With an 0-3 start, it would be easy for the Cobras to throw in the towel. But since no one on the team can speak Spanish, there has not yet been a cry for "No mas." Player/Manager Craig Jones held a closed door meeting after Monday's loss, and sources say he instructed his team that his "Hyper-Accelerated Swiss Gambit" strategy has worked to perfection, and that a "torrent of tactics and novelties" are about to be unleased on the league. So before the league writes off the defending Eastern League Champions, a closer look at sporting history and other international conflicts reveals that all is not lost.
In 1982, not one but two NFL teams made the playoffs with a 4-5 record. Sure, the season was shortened due to strike, but there remains some chance that USCL Commissioner Greg Shahade may not be able to renew the USCL Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement before the season ends. Or perhaps he will even adopt the ridiculous logic of Major League Baseball in 1981, which allowed the 50-53 Kansas City Royals into the playoffs due to their slightly-above mediocre second half record? With all this in mind, perhaps a couple of wins would be good enough to sneak Carolina into the post season. (And don't forget, in 2006, Carolina pulled out all the stops in posting a 4-6 regular season mark to get in, aided by FM Matt Hoekstra's fiber-optic freeze gun, which paralyzed his opponent's right hand in time pressure.)
This season, the week two loss to longtime nemesis Boston hurt the team, dropping Carolina to 0-5-1 lifetime against the Blitz. But the Cobras can draw inspiration from France, who went 0-5-4 against the Huguenots, and that was before GM Maxime Vachier-Legrave had even learned to move the pieces.
Ten years after the NFL's strike-shortened season, the San Diego Chargers made the playoffs after beginning 0-4. A year after that, in 1993 the San Jose Sharks began 0-8-1 before rebounding to play in the spring. And the history of chess in North Carolina is surely as storied as the history of hockey in California.
The Cobras wrap up the northeast corridor beginning of their season with a week four matchup versus Queens, who is also scuffling after an 0-2-1 start. Lead Pioneer blogger and board four WFM Elizabeth "Lizzie" Vicary will no doubt be licking her lip gloss at the chance to get off the schnide both personally and as a team, but a team of Cobra supporters plan to unleash a flurry of in-game New Yorker and Economist articles to Vicary's inbox, in a manoeuvre Carolina supporters are calling the "The Seymour Hersh - Hendrik Hertzberg offensive." Vicary's conclusions and metaphors will likely be over the heads of most chess fans, but Tarheel agents hope her multitasking skills are as unrefined as the Carolina Panthers' passing game.
Long memories create long seasons. The Cobras, 2009 Part Deux, begins next week. And anyway, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
- Mike Klein