Time once again for the End of the Year Analysis and Review.
But wait a minute, you're probably saying to yourself, it's not the end of the year. It's not even the end of May. Nonetheless, it is the end of yet another local sports year, may it rest in relative peace.With the unexpected home-ice demise of the Golden Eagles Friday night in the Salt Palace, that pretty much ended the year of 1988-89 as we knew it. Not only are Utah's two significant professional franchises - the Jazz and the Eagles - now off-duty for the summer, but so are the state's four major and semi-major colleges.
All that's left to be seen is where BYU's baseball team bows out of the NCAA tournament, and how the local college track talent fares at the NCAA meet in two weeks on BYU's track.
Otherwise, it's that wait-till-next-year stage of the year.
But first, a recap of the last complete sports season of the 1980s. It's a nit-picking job, but somebody has to do it.
We'll take this one institution at a time.
First, the colleges.
BYU: Yet another lively year for the Cougars. One of the liveliest, in fact. Every time the Cougars played, somebody was saying something to them. A lot of the time it wasn't along the order of "Have a nice day." Cougar-bashing became a trend. Every time it turned around, BYU was having to turn the other ear. Coupled with the first football loss to the University of Utah in a decade, 1988-89 was something of a rough trip. Even the golf team was down. And the basketball coach quit. Still, as Shakespeare noted in "As You Like It," "Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head." Such therapy should get the Cougars to the '90s; that and earplugs.
UTAH: Considering the basketball coach was fired in 1988-89, the ski and gymnastics teams didn't rule America, the Legislature didn't send any open checkbooks, the track team was still searching for a track, and the football team gave up more yards than the infantry at Guadalcanal, it was an amazingly upbeat, life-is-wonderful sports year at the University of Utah. New athletic director Chris Hill should hire himself out for the summer to Third World countries in need of an image fix. How he's doing it, who knows? Where's that heat coming from?
UTAH STATE AND WEBER STATE: Sportswise, neither school did anything particularly memorable in 1988-89, except for new Utah State basketball Coach Kohn Smith's verbal blasting of Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian. Smith took Tarkanian to task. He said his UNLV program represents the dark side of college basketball. Not only was this provocative and eye-opening but also a little odd, considering that Smith's previous job had been at Indiana, under the Ayatollah his own self, Bobby Knight, one of the great killjoys of the college game. Nonetheless, Smith at least caused some commotion with his midseason outburst, something the Aggies and Wildcats failed to do a lot of otherwise.
THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Utah's professional hockey team won more regular-season games than any time in its 20-year history and had a 15-game winning streak and featured the fastest skater in the free world (Paul Ranheim). The Eagles made a good bid for a third straight Turner Cup, failing only in the title series, falling 4-1 to Muskegon. Attendance rose for the third straight year in the Salt Palace. Still, owner Art Teece figured to barely break even financially, and to this day, 97 percent of the Salt Lake Valley doesn't know where Muskegon is.
THE JAZZ: The best regular season (51 wins, a Midwest Division title, a Christmas Day win on TV over the Lakers, three team members on the NBA All-Star team) in franchise history was diluted somewhat - all right, more than somewhat _ by a first-round flameout to the Golden State Warriors. Team owner Larry Miller is still wondering what hit him. This was worse than massive Toyota recalls. Plans for a new arena continue, however, and there remains a waiting list for anything-close-to-courtside season tickets. Locally, the Jazz are in as good shape as Karl Malone. It's when they stop critiquing that you have to worry.
The offseason looks healthy, in other words, for the Jazz especially, and in general for all of Utah's teams. When they're waiting till next year, they're right where you want them.