A GRIP ON SPORTS
Down a goal with a little more than a minute left and staring at an anything-can-happen Game 7, the Chicago Blackhawks scored twice to win the Stanley Cup on Monday night in a pretty darn riveting performance. It was a victory for the memory banks and got me thinking about comebacks. Read on.
• Why is it some teams come back more often than others? Is it mental fortitude or luck or something else? There never has been a formula for it, that's for sure. Some teams who rally all the time are made up of serious folks who play hard to the final buzzer. Others are just happy-go-lucky groups that seem too disdainful of anything to feel the pressure. And then there are the teams who hardly ever have to rally but, down for the count, rise up and win a game no one expected, a la last night's Blackhawks. So there is no rhyme or reason to it. But comebacks sure are fun – if you are on the winning side. I've been on both and let me tell you, being on the other side, being on the team that's just seen victory float away and pop like a soap bubble, there is no worse feeling in sports. It just eats at you, and usually not just for a few minutes or hours or, if the stakes are high enough, days. It can last for a seemingly interminably long period. That's the low. The high, brought on by the comeback, is even more memorable. I still remember a Little League game in which we trailed by a bunch of runs going into the bottom of the sixth (and last inning). My dad, not usually the best at dealing with defeat, pulled us together and told us he would take us all to Disneyland if we rallied and won. We all perked up. And dad's assistant really got into it, saying, after the leadoff man got on, “We're getting in the car,” and every time we didn't make an out, advancing us down the road to Anaheim. An out meant a flat tire or a speeding ticket or something. For a bunch of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, it was the perfect motivation. Such gamesmanship doesn't work with professional athletes, of course. They have their own Disneyland to strive for, be it the Stanley Cup or a World Series crown or the Lombardi Trophy. Sometimes their Disneyland is just pride. A team that's lost a few games (or for a few years) finally gets ticked off and refuses to lose, like the 1995 Mariners. And remember that one year when the Mariners' mantra was “two outs, so what?” That was a team that put together a bunch of little rallies and comebacks throughout the season. It added up to a 116-win season that, by setting expectations so unrealistically high, may have hobbled the franchise to this day. But that's a discussion for another time. Today we're celebrating comebacks like the Hawks' Stanley Cup win last night. And, in a weird way, we're celebrating trips to Disneyland. By the way, our car figuratively broke down somewhere on I-5 in Orange County and we didn't make it. But the virtual drive was fun while it lasted. Which proves, as I think about it, sometimes even the hint of comeback is memorable.
• WSU: A lot of Pac-12 news today, what with the conference teaming up with the Big Ten for a small bowl alliance announced as part of a bunch of bowl news yesterday. But that's just part of it. … UCLA is just a win away from its first NCAA baseball title after last night's 3-1 win over Mississippi State. The teams play again tonight. … Jon Wilner examines the financing plans in place for California's stadium remodel and how the first attempt failed miserably. The series of stories shows the danger of relying on seat sales for future revenue. … Are the Ducks being fleeced to defend themselves against the NCAA? … What is the best Pac-12 game to watch the first weekend? And who is going to be good the next few years?
• Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer (pictured with ball), a 6-foot-10 forward from Portland, is leaving Kentucky and one of his possible destinations is our local Jesuit college. Jim Meehan has more in this blog post and story.
• Indians: The winning streak is now four games thanks to a 5-3, 11-inning win over Boise last night. Chris Derrick was there for the entire game – played in a drizzle that turned to rain at times – and filed this story.
• Mariners: No game yesterday – the Pirates are in town tonight – but a few things to look at, like Art Thiel speculating where the M's would be if they had signed Josh Hamilton. … Or Larry Stone pledging he's not going to get snarky anymore about Franklin Gutierrez's injuries. I, however, cannot make the same pledge. … Or Jerry Brewer opining on Raul Ibanez who is quite a bit older than most of his co-workers. … The “Big Three” are back together, this time in Tacoma. … Nick Franklin is finding his way nicely in the big leagues. … And, finally, the M's are not that far away from being a .500 team. Though, like they used to say in the Saturday morning cartoons, that next step is a doozy.
• Sounders: Did all the additions the other night add up to a negative for the Sounders? … Sigi Schmid certainly doesn't think Seattle was blasted and he believes the Sounders are in a good spot for a run. … They need to play better defense, though, on set pieces. … The roster continues to churn, as is the case for all MLS teams.
• Can it be Tuesday already? Only a few more days until Hoopfest, so it better start warming up. Until later …