A sports column: It's about time

This opportunity doesn’t come around every day.

Only once every four years.

That’s the opportunity to write a column on Feb. 29.

Some things in the sports world are planned to happen only every four years. Summer Olympics. Winter Olympics World Cup.

Others just turn out that way. Actually, for as much success as the Yankees have had, they have averaged one World Series championship (27 total) every four years for the 111 times the event has been held.


The Minnesota Wild get into the playoffs about once every three years (they’ve made it three of the 10 seasons of their existence).

Actually, the Timberwolves are very close to a once-every-three-years playoff team, having been in it eight times in their 22 seasons previous to this one.

Some things happen annually. Close to home, how about Stewartville going to the state volleyball tournament (20 times in the last 25 years)? Then there’s the Caledonia football team winning a state championship (four of the last five years).

Lately, you could say a Southeast Conference team winning the national college football title. The last six have gone to SEC schools.

Pro football? Saying the NFC wins every two years is pretty accurate (25 of 46). About as accurate as saying the AFC wins every two years.

Repeat titles in many sports are hard to get: It's happened 20 times in the World Series (but aside from the 1998-2000 Yankees) only once (the 1992-93 Blue Jays), since 1978.

It's been done eight times in the Super Bowl and only twice in men's college basketball since UCLA's seven-straight run ended in 1973. But for the NBA, 20 times in 65 years has the champion been the team that won it the year before. Since the 1986-87 season, there have been four back-to-back winners and three three-peats.

Trying to mark longer periods of time? How about:


• Every 10 years: Twins winning the American League MVP award. It’s happened five times in the franchise’s 51 seasons in Minnesota. (That’s not too bad; did you know the New York Mets, who have been around one season less than the Twins, have never had an NL MVP?)

• Every 13 years: Twins winning the AL Cy Young Award. Four in 51 years.

• Every 50 years: Gophers in the Rose Bowl. Their last trip to Pasadena was in 1962. (Conference championships? The smart alec answer is every 45 years, since the last one was a three-way tie in 1967. Their last outright Big Ten title was in 1941. They have won 18 in 115 years, thanks in large part to a string of seven from 1933-1941).

Then there are the Chicago Cubs. Since their last World Series title was in 1908, it’s tempting to say they do it every 104 years but there are two problems with that statement: 1. They won it in 1907, so you really should say every 52 years; and 2. That would imply they will win it this season.

In fairness, let’s note a fact lost in the ribbing they take for not having won it in more than a century: the Cubs reached the World Series eight times between 1908 and their last appearance in 1945.

So instead of saying "anyone can have a bad century," we should say "anyone can have a bad two-thirds of a century."

And counting.

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