Friday, November 17, 2006

A Sure Bet: No Ties In The "Big Game"

I don't do predictions. I'm not that type of sort, mainly because whenever I try it, I'm way more often than not wrong. Dead wrong.

One time, in the early 1980's, I was wrong again, but I was fantastically wrong.

Ken Norton was to fight Gerry Cooney in a heavyweight boxing match in May, 1981. Norton was well into his 30's, and Cooney was a 24-year-old young gun ready to splash onto the boxing stage. My pals at school asked me how I saw the bout shaping up.

"Cooney... in 57 seconds of the first round," I crowed. My friends laughed. It was a mismatch, for sure, but THAT much of a mismatch?

Like I said, I was wrong. Cooney TKO'd Norton in 54 seconds in the first round. Those three seconds still haunt me to this day.

So I won't be like everyone else and make predictions about tomorrow's Michigan-Ohio State football tilt. If you don't like that, tough. OK, OK -- I'll make this prediction: the game won't end in a tie.

Thanks to overtime, that's impossible. And so is any assemblance of a replay of what happened back in 1973.

Both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes were undefeated. It was in the era when the Big Ten was truly the Big Two and the Little Eight. The only conference game that usually meant a hill of beans was the U-M/OSU battle on the last Saturday of the regular season. Never was it more true than here.

The clubs slugged it out to the tune of a 10-10 tie when, in the closing seconds, Wolverines placekicker Tom Lantry, a left-footed, straight-on booter, came on to the field at Michigan Stadium to try a 34-yarder. He missed. Barely.

No OT in '73, so the game went into the books as another of those famous 10-10 ties, similar to the one Michigan State and Notre Dame played to in 1966.

Ah, but who would represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl?

The matter was decided by a vote of the other Athletic Directors in the conference. If the Little Eight would have split, 4 to 4, commisioner Wayne Duke was set to break the deadlock. Kind of like the U.S. Senate, with Duke in Dick Cheney's position. But Ohio State got five votes to Michigan's three. And guess who voted for the Buckeyes? Michigan State!

Sparty got a jab in.

Of course, U-M coach Bo Schembechler was beside himself.

"What am I going to tell my players?," Bo wondered aloud, in a car ride back to Ann Arbor after getting the results of the vote, according to longtime Detroit News sportswriter and columnist Jerry Green, who was in the car with Bo. Jerry wrote about it last week in his online column. In those days, Big Ten teams weren't permitted to play in other bowl games outside of the Rose Bowl.

Later, Bo "encouraged" the NCAA to allow the Big Ten to send teams to other bowls. But mostly all it did was enable the Wolverines to lose to teams other than Pac Ten schools, in other venues, in those other bowls.

Regardless, such an absurd occurrence is bound to not happen this weekend. I predict it.

Another prediction, if you must: there won't be any left-footed, straight-on kickers anywhere near Buckeye Stadium tomorrow.

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