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Lannin’s Line: Week #3

Is There A Hex On The RSN #1 Ranking?

Superstition is just that, superstition. While most people simply dismiss it as just a bunch of nonsense, superstition still has a pervasive presence in life, and sports are no exception to the rule. In spite of all the preparation and training that goes into being ready to play the game, whether it’s baseball, basketball, football or what have you, athletes, coaches and fans are still very superstitious.

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In baseball for example, when a hitter gets on a hot streak, he may follow the exact same routine every day, right down to the letter. As long as he stays hot, he may choreograph everything he does beginning with what he eats for breakfast in the morning down to every mannerism and move he makes in every at bat; not changing a thing as long as the streak lasts.   Likewise, in hoops, if a player gets on a shooting roll he may get dressed the same way every game or wear the same socks every game until the streak ends, and so on. And when it comes to superstition, football is no different.

Sports Illustrated has long had a jinx associated with being pictured on the cover of the magazine and more recently, the Madden NFL video game has had its own jinx associated with being the player pictured on the box. And if you’re a doubter about such things, just ask Mark Prior and Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs how things have gone for them since they were featured on SI’s cover or ask Seattle Seahawks RB Shawn Alexander about the curse after he broke his foot last year when he was the Madden cover boy.

In Region football, there seems to be a hex this year on whatever team is ranked #1 in the RSN Top Ten poll. In the past few years, whoever was ranked #1 pretty much remained #1 for most if not all of the season; but through the first three weeks this year, being ranked #1 has meant defeat to the every team holding the laurel.

Crown Point was considered by most prognosticators to be the Region’s most talented squad beginning this season; and in the opener the Bulldogs made it look easy early by jumping out to a 14-0 first quarter lead against Lowell. But the Red Devils roared back and scored 23 unanswered points to win and completely dominated Crown Point in the process.

In week two, the Hobart Brickies were the unfortunates to assume the #1 mantle, and true to form, it ultimately meant a loss. Similar to the fate that befell the Bulldogs in week one, the Brickies had a 13-3 lead moments before halftime; but a questionable spot (fate, maybe?) after an interception gave Hobart the ball back at their own goal line and ended up resulting in a safety. Those two points were to come back and haunt Hobart in the end when Mike Lipton drilled a 39 yard field goal to give Crown Point a 22-20 victory in the final moments.

After Hobart’s loss to Crown Point, the surprisingly tough Merrillville Pirates were the next victims to assume the increasingly dubious #1 RSN poll ranking after wins over defending 5A state champ Warren Central and perennial powerhouse Griffith.

And seemingly unaffected by any possible jinx, the Pirates had things well in hand, leading by a 14-0 margin late in the fourth quarter. Even after Crown Point finally scored late in the frame, Merrillville fans still breathed a sigh of relief because the Bulldogs missed the ensuing extra point; meaning that even if Crown Point got the ball back and scored again, it would take a two-point conversion just to tie the game.

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Incredibly, the Bulldogs did just that, when QB Blake Mascarello bootlegged into the endzone for a two-point conversion to tie the game after he and TE Zach Cecich had teamed up for their second TD pitch and catch at the 1:53 mark of the ballgame.

Although Merrillville’s decision to sit on the ball for the final minute and a half of regulation and take their chances in OT was as curious as was their decision to throw the ball after Crown Point’s first score, the Pirates did get the ball first in overtime but could only muster a field goal. And when Mascarello rambled in untouched from ten yards out on the Bulldogs first play of overtime to win 20-17 it was if it were pre-ordained: #1 had been beaten, again.

Coincidence? Maybe. Did the Pirates aid the Bulldogs in their improbable comeback? Perhaps. But nevertheless, the improbable happened again, so it’s no surprise that this week tongues are wagging in the Calumet Region and fans are posting on about a hex on the RSN #1.

So what does all of this portend for this week’s #1, the Lowell Red Devils as they host Griffith at the Inferno on Friday night? If you ask the coaches and players before the game, they will more than likely tell you that it means nothing. Lowell and Griffith are two tough, smash-mouth football teams and the game will be decided in the trenches, where it should be. But if something bizarre happens late……


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