The numbers 98—0 have been spinning around my head this weekend. For one thing, that was the number of seasons that the four professional sports teams in Philadelphia played in between the 76ers winning a title in 1983 and my beloved Phillies phinally getting their World Series title earlier this week.
Now, for those of you keeping track, it is the San Francisco Bay Area that now is on the so-called Drought Clock for being the major American sports city with the longest title-less streak (and one that dates merely to 1994).
Of course, everyone can point to the Chicago Cubs’ past century for individual team futility. Yet, I prefer to ponder what might be the world’s longest professional, continous championship-less streak: Somerset, the first-class county cricket club in England, that has yet to win the nation’s county cricket championship despite competing for it since 1891.
I screamed myself hoarse after the final strikeout, yelling “we won, we won, we won!” Luckily this was in the basement den. This morning I put Phillies baseball caps on our toddlers as they headed to nursery school. I solemnly told them, “Hey, look, you might have to wait another twenty-eight years before you’ll have another morning where you can say ‘we won, we won, we won.'” They stared at me for a while and then our four-year-old asked, “Is that longer than ten minutes?”
The other 98-0 is the start of one of the most epic matches I’ve heard of. This weekend James Stout, a pro at the Racquet & Tennis Club, is playing the first leg in his challenge for the world championship of racquets. Jamie, a native Bermudian, is quite good in squash as well. A year ago, Matthew McAndrew, a good R&T player, challenged Stout to a squash match: first to one hundred, British scoring, continous play and Mac would start at 98-0. The wager: one thousand dollars.
The match lasted about an hour and a half without a single break. Mac won a scoring point at 98-37 and so had the first of about ten match points. But each time Stout managed to survive, sometimes with frighteningly desperate gets. The gallery was jam-packed. Stout ended up winning 100-99.
Mac didn’t walk normally for a week, his hamstrings were so sore and he couldn’t get back on the squash court for nearly a month. Stout, Mac says, “didn’t give lessons the next day.”