This was not a good weekend to be a sports fan.
The near-certain first Triple Crown in more than a generation was denied by a last-moment injury to Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ I’ll Have Another, leaving one with the impression that horse racing is continuing to head down a path where the sport itself will soon be as dead as Barbaro. (In the thoughts of some, it smelled more like a fishy “we stopped doping the horse, who can no longer win, so let’s just say he’s hurt” type of deal.)
Boxing may be in an even deeper grave. In no corner of the internet have I found anyone who thinks Timothy Bradley actually beat Manny Pacquaio on Saturday night, leading to continued cries that the sport is bedeviled by corruption.
Fans of Anybody But The Heat were dealt a bitter disappointment when Miami erased a double-digit deficit to beat the Celtics and reach the NBA Finals.
In short, you couldn’t help but wonder why we waste so much time and money on this sports nonsense. With the Tony Awards on Sunday night, maybe there was still time to get into theater…
Turns out the thing we needed to save us was an obscure college baseball team from Long Island.
Stony Brook jumped into the history books on Sunday night, beating LSU 7-2 in Game 3 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional to clinch its first-ever berth in the College World Series. The Seawolves are only the second No. 4 regional seed to reach Omaha, following eventual 2008 national champion Fresno State.
Though there is a connection, Stony Brook and Fresno State don’t belong in the same discussion. When Stony Brook coach Matt Senk took over the program 22 years ago, it wasn’t a full-time position. Nor was the team in Division I — the Seawolves played in scholarship-free D-III.
Stony Brook made the move up to Division I in 2000, so its relatively quick ascension up the ladder is impressive on its own merit. But a northern team making a trip to Omaha is downright outrageous. The Seawolves are the first team from the Northeast to reach the College World Series since Maine in 1986, and the first from New York since St. John’s in 1980.
There is perhaps no disadvantage in sports as big as the one dealt to northern college baseball teams with the season starting in late February. Stony Brook’s first home game was against Iona on March 14. Its next two home games were postponed because of weather.
At the same juncture of the season, LSU had already played 17 home games, and its only two road games were at in-state Tulane and McNeese State. With good reason — LSU’s Alex Box Stadium drew more fans in each one of the three games of the Super Regional than had seen Stony Brook at home all season.
Things don’t have to stop here for the Little Engine That Could. The Seawolves have seven draft picks and were the first team in the country to 50 wins. They are clearly capable of more in Omaha.
Stony Brook may even be joined by another Cinderella — Kent State heads into Monday’s Super Regional Game 3 at Oregon with a chance to become the second northern mid-major to crash college baseball’s biggest party.
Finally, something worth rooting for.