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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, March 14, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

Streaks weave their own fate

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Ever wonder what Don Pardo did before he originated “Live from New York…It’s Saturday night”? For six months in the mid-‘70s, he was the announcer for an obscure NBC game show called “Winning Streak.”

A word guessing game that failed in ratings and was replaced by “Wheel of Fortune,” “Winning Streak” has one fascinating bit of trivia associated with it.

All of the episodes were destroyed years ago except one, the show that was supposed to air on August 9, 1974. It was pre-empted by live footage of President Richard Nixon’s resignation, the tape was thrown in a pile and it is now the lone surviving episode of a forgotten game show.

In sports, winning streaks sometimes meet the same destiny as Pardo’s early employer; they start out looking like history-makers and fade into the background of too many L's before and after the streak. But others are catalysts for the season and even the program at large.

A look at a few of East Carolina's current or recent winning streaks:

* Golf: This is the rare streak with both significance and staying power. The 19th ranked Lady Pirates have won five straight tournaments, and they have won six out of their last seven. Since each of those tournaments has featured a field of between 11 and 20 teams, the women have actually prevailed over 86 other teams in the past six months.

One of the keys to their success, senior Emelie Lind, was named Conference USA Co-golfer of the week on Tuesday, the day after ECU clinched the Pinehurst Challenge. Lind finished second in the Pinehurst tournament, notching her fourth top-five finish of the season, and she led the tournament field with 37 pars on the weekend.

* Tennis: Charleston was hospitable to the men’s tennis squad this week, as ECU prevailed over both The Citadel and The College of Charleston and extended its winning streak to seven matches.

The Pirates (11-6) have been led lately by the singles play of senior Henrique Viana and the doubles play of sophomores Bryan Oakley and Stephen Whitwell. They have 10 matches left in which to extend their streak, but the streak as a measure of their Conference USA success is hard to determine.

C-USA matchups are hard to schedule in Olympic sports like tennis because of budgetary concerns, so the tennis team only had three on its schedule – a string in late February against UAB, Southern Miss and Central Florida. In that mini-conference slate, they are 1-2, and they won’t face another conference foe until the C-USA tournament on April 18. It remains to be seen if wins against opponents like Davidson, Elon and Longwood will translate to victories on that stage.

* Baseball: With a 12-9 win over Quinnipiac Thursday it’s nine and counting for the Diamond Bucs, who will next face the Rams from Rhode Island in a three-game home stand. With a few interruptions – like games against N.C. State on April 1 and April 15 – the Pirates will attempt to infiltrate Conference USA with their winning streak starting on March 21 against Houston.

Those conference games will test their mettle, and they will have to keep accumulating the wins during that period if they want to compete with others gunning for Omaha. As of now, the Pirates don’t have any Top 25 teams left on their docket, and they’re 2-2 against the ranked teams (Michigan and South Carolina) they have played so far.

* Basketball: A streak is in the eye of the beholder, and there are those in the Pirate Nation who are putting considerable stock in the three-game run enjoyed by the Pirates against Southern Methodist, Houston and Rice in late February and early March.

Of course, the team finished the season with two losses, at Tulane and against Tulsa in the C-USA tournament, but some fans hope that the three-game mini-streak was a glimpse into the team's future and will tip the scales in favor of Mack McCarthy keeping his job.

The coaching watch is certainly on, and the mathematical relationship between the length of the streak and the certainty of the coaching contract continues to be debated. But at least now Pirate fans can throw in an obscure bit of game show trivia when the deliberations get slow.

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03/14/2008 05:32:13 AM

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