In case you were wondering: yes, we're working on it. We've called in our No. 1 research team and put them on it.
The computer people talking their Procom and their cross-loading.
The research whizzes holding their pointillist matrices.
The Rotisserie sabremetricians with their runny noses, big teeth and white socks.
We've buried them with stacks of statistical printouts and crates of media guides dating to Blanchard and Davis. We've given them a computer and a fax. We've put them up in a hotel and given them a company credit card.
We want to know. Here at the sports desk we are hellbent on answering the question on everyone's lips: Is it true that the state of Maryland is experiencing the most catastrophic college football season in history?
The worst ever by one state?
Not just "a very, very bad year."
Or "like the second worst ever, you know?"
We're talking about el mas grande ano de desastre. The biggest year of disaster.
Are we living it right here in Mer-land in 1991?
Are we No. 1?
Let me tell you right off the bat: We're in the running. We've got a shot.
Here it is the middle of November, and our four Division I teams have three wins among them.
There are those travelin' Bears of Morgan State, the most popular homecoming date since Farrah Fawcett, winless in 10 tries in seven states.
There are the Midshipmen of Navy, winless in nine tries against such opponents as the Fighting Blue Hens, the Green Wave, the Owls and the now politically incorrect Tribe.
There are the Tigers of Towson State, who got all uppity last weekend and won a game after losing eight.
And, of course, there are the big bananas, the Terrapins of the University of Maryland, who have racked up a whopping 67 percent of the state's wins. (So you "Joe Must Go" people back off, OK?)
Tote it all up and you have this: three wins, 34 losses. A .081 winning percentage with seven games to go.
Almost makes you long for the Orioles. Almost, but not quite.
So, does it qualify as the No. 1 statewide disaster ever? The Irwin Allen "Towering Inferno" of all college football seasons?
That's what we want to know. (Please understand we're limiting this to Division I. We decided it shouldn't count if all the bible colleges in South Dakota got blown out in 1933. As Ted Kennedy often says, you have to have standards, right?)
Our No. 1 research team has been holed up in the hotel for days now, ordering room service and overloading the computer with data. If you stand at the door you hear a symphony of whirring, beeping, clacking and hushed, mumbling voices. Trying to quantify this debate.
Late one night the chief computeroid emerged holding a piece of paper. "What is this?" he asked, pointing to the score of the Maryland-Virginia game.
"That is a victory," he was told. "Our team scored more points in that game."
He nodded vacantly, pushing his glasses back up his nose. "Fascinating," he said.
Another time one of the Rotisserians was excused for an hour to go for his weekly male bonding.
Otherwise, they've been at it nonstop and come up with some powerful evidence.
* We have been outscored by 713 points, about 19 a game.
* We have been outgained by 3.4 miles.
* Our opponents have returned fewer than three kickoffs per game.
* If you laid our opponents' pass completions end to end, they would approximately equal four runnings of the Preakness.
"And there's more coming," the research team said.
One point they made was this: If we could somehow trade for the remarkable Panthers of Prairie View A&M, (0-10, 28 points to 561) we could print up the "We're No. 1" buttons right now.
"No can do," we said.
Another point they made was this: "Too bad you lost the Colts."
But this is just for college teams, we said.
"Right," they said, "and again: Too bad you lost the Colts."
Anyway. Right now we're on hold. We're waiting for those seven games to further our case.
If Towson gets all uppity and wins again, we could be in trouble. Kansas has had some famously bad years along the way. Rhode Island, too.
But we figure that, if we finish at 3-41, with all those miles supporting us, we're probably in good shape. What a colossal stinker of a year.
And if that does happen, here is what we're going to do: We're going to march down to Annapolis, knock on the right door and get this state sport thing settled once and for all.
It isn't jousting, we'll say.
It isn't duckpin bowling, we'll say.
The official state sport of Maryland, we will say, is returning kickoffs.