In Sports, Every Day is Ultimatum Day

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[Originally posted to Aerys Sports, a blog I used to contribute to. Backdated to the original date it was written with very light editing. Part II is here.]

The Grizzlies won their first home playoff game and became only the second No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series. The Hawks and Magic got into feisty battles on and off the court resulting in two ejections and technical and flagrant fouls galore. Amar’e hurt his back, Rose hurt his ankle, CP3 got a triple-double playing with a bandaged hand and patch over his right eye. And it’s only Round 1.

This is what I love about sports. In a sense, every game is the game; every moment is the moment.

Whether it’s a high school field hockey game or the Super Bowl, day after day, athletes put all of their energy, efforts, and heart into a game. They throw themselves out there and allow themselves to be pushed to new limits and reach greater heights.

Perspective goes out the door. Rafael Belliard hit two home runs over the course of a 16-year career. But each time he came up to bat, he didn’t think “Well, I’ll never come close to Hank Aaron’s record, so this at-bat doesn’t matter.” That at-bat was still the at-bat.

The Spurs’ Game 7 loss to the Grizzlies was the end of the world for San Antonio. Yes, they will probably make it to the playoffs next year and again the year after that. But this year is the year. And Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili put everything into that game.

Yes, that game in which Chris Paul scored 61 points nine years ago was important, even though it was just a high school basketball game. Why? Because each point was in honor of his grandfather who had been beaten to death two days earlier.

And for fans, sports have the benefit of being something that is “cool” or “trendy” to get emotionally invested in. No one makes fun of the guy wearing a big cheesehead hat, taping helmet lights to the TV and lining up his Packer Russian dolls in preparation for game day. He’s not “that crazy guy” (ok, except maybe to his wife). He’s the passionate, die-hard, loyal fan that we chuckle at but kind of love.

No one makes fun of the guy who practices the batting stances of players from every Major League team since the 1980s. They create a massive YouTube following around him, put him on video scoreboards at games, buy his book.

It’s a little cliché to make the “sports are an analogy for life” point, but some things are cliché for a reason. Sports are an outlet and provide a more public manifestation for otherwise unseen or untapped human emotion and drive.

In sports, every game is the game. And for me, in sports writing, every story is the story as well.

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