My favorite quote about streaks, or streakiness, emerged out of the baseball world, from the old manager Gene Mauch, who came up with this one:
"Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning you got off to a bad start; if you lose in the middle of the season, you're in a slump; if you lose at the end, you're choking."
My least favorite quote involving streaks comes from a Las Vegas roulette table, from a wise-ass croupier who noticed I was playing my chips on straight red, after it had come up black five … then six … then seven times in a row. The taunting began.
"Go ahead, play red again!" he said. "Come on, put some more money down on red, pal!"
His next three spins also came up black, and he just gave me this little dirtball smile, pulling away my chips, confirming, yes indeed, the fix was in.
Sure, losing streaks are funny.
Eli Manning had a streak of his own going the other night in New Orleans. Desperation football, a lurching stab at a comeback, resulted in a fancy string of completions — 21 in a row for brother Eli. A good streak. But the Giants got killed.
I saw Rich Gannon do the same thing about 10 years ago, that pesky gnat attack offense of the Raiders in full hatch and swarm. He had 21 straight, too.
"He was sitting back there roasting wings," said John Mobley, the Denver linebacker, on Gannon's hot hand. "He really had a field day." And a wing roast.
The all-time record for consecutive completions in a game was set by Mark Brunell, with 22. This was in 2006, when he was a Redskin, and if you ever get your hands on a videocopy of that one, you'll see a taped-together quarterback (age 36) trying to survive by flicking little dinkers into the flat and receivers catching nearly all of them (24 of 27). For a record-setter, it was numbing. Like watching a batter become the all-time leader for taking the bean ball.
Even Joe Gibbs, the Washington coach, had a chuckle over Brunell's squirt gun day.
"I don't think anybody in the NFL would try and live with short passes in the flat … you're barking up a tree, but you take what the defense gives you."
I have my own favorite streak game, only because it's an oddball and it's one nobody ever talks about, not even the guy who made the streak, Lynn Dickey, who was quarterbacking for Green Bay back in 1979.
Dickey was a sometimes starter for the Packers at that point in his career, after having spent four disillusioned seasons in Houston, trying to find a way around Dan Pastorini, the Oilers' starter.
It got bitter for him. After a loss to Cincinnati in 1975, the writers asked coach Bum Phillips why he didn't yank Pastorini, who was making a mess of the game, and see what Dickey could do. Phillips answered with a boot to the teeth.
"Dan Pastorini is the best quarterback we have," he said, "based on practice and games and experience and knowledge of the game. I feel like if your best one is making a mistake and you put your second one in, you'll make more mistakes."
I've tried to catch up with Dickey several times over the years, to talk about his peculiar day in '79, but always ended up getting the voicemail. Which was my cue to say, "Lynn, how about a few minutes to talk about the Washington game. A fast memory-lane stroll. What do you think? Call back and let's have a little fun with it." The telephone never rang.
What kind of streak did Dickey have on that December afternoon at RFK? Well, he did nail 12 completions in a row during one stretch, which helped shoot the Packers out to a comfy lead, but that wasn't the main event.
Instead, it was the massive cold front that suddenly settled into Dickey's arm — and into his teammates' hands — an iceberg that arrived midway through the third quarter and seized up the Packers' pass-catch game for the rest of the afternoon.
We'll pick it up right after Dickey finds his tight end, Paul Coffman, for a cozy gain. The passer kept passing. Here's what happened the next 17 times Dickey let it go.
1) Drag route to halfback Terdell Middleton, dropped — incomplete
2) Deep middle throw to WR James Lofton. Another drop — incomplete
3) Seam to Lofton. Drop No. 3 — incomplete
4) Middle pass into a mob, caught by LB Monte Coleman — interception
5) Deep ball to WR Walter Tullis is drop No. 4 — incomplete
6) Deep again, to Lofton. Too much air — incomplete
7) A heavy rush has him looking for Middleton — incomplete.
8) Out pattern to Tullis becomes drop No. 5 — incomplete.
9) Curl to Middleton, sails high — incomplete.
10) Deep-in throw to WR Ron Cassidy, but that pesky double coverage — incomplete.
11) Pass smacked down at line by Turkey Jones — incomplete
12) Out throw to Lofton, stiffed by cornerback — incomplete
13) Out to Middleton, high and wide — incomplete
14) Deep shot to Lofton, almost intercepted — incomplete
15) Middle flip to RB Nate Simpson, tipped at line — incomplete
16) Deep curl to Cassidy for drop No. 6 — incomplete
17) Desperate longie to Lofton, outta reach — incomplete
Seventeen throws, zero completions. The kind of streak a quarterback won't speak of ever again. As his throws hit the ground, a 21-7 Green Bay lead had spiraled into a 38-21 defeat, and in the dressing room Dickey did his best to drizzle some "good days, bad days" talk over the misery.
"Everybody is going to drop a pass now and then," he said, "just like I'm going to miss some."
Yeah, streaks are funny. But Eli lost by 25, so he can't be giddy over his.
And odds are Dickey still ain't laughing.
Tom Danyluk is an award-winning freelance writer based in Chicago. His book on pro football, "The Super '70s," is available at Amazon.com. You can contact Tom at Danyluk1@yahoo.com.