It's amazing how much one regular-season victory can help, as two local teams found over the weekend.
Saturday night at the Beltway Classic at UMBC, Jim Phelan, the coaching legend at Mount St. Mary's, was talking about Navy's 24-3 football victory over Army that afternoon.
"I was really glad to see Navy win," said Phelan, who is up for membership in the Basketball Hall of Fame. "It would have been terrible if Navy had finished the season without a victory."
Millions must have felt the same way, for Navy had gone into the Army game with an 0-10 record. There are no finer young people in college sports than those at the service academies. They work hard. They deserve better than 0-11.
By the end of the football game, ABC-TV's Bob Griese was talking about Navy's bright future. Navy, to be sure, has a young team, and its future certainly looks better than its immediate past.
But in one game the Middies went from near despair to a bright future.
Funny that Phelan should have been talking about the worth of a victory. He was as much in need of one as Navy.
Jim's Mountaineers, 0-4 this year, had lost their 10th straight game the night before in overtime to Loyola. Phelan has been at the Mount 38 years. He is 62 years old. When a coach with that kind of resume gets in a slump like that, you wonder.
But in Saturday's consolation game against Towson State, the pre-tourney favorite, the Mount ended its losing streak. Led by ace three-point shooter Kevin Booth's 36 points, Mount St. Mary's came from behind and beat Towson, 91-77.
Later, as Phelan watched Loyola beat UMBC, 91-82, in the nightcap and win the tournament, he was his old self.
"Look at [Loyola's] Tracy Bergan," Phelan was saying. "He's so tough. That's my No. 1 priority for next year -- getting a point guard who can free up Kevin Booth to shoot threes."
Suddenly ol' Bow Tie was talking about next year. A win can do that for you.
* There are also some wins that don't mean much at all. George Foreman's third-round TKO of Jimmy Ellis Saturday night was one of those. Said Bob Lacy, one of Baltimore's most ardent boxing fans, after watching the fight on HBO: "It looked like neither guy really wanted to be there."
* Speaking of local boxing, State Athletic Commission member Benny Alperstein is justifiably disturbed over the lateness of cards such as last week's at the Pikesville Armory.
Says the respected Alperstein, who was once a terrific fighter himself: "When they tell the public the first bout is at 8 o'clock, you can bett'll start at quarter of nine. It's wrong for shows to run until almost 1 a.m. the way that one did. We can't allow promoters to do this."
* The woman who gave out the bowling trophies at the Special Olympics in Owings Mills yesterday was none other than Mildred "Toots" Barger, the greatest woman duckpin bowler of all time and a member of the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I told them they should have gotten somebody younger," said Barger, who is 73 -- and still bowls three times a week.
Nonsense, Toots. They had precisely the right person to give out those trophies.
* After Joe Krivak "stepped back" as football coach at Maryland Friday, he called Baltimore to see if he was still wanted as the speaker at the team breakfast at Cross Keys yesterday before the MSA All-Stars-Baltimore County 'Stars game at Poly.
Of course he was still wanted, and, according to Marty Kusar, a 290-pound defensive tackle from John Carroll High who starred in the MSA's 16-9 victory, the Maryland coach gave an excellent talk.
"Joe showed what kind of man he is," said Patterson High coach Roger Wrenn, who served on head coach Obie Barnes' MSA staff. "After what he went through last week, he didn't even have to be here.
"But he came and he told the boys a lot of things that are going to be helpful to them, things like how to conduct themselves. I'll tell you -- the man has a lot of class."
Wish that the university had as much as the coach it embarrassed into "stepping back."