February frustrations

February is always a bad month for TV sports. Football is gone, basketball is plodding along in the annual midseason doldrums and baseball is not even mentioned. It is a good time for building fires, reading books, watching movies and cranking up random sex with the neighbors.

—Hunter S. Thompson, in his weekly ESPN.com column

Amen, Mr. Thompson.

This succinct and hilarious quote relates in a way, albeit a roundabout one, to this year’s University of Nevada sports year. The buzz around town is that this could turn out to be one of the worst years ever for the hometown school’s athletic programs.

At first glance, the buzz makes a great deal of sense. The football team, which went through the ‘80s and most of the ‘90s with exactly one losing season, was 2-10 last year. The volleyball team was 13-14. Women’s soccer was 4-13. The men’s basketball team, which went through the ‘80s and ‘90s as a perennial winner (although it made postseason tournaments only three times during that stretch), is 9-13 and in the Western Athletic Conference basement as of this writing. The women’s hoopsters are 12-11 and a disappointing 5-6 in the conference. The baseball team, Nevada’s shining sports star as of late, is off to a 2-7 start. Add up all those numbers, and that’s a total 42-68 record.


But despite these numbers, it’s important to remember this: Nine years ago, the Wolf Pack was in a completely different league, literally. As members of the Big Sky Conference, the football team was in Division I-AA. The basketball teams were in one of the worst hoops conferences around; the WAC is one of the top 10 conferences in the country. Baseball wasn’t even a Big Sky sport, meaning the boys of summer played in either a separate conference or as an independent. And women’s soccer wasn’t even a sport at Nevada—until this year.

The athletes currently playing for Nevada, as a whole, could be the very best ever at this school, despite the losing and disappointing records. (And there’s still a chance that baseball and the hoops teams could turn things around.) Nevada is playing top-25 teams on a consistent basis, within their own league, whereas nine years ago—heck, one year ago in some sports—they were playing relative pansies.

The school has good coaches on staff and wonderful facilities to play at (with a few exceptions). Give Nevada a few years, and something tells me the wins will come. And with that, the negative buzz will go away.

On an unrelated note, I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago about this week’s cover story, which is a must-read about the apparent problems at the Nevada Mental Health Institute, marvelously penned by Deidre Pike.

I was telling my friend about some of the problems Pike had uncovered, and my friend responded: “Well, it is a state-run institute, isn’t it?”

I said yes, and he shrugged, as if it made sense that a state-run institute would have some serious problems.

Yet another sad example of how little faith people have in government these days.

Turn to page 8 to read the story, “Mind Over Madness.” It seems there is good reason to have a lack of faith in NMHI.

RN&R contributor William Puchert has revived a Web site designed to keep an eye on the goings-on at Reno City Hall.

Puchert promises to update www.cityhalleyeball.com at least every other day. The site includes links to local media coverage of the city. It also includes original content. Check it out!