We’re going streaking

By Alex Bullock

A lot of the talk in the sports world recently has been about the Miami Heat’s winning streak and the Chicago Blackhawks’ point streak, and it got me to thinking about why streaks in sports are so impressive.

For me, streaks are the best type of entries in the record book because they speak to the consistency of an individual or a team. Any player have a good game and score 50 points. Tony Delk once scored 53 points in an NBA game. Who? Exactly. Wilt Chamberlain, on the other hand, once averaged 50 points per game for an entire season. Now that’s impressive, and I’m sure you’ve heard of him.

Take major champions in golf. There are hundreds of men who have won a major championship (the Masters Tournament, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship). There are just 27 golfers who have won four major championships since 1860, when the Open Championship was first held in Scotland. Winning one major championship is tough in itself; winning four in your career is even tougher.

Tiger Woods, on the other hand, once won four majors in a row (four of his total 14 major championships) in a stretch from 2000 to 2001. Now that’s tough.

The Yankees’ legendary Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record that seemed unbreakable until Cal Ripken, Jr. came along and smashed it to pieces, playing in 2,632-straight games spanning from 1982 to 1998. Gehrig and Ripken are the only two players to have played in over 2,000 consecutive games, with the third highest streak standing at 1,307.

If the Heat’s 18-game winning streak impresses you, how about two basketball winning streaks over five times as long? The UCLA men’s basketball team coached by the legendary John Wooden won 88-straight games from 1971-1974, including two 30-0 seasons and three national championships. Those three championships came at the tail end of a stretch of winning seven consecutive titles.

The Bruins’ record for consecutive wins stood for three decades until the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team won 90-straight games from 2009 to 2011, including two 39-0 seasons and two national championships.

The one thing that all of these streaks have in common is that the teams or individuals showed not just greatness, but great consistency.
It’s one thing to hit a great golf shot; it’s another thing to do so on every hole.

Streaks are impressive and provide us with a running storyline to follow throughout a long and monotonous season. There are a limited number of outcomes any sporting event can have, so at its foundation, following sports can seem a bit repetitive. Your team either wins or loses. But each game can carry a different meaning and tells a unique story.

It’s the same reason why women watch Say Yes to the Dress every Friday. The premise is always the same, the women usually cut from the same cloth and they are all shopping for the same product. I mean, really, how many different kinds of wedding dresses can there be? But in the same way that every game is different, each episode recounting a trip to that bridal paradise tells a different story.

It seems like every year there is a new streak that provides us with a new commentary for a week, a month or an entire season. We root for these streaks to go on, to set a new standard, only to see them bested a few years later. There are a few streaks that seemingly will never be approached again. I guess there’s a reason why people say records are meant to be broken.