A Friendly Reminder

by Justin Cherot

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02202/lampard_2202306b.jpg

Frank Lampard and his mates are two matches away from making history. The Telegraph

If you’re any kind of diehard sports fanatic, at some point you’ve probably been forced to watch a game via an auto-refreshing box score or Gamecast-like vehicle.  Even with my DVR, I still sometimes enjoy the drama of a re-loading screen in the waning moments of a game.  It’s akin to playing Russian Roulette with Christopher Walken, which I think is why I enjoy it.

When I witnessed one of my co-workers, a diehard Chelsea fan, living and dying off of the Chelsea/Barcelona Gamecast yesterday (hypothetically of course, because we were obviously at work), it was refreshing (no pun intended).  Although I’m not a huge fan of the whole “aggregate” format where the cumulative results outweigh the moment (how else would a tie be one of the biggest moments in soccer history?), and although the “writer” doing the in-game “writing” was ridiculously bland (“Torres with a goal.  Incredible stuff.”), it took nothing away from the pure suspense of the moment for my co-worker.  With Chelsea trailing 2-1 but still poised to advance as long as the score held, he could no longer stand in front of the computer screen.  He scattered away from the desk, helplessly looking for something to help fill the three minutes of extra time, even asking customers if they needed help, though it was more in a frantic, “CanIhelpyoufindanything!?” tone

(Another thing that gets me about soccer: 90 minutes isn’t enough?  And please halt your “that’s what she said” jokes.  Thank you.)

Suddenly, another co-worker who had no vested interest in the match yelled, “GOAAAAAAAAAL!!!!” when Chelsea’s Fernando Torres, much maligned for his inability to live up to his monstrous contract, knocked one in to knot the match at two and clinch a spot in the Champions League finals against Bayern Munich.

The Chelsea fan’s face lit up like he had just seen an adult film version of iCarly (inside joke, please don’t check his computer for child pornography).  He jumped up and down on his imaginary pogo-stick.  He even did some weird version of an Irish jig.

As a matter of fact, I’m sure he reacted much like our own Colin Donohue reacted when, as I was writing this post, the Washington Capitals became the second eighth seed to advance to the second round of this year’s NHL playoffs when Joel Ward hit the game-winner in OT against the Boston Bruins a half hour ago.

Those five words (and all those damn exclamation points) only tell part of the story, I’m sure.  More than likely, beverages flew and minor heart attacks occurred.  Donohue probably ran around the house and jumped on the couch Tom Cruise style.  “JOEL FRIGGIN’ WARD!!!!” might have been “JOEL $%^&#@ WARD!!!!”

What I know for sure is that both Donohue and my co-worker are probably smiling right now… even if the Caps have a long way to go and Chelsea will enter the finals undermanned against Bayern Munich.

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I remember feeling exactly how these two guys felt last summer when my beloved Dallas Mavericks defied the odds as well, marching to one of the most improbable NBA titles in league history.  There’s nothing like being the fan of an underdog who consistently comes up short through the years and FINALLY breaks through.

I’ll never forget when the Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA men’s basketball title in 2008.  I distinctly remember someone saying to me, “I can’t believe Kansas won it.  That’s like the Mavericks winning it or something.”

Did he get punched?  No.  But I definitely visualized it in my head.

The point is all that “almost but not quite” failure over the years makes your team’s victory taste that much sweeter.  Not to quote a Miley Cyrus song or anything, but… yeah, it’s the climb.  It’s riding with your team from underneath a pile of feces to the top of the mountain.

Which is why I’m shockingly cool with the fact that my Mavs will probably get knocked out in round one of the playoffs against either the Los Angeles Lakers or Oklahoma City Thunder.

No, really.

They got to the top of the mountain in one of the most competitive seasons in NBA history.  To this day, I have never cried over any sporting event, including my own, but thinking about everything Dirk Nowitzki went through to get to that moment (you know, being labeled a bust after his first year; the whole “soft” reputation; winning the MVP only to be humiliated a couple weeks prior by Golden State; that crook fiancee he had, etc.), I came pretty close to losing it.  I think I played it off as having something in my eye, kind of like I did while watching The Land Before Time as a 28-year-old as a kid.

But seriously, this year–hell, the rest of Nowitzki’s career–is like a freeroll.  There’s nothing he can do to taint his legacy, he can only add to it.  Same with the Mavericks in my mind: they gave their fans a championship.  If they can advance even out of round one this year, to Mavs’ fans that should be like finding an extra $20 stuffed in their car seat!  If not, oh well.  It’s not going to take away from what they did in 2011.

Did I just take the last 13:52 off to watch the ring ceremony to re-capture last year’s memories and almost tear up?  Yes.

Does it matter that they actually got smoked on their ring ceremony night?  Nope.

What does matter is that until someone knocks them off, they still wear the belt.  And if they do get knocked off, I’ll be good.  Really, I will be.

Better to have loved and lost than to never have Irish-jigged, over-used exclamation points in a tweet or cry over another grown man’s success, right?

Right?

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