Sports postsSunday January 21, 2018
Pick a Pose
A lot has been written about the Minnesota Vikings thrilling, last-minute victory over the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, but I particularly like this piece by Barry Svrluga in The Washington Post. He goes into the background of game-changer Stefon Diggs and the “late-round guys” that make up the Vikings offense. It's classic underdog stuff. Here's the end:
There are paintings of Ahmad Rashad and Jim Marshall and Fran Tarkenton and so many others hung in different spots around U.S. Bank Stadium. Pick a pose for Diggs now — leaping to grab the ball, balancing himself with his hand, spreading his arm as a disbelieving stadium pulsed around him, flinging his helmet in celebration afterward. The kid from Gaithersburg, Md., who felt slighted all this time needs to feel that way no longer. His life changed Sunday night, and he will forever be a hero here.
'This Doesn't Happen to Us'
“In the moment, when there is ten seconds left, you start preparing your mind with all the past conditioning; you start saying, 'It doesn't matter' and 'We are now free to stop watching and caring' and then boom Diggs is up in the air, he catches the ball. Does he run out of bounds for the field goal? No, there is no time. Does he step out of bounds? Did one knee touch the surface after the catch? Where's the flag? There has to be a flag that brings it all back? ... This is the life and legacy of being a Vikings fan. It can't be real. This doesn't happen to us.”
-- Robb Mitchell, long-suffering Vikings fan, the day after Stefon Diggs' incredible 61-yard touchdown that propeled the Vikings to the NFC Championship.
The Minneapolis Miracle
Stefon Diggs redeems a franchise.
After it was all over, after I'd yelled at the TV about the flag that had flashed across the screen for an instant (an orange peel, we later found out), and after I couldn't believe that Drew Pearson hadn't been called for something (offensive interference, pushing off, being a Dallas Cowboy), and after the Vikings attempted a last-minute drive of their own that went nowhere, and the game, and the season, and the dream died, I put on my coat, hat and gloves, and in the twilight, with snow crunching beneath my feet, walked down 54th to Salk's Rexall Drugs. And there, while I looked at the comic book racks but didn't really look at the comic book racks, I heard a conversation between the back cashier and the pharmacist.
“Yeah? What happened?”
“Don't know. Just heard they lost.”
Casual, like that. Just another day.
I wanted to yell at them, these strangers, these poor people working the last Sunday of the year, December 29, 1975. Because IT WASN'T CASUAL! It was HORRIBLE! It was THE END OF THE WORLD!
Instead I walked back outside, down Lyndale, and over to 53rd, and made my way home in the cold. I was 12, almost 13. I didn't know about adult solutions to pain yet—drinking, pot, Xanax, whatever. All I had was walking in the Minnesota cold.
I'd been a fan since ‘72, when we went 7-7, and when we still had, I believe, Gary Cuozzo as QB, before we got back Francis, scrambling Fran Tarkenton. The next year we went to the Super Bowl against the Dolphins, and lost, and the year after we went to the Super Bowl against the Steelers, and lost, and the year after the Drew Pearson debacle, the ’76 season, we went to the Super Bowl against the Raiders, and lost. And by the end of the decade I was doing other things and never watched football regularly again. Not like this. Never like this again.
But I have friends in Minnesota who still bleed purple, and for them, and for the 12-year-old in me, the end of today's game, a 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs with no time remaining, to beat the New Orleans Saints 29-24, and send the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles, feels fucking awesome. It brings tears to my eyes. I didn't even watch the game but I‘ve seen that final play a dozen times now. I could watch it 100 times.
It was finally the Vikings’ turn. After all that heartbreak, it was finally their time. And your time, Jim, and Adam, and Eric, and Stu, and Deano. And Dad.
The Single Most Dominating Performance in American Sports History
In the wake of Katie Ledecky's dominating 12-second win in the 80m freestyle, Joe Posnanski has put together a top 10 list of the single most dominating performances in American sports: So Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series, Carli Lloyd hattrick, Bob Beamon's '68 long jump. Ledekcy herself comes in fourth.
And No. 1? An EL favorite:
1. Secretariat, Belmont, 1973
It's probably not right to put a horse at the top of this list, but let's be honest: When you think of dominating American sports performances, the image is of Secretariat. The image is of jockey Ron Turcotte looking back and seeing all those horses a million miles behind him. The image is of the announcer Chic Anderson growling “he's moving like a tremendous machine!”
The extraordinary thing is that Secretariat was basically running for something we will never fully understand. He was all but guaranteed to win the Belmont. He was such a dominant horse that year that only three other horses even entered against him in that Belmont. Secretariat won the race by 31 lengths and so no other horses were pushing him. Turcotte was not pushing him either.
Still, Secretariat ran.
So what made Secretariat run so fast? His 2:24 Belmont time is not only the record, no horse has approached it. When American Pharoah finally won the Triple Crown in 2015, he ran it in 2:26 and change – meaning he would have finished some 12 or 13 lengths behind Secretariat. The amazing Seattle Slew won the Belmont by four lengths to finish off the Triple Crown in 1977. By time, he would have finished 25 lengths behind Secretariat.
“I have goals,” Ledecky said before she raced in the 800m freestyle, and afterward she admitted that her spectacular swim met those goals. One wonders if Secretariat met his goals.
The other day, I read this to my mother, who has loved horses all her life but isn't online. Made her happy.
Me, I'm all in with the pick. Have never seen the numbers on how far American Pharoah and Seattle Slew would've finished behind Secretariat. Amazing.
Caveat: Chic Anderson growling, Poz? More like singing.
Secretariat, meeting goals
What the Olympics Do To Us
From my man Joey Poz in Rio:
Monday, I watched a Chinese gymnast named You Hao grab two rings that were dangling from ropes, pull himself up, flip around, do a handstand, hold out his arms and turn himself into a human cross and them flip around some more and dismount with like two flips.
My jaw should have dropped to the floor like they do in cartoons.
Instead I thought: “Eh, he didn't keep his body straight enough.”
That is what the Olympics do to us.
This is his lead-in to a piece on the balance beam and how unforgiving it is. I know what he's talking about, above, even though I've barely watched any of the Olympics this year; I've just been following it through social media. The world at an even further remove. But I do try to refrain from the “Eh.” I do try to remind myself that the worst player in Major League Baseball is one of the best baseball players in the world. It's good to keep that in mind. It's fair to keep that in mind.