3.10.11

NO DEFENSE.

The Quest to Become the Next Boise State comes up short, again.
Winning at Central Michigan for the first time since 2005 was a goal for this senior class. No one was looking toward the end of the season and the ultimate standard this team was to be judged by: winning a Mid-American Conference title. For the past seven days, players and coach said all the right things.

Which made it shocking when the Huskies trailed by 17 points after the first quarter, a hole it never dug out of in a 48-41 loss in front of 16,539 fans at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Saturday.
Everybody sees the problem.
Among the numerous problems facing the 2-3 Huskies right now – a defense that abandons fundamentals in critical situations, an offense not meeting its own expectations – is that NIU seems incapable of playing well for four consecutive quarters.
Perhaps these teething troubles will be put right, although a solid mid-major team with six or seven wins isn't a good get for a bowl game.  The strong Mid-American teams tend to lose money on their bowl games in any event.  And the push for increased enrollment in the form of commuter and online students is unlikely to put many more bodies in the stands on game day, although those enrollments might be a source of additional student fee revenue to subsidize the sports program.

Meanwhile, in the fieldhouse that hosted at least two NCAA tournament basketball games an impromptu sports program has been thriving without any student fee moneys
Tamara Carlson admits it’s kind of nerdy. However, that doesn’t stop her from getting together with a group of Northern Illinois University students each week to play Quidditch – a sport lifted from the pages of the Harry Potter book series.

Carlson normally wouldn’t be found practicing for a sport in the field house. But for Quidditch, she makes an exception.

“I’m anti-sports,” Carlson, a senior, said during practice. “This is enough nerdiness to make it fun.”

Though the game was designed for wizards with magical powers, “muggles” have figured out a way to play, too. The game played at Hogwarts requires players to fly on brooms and seek out the elusive “golden snitch” to win the game. At NIU, Quidditch players do use brooms, only they run while holding one between their legs. That means players need the skills to catch and throw the “quaffle” and “bludger” balls using one hand.
I hope that "NCAA nihilius" is among the spells in the Hogwarts curriculum.  But deeper in the story is a troubling observation.
NIU junior Mary Clabots said even the least likely sports fans can enjoy a game of Quidditch. But the game, she said, isn’t necessarily about the competition.

“Quidditch is a way to relive our childhood,” Clabots said. “The transition into college is hard enough as it is. You feel like a kid again.”
We see a lot of that. I suspect the popularity of beanbag (apart from the opportunities to keep score with a six pack) is in part a consequence of those overscheduled childhoods, too full of the organized sports that benefit a few people and turn off the likes of Ms Carlson.  On the other hand, there's something encouraging about spontaneous, self-structured play.

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