Monday, July 11, 2011

An instant classic, in every way

Every so often, we are treated to a sports event that transcends its usual sphere of influence, bursting outside the lines to take on a greater meaning. In the span of 24 hours this weekend, we were fortunate enough to see two of them.

The first came Saturday, when Derek Jeter recorded his 3,000th hit with, of all things, a home run at Yankee Stadium. And just when we thought The Captain was hoarding all the drama to himself, along came Sunday, with the U.S. women's soccer team's last-gasp comeback and eventual victory over Brazil on penalty kicks in a World Cup quarterfinal game.

We're not going to go down the potholed road of, "maybe THIS will put soccer on the map in the United States," or fly a Title IX flag -- or Brandi Chastain's sports bra -- from the mountaintop and proclaim yet another short-lived victory for women's sports. This isn't about any of that.

What this is about is a celebration of why we love sports, and for those of us lucky enough to do it for a living, it means that much more. Fact is, you didn't have to be a soccer fan -- hell, you didn't even have to be a sports fan at all -- to appreciate the careening emotions, tension and twists and turns, all packed into one game. It absolutely had everything.

This wasn't just about sports. This was about life. There was fleeting success, stolen away and replaced with failure. There was adversity, there was determination, there was redemption, there was an unexpected plot twist, a climax and a denouement. You couldn't have gotten Martin Scorsese or Ron Howard to write a better script.

This game so intrigued me, had I witnessed it in person, it would probably have overtaken some stiff competition to become the best live sporting event I've ever seen. My top two on that list are the Robin Ventura "grand-slam-single" game between the Mets and the Braves in Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS at Shea Stadium, and Michael Jordan's 55-point game against the Knicks in his first game back at Madison Square Garden in 1995 following his brief retirement.

Even if Hope Solo, Abby Wambach and the rest of the U.S. team don't win another game in this tournament -- or their lives, even -- what they accomplished on Sunday secured them a place on the short list of instant sports classics of our time. This is one that will last a lifetime -- an achievement that will never be taken away from them, will never be forgotten.

"It's like a storybook," Wambach said.

Except it really happened.

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