Let’s be honest folks, it could be a rough few weeks for the average sports fan.

Jess Cox

There’s already a bad taste left in most people’s mouths following the “Super” Bowl. Aside from the 50 or so people I saw walking around campus on Monday with yellow busses on their heads, (I’m no fashion expert, but I don’t really see that catching on in the near future) Sunday’s game left many of us dissatisfied. It was a sloppy game, sloppy officiating and no sloppy wardrobe malfunctions. Sorry, but that just isn’t a winning combination for me.

So the football season officially ended – unless you’re one of the six people in the world who plans your schedule around Arena Football telecasts or actually watches the Pro Bowl. The Super Bowl is in the past. For those college football enthusiasts out there, recruiting classes were finally set in stone. Even the chance for diehards to roadtrip to Louisiana and talk Jai Eugene into exploring Ann Arbor’s daycare facilities has come and gone.

So that brings us to the Winter Olympics. Yes, even I can admit, I’m excited for a couple things. Watching hockey will be fun and watching figure skaters fall is always entertaining. And the prospect of Bode Miller doing a keg stand right before skiing down a steep grade definitely piques my interest. But there’s a reason the Olympics happen only once every four years. Nobody cares about biathlons. The average person doesn’t know the difference between luge and skeleton. And I’m guessing no more than a handful of people know what in the world a triple salchow is. The Olympics will be fun . for about a day.

Then there’s NBA basketball. But who are we kidding? The next four months will be like reading a 400-page book where all that matters is in the last five pages. Everyone knows that when we get to June, the Pistons and the Spurs are going to be battling for the title once again. Unless Larry Brown magically reappears in Auburn Hills and tries to run the Pistons into the ground again, or if Amare Stoudamire really brings Phoenix up to the next level when he returns, there’s no reason to watch another pro game until the NBA Finals roll around in June. That is, unless you’re a compulsive gambler.

Oh yes, it could be a very rough February. .

But this year, there’s an exception.

Considering we’re wedged between the Super Bowl and March Madness, arguably one of the biggest lulls in the sports calendar, it shouldn’t take much to come out and support a winning team. Yes, for the first time in recent memory, the Michigan men’s basketball team is playing well and playing for something that counts.

I know that not everyone on this campus needs a lecture about cheering them on. Support has been up recently, which is promising, especially considering the past few years. Student ticket sales dropped by 40 percent this year, with fewer than 1,000 students buying season tickets. It took 10 home games for Crisler Arena to finally sell out. But at least we’re at the point where Crisler is full.

Now that people are coming, Michigan fans need to continue to support, not bail on, the team when it needs their presence the most.

Even though some of my professors may suggest otherwise, I’m not stupid. I realize that just as fast as the bandwagon filled up, it can empty.

Last Saturday was ugly – really ugly. We’re talking Barry-Alvarez-in-a-wet- t-shirt-contest ugly. But it was just one game.

The players were surprisingly even- keeled both after Saturday’s game and at practice on Monday. There was no sense of panic – they realized it was just one of those nights. Iowa put up season-highs in almost every offensive category. Daniel Horton went as far as to say “I don’t think anybody could have beaten them (Saturday).”

So if the team still hasn’t given up hope on winning its first Big Ten title in 20 years, then you shouldn’t either.

Michigan remains just one game out of first place. It seems almost certain that, barring a massive collapse (knock on wood), this year’s team has at least guaranteed itself a spot in the Big Dance. Unlike Michigan teams in the past, though, just making the dance isn’t good enough. From day one, this year’s team has said one of its goals is to win a Big Ten title.

That’s why the remaining home games are so crucial. As Michigan found out last weekend, winning on the road – especially against the conference’s elite teams – is nearly impossible. Going 8-0 in league play at home is a must for a team who wants a conference title.

Today, Ohio State enters Crisler Arena.

If seeing your school battle one of its biggest rivals isn’t incentive enough to go out and watch the game, then here’s another reason:

This year, the game actually means something. All of the rest do.

Maybe it won’t be such an ugly month after all.

If you want a team to cheer on once March Madness actually does roll around – and not just a team that is happy with showing up – then you have to do your part during February.

And it starts tonight. Four home games left. Anything fewer than four wins is unacceptable.

Scott Bell hopes John Cooper magically replaces Thad Matta as Ohio State’s coach before tonight’s game. He can be reached at scotteb@umich.edu.

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