NEW YORK--You will see the numbers everywhere in the next month. In the Boston Globe, in the New York Times, on the radio, and even on network television. Everywhere.
The Columbia Lions have now lost 32 consecutive games. They have not won in their last 35 outings. Not since October, 1983 against Yale has Columbia tasted the thrill of victory.
Since then, it's only been the agony of defeat, over and over and over Thirty-two times over.
Now, the losing streak, or The Streak as the Columbia campus has come to refer to the four-year skid, is about to reach record proportions. If the Lions keep on losing, and lose at Princeton on October 10, Columbia will have lost 35 consecutive games.
No major college (Division I-A or I-AA) team has ever lost that many games in a row. Northwestern holds the old record of 34, but that was a poor team in a strong conference (the Big Ten).
Columbia is a poor team in (let's face it) a poor conference. The Lions, if they proceed to break the record, might truely earn the title The Worst Team Ever.
"It figures that the Columbia quarterback would have a name like Matt Less," people are saying, "What's their next quarterback going to be called, Much Less?"
Columbia is the butt of jokes from Hanover to Philly, from Long Island to Staten Island. Worse still, Columbia is located in the media metropolis of New York City. Dozens of reporters now come to the Lions every game--to watch them lose. Again.
The worst thing may be that Columbia's losing streak, while certainly the worst period in the school's history, is not the only bleak spot. The history of Columbia football is filled with bleak spots.
Columbia has not won more than a single game in a season since 1978. Columbia hasn't had a winning season since 1971. In fact, in the past 25 years, the Lions have won more than they lost in only two seasons.
Things have been so bad that Robert Naso, who coached the Lions from 1980 to 1984, left New York with a career mark of 4-43-2. That's a .102 winning percentage. Of course, that's one hundred and two points better than the winning percentage of his successor, Jim Garrett. Garrett ended his tumultuous career at 0-10.
And it's not just that they've lost, but how they've lost. Last year's losses included such whoppers as 34-0, 42-7, 47-0, 54-8, 41-0, and 45-7.
There are no moral victories, past glories, or close contest. There are only jokes.
"Boy, the job of Columbia coach must sure look bad on your resume" people are joking. "I think all of the former coaches are either selling life insurance or they're dead."
Considering all the attention, considering all the people who are asking them what it feels like to be losers of historic proportions, the Columbia squad is holding up remarkably well.