I understand this phenomenon also happens out of the spotlight. And under inarguably more serious circumstances:
– A surgeon returns a life from the brink of extinction.
– A teacher reaches a diffident student with immeasurable potential.
– A psychologist helps a patient see the destructive pattern of behavior that is making them miserable.
The difference is, I was not present when those happened.
O.R. NURSE: “Who let you in here?”
EARLY P: “Sorry. I was just watching.”
But I did witness the following:
Sporting events featuring unbelievable human accomplishments.
All of them occurring in the past few weeks. (The “lifetime” list is considerably longer.)
Explaining the primary reason I enjoy watching sports:
Human beings, just like me, only with muscles, elite training and reflexes, rising to the occasion and accomplishing the impossible.
And the fans get to see it at the very moment it’s happening.
Taken from the past three weeks, or so. And when you’re reading this, remember:
This was people who did that.
THE 2016 NCAA Basketball Men’s Championship
With 4.7 seconds remaining, after seeing the North Carolina Tar Heels tie the game on a desperation three-point basket, the Villanova Wildcats answer with a three-pointer of their own, winning the championship with no time remaining on the clock.
Now, demonstrating that these things work in either direction…
THE 2016 MASTERS GOLF TOURNAMENT
Leading by four strokes going into the fourth and final round, and extending that lead to five shots after the first ten holes, 22 year-old Jordan Spieth, who had captured the 2015 Masters and had led in every round throughout that year and this one, fell completely to pieces over the last eight holes, handing tournament victory to Danny Willett.
(Willett’s brother “tweeted” that if Danny won, he could brag that he once shared a bath with a Masters champion. Another “wow”, but with a lower case “w.”)
There was Hall of Famer Ted Williams, slamming a home run on his final at-bat before retiring.
There was Hall of Famer Cal Ripkin, cracking a home run during his final appearance in the All-Star game before retiring.
There was future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, driving in the game’s winning run on his final at-bat as a player.
But nothing – and I mean nothing – compared to the Lakers Kobe Bryant, finishing his career with an inconceivable sixty-point performance during the last game he will ever play.
I don’t even like Kobe Bryant – he was a Michael Jordan-level “ball hog” – Earlo Pomerantz slamming two basketball immortals in a single sentence. And yet, as the game concluded, there I was. On my feet. My arms flung triumphantly in the air. An emotional tug catching genuinely in my throat.
A person had done that.
A person, recently stricken by two easily career-ending injuries, had captured the moment, overcome his infirmities and had willed himself to “go out” on his own terms, in a glorious blaze of unparalleled spectacularness. (Not via a single, albeit magnificent, hit or home run, but through forty-two minutes of grueling indomitability.)
And we all saw it happen. (Not the most significant detail, but for nothing.)
This is going to get weird in a second. But it will be over before you know it.
When I imagine my “End of Days” – and doesn’t everybody? – I think about, even under tenuous circumstances, what I might possibly want to stick around for.
My family? Sure. That’s a “no brainer.” Toss in a couple of good friends as well. But also in the mix is a wish to be present for one more improbable finish, one more unforgettable performance.
The Leafs winning the Stanley Cup comes to mind.
I’d like to be there when that happens.
I know that – “Big Picture” – watching sports is comparatively meaningless.
But tell me,
What else “meaningless” can give us a “Wow!”