Sunday, June 1, 2008

Season After Season - Heartbreak: Yet I Can't Wait For More! Part II

If you were to ask anyone who was on Camp Monroe’s Stanley cup hockey team while I was the captain they will all agree on one thing. In fact almost anyone who has ever met me will agree on this. I seem to have an issue of running my mouth to much. Once I get rolling on a subject, it never ends and the words just keep coming right out of my mouth. After looking at the length of my first post as well as the length of part II it is apparent that I have that problem with writing as well.
I spent my first post wondering why I love sports so much when based off the teams that I support every year is filled with heartbreak. Of course I wrote it after the Mets had beaten the Dodgers 6-1 and had won 5 of there last 6 seemingly getting manager Willie Randolph off of the hotseat. Of course the Mets came back the following night and put Oliver Perez on the mound who gave us an astonishing outing, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in a glorious 1/3 of an inning. This killing of optomism in just the first inning just re-enforces the question of what makes it all worth it? However whats most ironic is that this event that makes one question what makes it all worth was occuring simultaniously as another event that provides the perfect answer to the question. While Oliver Perez was busy giving up hit after hit, run after run to the lowly Giants the Detroit Red Wings were involved in a game 5 battle with the Penguins for the Stanley Cup. What makes it worth it? Trailing the series 3-1 the penguins needed a win to send the series back to to Pittsburgh, after getting off to a 2-0 lead Detroit stormed back to take a 3-2 lead. The final few minutes of the third period coincided with the bottom of the first in the Mets game. While Oliver Perez was losing all the optomism in Mets camp, Pittsburgh was staging a thrilling battle throwing everything they had at the Red Wings and scoring with 35 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Two and half overtimes and one Petr Sykora called shot later Pittsburgh was celebrating on Detroits us as they took game 5 to force a game 6 in Pittsburgh extending their season just that much. When Oliver Perez was making us question why, the Penguins and Red Wings showed us just one example of what its really all about, what keeps us going.

Its about the anticipation, the excitement. Its about not paying attention in class to follow all the action on opening day. Its about walking into the garden before a game. Its about how the Garden shakes and the baloons fly during the national anthem before a playoff game. Its about singing the goal song after every goal, its about POTVIN SUCKS! Its about playoff hockey in general, its about 5 overtime games that don't end till 3 in the morning. Its about how Gus Johnson is at a loss for words after a big 3 in the NCAA tournement, about how Davidson sent their entire student body to the sweet 16 and elite 8 to support their team. Its about how a Latin American country ordered someone to write words for their national anthem so that their athletes would have something to sing along to just like athletes from all the other countries.

Its about how Sports has the power to gather a whole nation together.
After 9/11 seeing football players running onto the field with American flags, but of course nothing better then Mike Piazza’s 2 run homer to beat the rival Braves in the first sporting event to be held in New York after the attacks, this homer not only won the game for the Mets, but it let New Yorkers know that things would be ok. I love the optimism that comes with every pre-season, when on opening day everyone is in first place. After all sports gives us the chance to analyze and over analyze the game over and over again. As many people could attest to, one of my greatest joys in life is over analyzing, whether it is sports or TV, or movies. Sports memories will always remain in our minds more then almost anything else. I will always remember Marek Malik rising from anonymity and coming up with a through the legs shot in the 15th round of a shootout to beat the capitals. I will always remember Endy Chavez’s 6th inning catch of what should have been a Scot Rolen home run in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. I will always remember attending a remarkable pitchers duel between Pedro Martinez and Brandon Webb, a brilliant 1-0 13 inning win for the Mets, and along with the game I will remember Lastings Milledge’s lazer throw from right field to throw out a runner trying to go from first to third. I will always remember being ready to fall down beaten when John Terry stepped up to the penalty spot in the Champions League final, only to miss and give Manchester United new life, and eventually the win.

I love the power that a great game has over us. When I was studying for a final one night i came across the Jets-Dolphins monday night miracle game. I immediatly dropped the studying so i could watch the Jets play so poorly for 3 quarters only to rally and come back from a 30-7 4th quarter deficit. The rally of course being capped off by a 4th down touchdown catch from offensive lineman Jumbo Elliot.

I loathe how the 1998-2004 New York Rangers provided the blueprint on how to create fan excitement in the pre-season and never win anything by signing aging overrated veterans. But with that, I love how the 2001+ New York Yankees have decided to copy that strategy and forgo winning the World Series year after year.

Though I mentioned before my favorite teams and how they never fail to constantly let me down I purposely left one out for the reason that one of my favorite teams is not a perennial loser but rather the opposite.. I happen to be a huge fan of English Football and though my friend from across the pond will always accuse me of being a front runner for my “choice” of supporting Manchester United. I will just quickly clear up how this was not a choice, I followed the local MLS team, the MetroStars for half a season and at the end of the season their goalie Tim Howard went to United and I followed him over there and was quickly won over by a certain boy Ronaldo and a boy wonder Wayne Rooney. To this day I have not forgotten about Howard as I still follow him at Everton, (because of Howard and my close ties with a certain Andy McLindon). The drama of football provides some of the best sports environments you can have. I will always love waking up at 8:30 on a Sunday morning to watch United play, or skipping out on my bitch of a math teacher Mrs. Staum’s Tuesday math class to go home and watch United in the Champions League.

When rumors broke out that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was contemplating a summer move to Real Madrid the feeling that football could now join the list of teams that give me heartbreaking endings. This thought became even more real when during the penalty shootout of the Champions League final Ronaldo stepped up to the spot where he had been so consistent all season, and missed. It was in the moments after the Ronaldo penalty miss when I was truly reminded why I love sports so much. Nicholas Anelka of Chelsea would have his shot saved by United goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar. The euphoric celebration began as all the player on Manchester United ran to their goalkeeper and fans to celeberate. All but one player that is, Cristiano Ronaldo never left the midfield circle as he fell and cried, so happy that his teammates had bailed him out. It was what happened next that was truly great. Manchester United captain Gary Neville who had missed all but 20 minutes of the season with a knee injury ran out to midfield and with the new owner of United’s career appearance record, fellow teammate Ryan Giggs together they lifted Ronaldo up from the ground and brought him to his celebrating teammates. To some thats what its about, crying because one is so happy that their not the goat, when everyone expects you to be the one to come through and you don't, that you let your teamates down. But that these same teamates are able to lift you up first by overcoming your mistake to win, and then literally pick you up off the ground to let you know its ok that you missed, we won, lets go celebrate. It was then that I remembered the brotherhood that is shared by teammates and the bonds they form with their fans. The act of picking Ronaldo up of the ground squashed the rumors of him leaving the club to go to Real Madrid. It’s the sense of hope that our teams give us, and the sense of promise that if were there for the lows, our teams will repay us and give us highs.

I love sports for its ways of picking everyone up and uniting them around the world. For the Ivory Coast who in the midst of a civil war could call for a truce so the whole country could be united in supporting their country in the world cup. For giving us reasons to yell and scream and taunt other people. But most importantly, for the bonds that form over friend supporting the same team, the hourly discussions about your team when you should be doing work, and of course the chance that at any moment it will give you another memory that you will never forget.

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