win and award after award en route to establishing one of the premier programs in the nation. Instead, it would most likely center around a basketball team that has never reached the NCAA Tournament or a football program that has captured just four 10-win seasons during its 133-year existence. This urge to dwell on shortcomings instead of embracing achievement is not exclusive to Evanston, but it is much more prevalent on NU’s campus because football and men’s basketball are the most popular college sports and the Cats have arguably the worst programs historically in the Big Ten in both sports.

But this long-documented history of losing in two sports shouldn’t lead to fans painting all of NU athletics as a group of historic losers. It should make people take even more pride in the victories. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself or your favorite sports teams, but it is important to remember the successes, because to sports fans, they feel all too rare.

The dynasty Amonte Hiller created in lacrosse may be coming to an end. As the sport has grown in popularity, NU’s stronghold over the competition has dwindled, and last season, the team failed to reach the national semifinals for the first time in 10 years. This season, there is a chance the Cats miss out on the NCAA Tournament completely if they can’t hold on to their .500 record.

After reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2014 for the first time since the 1996-97 season, the women’s basketball team followed up its impressive 23-win season by struggling to 19 wins and a first round exit in the WNIT.

Many people are already projecting NU’s football team to finish with a worse record than last year despite the belief that it will be a more talented team. People are more concerned about possible losses next year instead of basking in the glory of a team that just matched the program record for wins in a season.

Losing can happen for a variety of reasons and can happen to any team. Whether it’s injuries, a tough schedule or just being way too unlucky, there are plenty of ways to send fans home with a sour taste in their mouth while they contemplate what their teams might become in the upcoming years. But instead of thinking about what losing teams may do in the future, appreciate all of the wins when they happen.

This year, the men’s tennis team is on the verge of setting a program record for wins and will compete for a national championship. The majority of the team will be returning next season, so it will only be natural for people to immediately imagine what the 2016-17 season will look like the second the Cats suffer their final defeat. But there is no guarantee next year will be better. So while there are wins to appreciate, do so, because no one likes rooting for a loser.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KhadriceRollins

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