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WHEELER: Fans of Cards and Tigers Take To The Streets!

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Wow! Can fans go a day or two without overreacting and losing their cookies because something unexpected happened? The Cardinals lost two games! Mizzou hired Frank Haith and I’ve never heard of him! Run away!

(cue video of people running through the streets with their hair on fire)

Based on the messages I’ve been receiving from Cardinals fans and Mizzou fans there’s a serious lack of perspective around here these days.

First, the Cardinals. It’s frustrating to watch your team lose a game that it should have won the way the Cardinals did on Opening Day. I get that. Opening Day is supposed to be a celebration and there is a natural letdown when the home team gives up a lead and loses. What I don’t get is the immediate rush by so many to connect 2011 with 2010 after just one game.

If we get 40-games into the season and there are still things keeping the team from winning games THEN we’ll have something to talk about. That would constitute a “trend” and not just a couple of bad games.

But even at the 40-game marker you still don’t always have an accurate picture of what a team will be. Take the 2010 Cardinals for example. They were 23-17 through 40-games and just 1/2 game behind the Reds in the Central Division while sporting a .575 winning percentage. Well, the Reds won the Central with a .562 winning percentage and in the NL only the Phillies finished higher than .575. If that sample size had been an accurate measure of how the season would unfold then the Cardinals would have finished at .575 and won the division.

The thing is, it doesn’t work that way. Trends go up and down over time. Injuries occur. Teams make trades and call up hot prospects as the season wears on. Player performance varies based on all kinds of circumstances.

What all of that tells you is that you can never assume anything with a small sample size. If 40 games is too small a sample to truly get a feel for a team then what can 1-2 games to start the season mean?

They play 162 games for a reason.  There will be plenty of time for venting, criticizing, hand-wringing and flat out anger when October rolls around if the home team doesn’t achieve what is expected.

But what if things work out okay? What if the Cardinals win the Central? Will all of the whining and complaining have been worth it?

The answer is no. The season will be what it is going to be regardless of how early (or how often) you complain so at least do YOURSELF the favor of taking a couple of steps back and letting things play out BEFORE you lose your cool.

Like I said, there’s plenty of time for the losing of the cool after the season.

Now for Mizzou fans…

Just because you didn’t kn0w who Frank Haith was before you heard the news of his hiring doesn’t mean he can’t do the job. I’m not saying he’d be my first choice but I am saying you owe it to yourself and to the school your root for to at least give the man a fair chance.

I know a little about Haith because before he took the Mizzou job he was the head coach at my alma mater, the University of Miami. He did a solid job down there averaging 18 wins a year over 7 years.

To understand what that means you have to understand the history of the Miami basketball program. In 7 seasons Haith led the Canes to 20-win seasons 3 times. Now, I admit that doesn’t sound like much but when you consider that the Canes program had 20-win seasons just 3 times between 1985 and 2004.

So he did in 7 season what three other coaches needed 19 seasons to accomplish. Those three previous coaches averaged 15 wins a season compared to Haith’s 18 wins a year. Doesn’t sound like much when you see 3 wins more per year but that’s a 20% increase over what his predecessors did.

Again, that may not seem an amazing feat but let’s also consider the context. Haith led a program that had no basketball tradition into the basketball rich ACC and held his own. He may not have taken a UAB team to the NCAA Tournament like Mike Anderson did but his challenge was a little stiffer considering he had to earn his way through Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, etc. rather than through some mid-major conference with lesser competition.

Just because he isn’t a sexy pick doesn’t mean the man can’t coach.

He also spent time as an assistant at Penn State, Texas A&M, Wake Forest and Texas before he became the head coach at Miami. He recruited some pretty big names for those schools. Remember LaMarcus Aldridge? Haith recruited him to Texas under Rick Barnes.

Haith knows Big 12 country, he’s had 7 years of experience running a program and he’s still just 45 years-old. If you don’t follow the Miami program you have no idea how difficult it is to win there. And the thing is, he actually won reasonably well there.

I’m not saying that Haith will lead Mizzou to the promised land, I’m just saying he’s done enough working his way up the ladder to earn a fair shot from fans, alumni, etc.

If he fails we’ll know soon enough. At least give the man the chance to fail before you bury him.

As always, feedback is welcome: kjwheeler@cbs.com

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