Sports News
UA Basketball


news Sports Opinions arts variety interact Wildcat On-Line QuickNav

Playing the blame game

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 24, 1999
Send comments to:


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chris Jackson

Ah, it's that time of year when things go bad and the finger-pointing starts.

Case one involves the UA basketball team's loss to Oklahoma a week and a half ago.

Case two involves Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood's injury.

First up, the Wildcats lost, and everyone who saw the game saw about five or six reasons why.

A.J. Bramlett missed two free throws, Michael Wright stepped over the baseline and turned it over, Lute Olson didn't call a timeout after the Sooners' last bucket, Jason Terry drove right into the paint, etc.

Thankfully, most people haven't taken this opportunity to rip on the Wildcats all that much. It was a young team, and most of those who watched them win 22 games against the odds knew that if a team came out with a good defensive plan to stop Terry, things could go sour quite easily.

And go sour they did. Ruben Douglas and Richard Jefferson reverted to their earlier ways, and UA couldn't buy points when it needed to.

In the end, though, it's best to take a loss like this one as a cruel reminder of how tough college basketball is. All too often UA used Terry's heroics to cushion what would otherwise have been some painful losses. Arizona was not as good as its record or ranking indicated, and while many can gripe at the NCAA for seeding the Sooners No. 13, any number of decent teams with a good coach could have found a way to shut the Wildcats down.

So take this year as a learning experience. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, only Terry almost made everyone forget that. But in the end he couldn't do it all, and thoughts should now turn to next year.

The situation involving the Cubs' Kerry Wood, though, is a little more tragic. It doesn't involve a simple loss, but the potential destruction of the career of one of baseball's brightest young stars.

Wood, who went 13-6 and won the Rookie of the Year Award last year, had a sore elbow which sidelined him down the stretch. At first, manager Jim Riggleman was smart and let Wood rest, but at one point when the team's lead for the NL Wild Card was in jeopardy, he had Wood throw 132 pitches in a game.

That was, in retrospect, a bad move, but one that Riggleman felt was necessary at the time to get Chicago into the postseason.

Once there, he again had Wood pitch in relief, and again he probably shouldn't have.

Now Wood is out for possibly two years, facing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. His career as a flamethrower - he struck out a record-tying 20 batters in a game against Houston last year - is likely over. The time and effort it will take him to come back from the surgery will make his game against the Astros seem simple in comparison.

People are arguing it's Riggleman's fault, or maybe general manager Ed Lynch, or the team physician, or...

You get the point. Blaming people for past mistakes doesn't undo the damage. With the number of notable Major League players going down this spring with injuries, maybe everyone needs to take a look at what happened to Wood and be a little more cautious.

The Wildcats, those who have left and those who will return, will learn from the loss to Oklahoma. They will try to make a positive out of a negative.

And while it's too late for Kerry Wood, it's not too late for everyone in baseball to make sure there aren't going to be anymore 20-year-olds facing the end of their careers before they'd even had a chance to begin.

Chris Jackson is a senior majoring in journalism. He can be reached at