Spending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.
Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.
Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.
Without further ado, sports the good:
1. Being Who You Are
On Monday, Jason Collins became the first and only openly gay professional male athlete actively participating in a major North American team sport when he wrote the following in a special column for Sports Illustrated.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
As I wrote on Monday, Collins coming out is worth celebrating because it makes it easier for the next athlete to come out, and the next athlete after that, until we no longer care about the sexuality of professional athletes, which is really the ultimate goal. It’s a step forward. It’s progress. And it reaffirms the notion that sports are not about who you are as much as what you can do.
2. Emotional Celebrations
This past weekend, 26-year-old Billy Horschel won his very first PGA Tour event at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, and he did so in dramatic fashion, draining a 27-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to hold off D.A. Points, which is the actual name of a real life golfer. As good as the putt was, it pales in comparison to Horschel’s reaction to winning which featured nine fist pumps (!), a fall to his knees and tears.
Don’t hold back, now. Let it all out.
3. This Skip Bayless Screen Shot
Leading the way in the strange championing of quarterback Tim Tebow over the last few years has been ESPN’s Skip Bayless, who looked like this right when the most ideal chyron possible came on the screen.
The Tebow story has been a nice little narrative for Bayless to latch onto, and now as it appears to be drawing to a close, the talking head has decided to not quietly into the good night.
Never in NFL history has a QB accomplished so much so early in his career, been so mistreated by a new team, then been so rejected: TEBOW.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 30, 2013
I wouldn’t celebrate anyone losing their job, and I hope that whatever Tebow does next – whether in football or elsewhere – he’ll find success. However, I will very much celebrate the death of an overwrought narrative, constantly propagated by television personalities who have nothing more interesting to tell us.
Right now Tim Tebow could win more games than 10 or 12 of the NFL’s starting QBs and I’m being conservative with that number.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 30, 2013
Reminder: After 361 attempts, Tim Tebow’s career pass completion rate is 47.9%.
4. This Hockey Jersey
Playoff hockey makes the intensity of regular season hockey maudlin by comparison. No other sport offers such a remarkable difference between its postseason and its regular schedule, when everything good that the game is capable of offering is amplified. Hockey transforms at this time of year from something to which I’ll casually pay attention into an immensely entertaining product with an increased pace, controlled violence and meaning in every shift.
This, on its own, is enough to make me happy. However, what’s really pleasing at this time of year is the fanaticism associated with the sport in Canada coupled with the complete and utter lack of fashion sense that the typical fan seems to possess. The results can be seen above in a photo I snapped while walking around downtown Toronto on Tuesday afternoon.
5. Spencer Hall
Tackling serious issues in sports is a tricky bit of business. For the most part, sports are rather meaningless. It can certainly rise above its regular station from time to time, and become something more than just a distraction, but those instances are few and far between. Too often, sports writers attempt to create meaning where none exists, seemingly as a means of justifying the effort they put into writing about a particular topic.
It’s credit to SB Nation’s Spencer Hall that he doesn’t do this. His writing is informed by context, without being short of opinion or content. Hall’s latest piece on Jason Collins and the reactions that his coming out garnered is wonderful. It’s even-handed, but opinionated. Clever, but not smarmy. Most of all, it’s honest. Truthful about perspective, and just an entertaining read on a topic that rarely gets such a treatment.
6. Athletes Who Get It
It’s likely easy for most athletes to forget that what they do on a day-to-day basis is exceptional to a great many of us. Attending a sporting event remains a treat for most fans, and its refreshing to find an athlete who seems to understand this.
When Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins received a special request over Twitter ahead of Sunday’s game, the pitcher actually went to the trouble of finding a fan tickets to the game. It’s a nice deed that becomes especially endearing when we consider that it wasn’t done with anything resembling an ulterior motive. A fan asked for help. A baseball player provided it. And it worked out wonderfully.
— Glen Perkins (@glen_perkins) April 28, 2013
— Glen Perkins (@glen_perkins) April 28, 2013
— Alex Berg (@AlexBerg22) April 28, 2013
7. An Impossible Miss
When I was 12-years-old, I went to a summer day camp. On the very first day, the “campers” were divided up into teams, and for the rest of the week these teams would compete against each other in a variety of sports. On our team was a boy named Dan who was very good at soccer, or at least very good at the majority of qualities that are necessary for someone to be considered good at soccer. He could run. He had endurance. He could control the ball well with his feet. He could even distribute the ball very well. For whatever reason, though, he could not shoot the ball with anything resembling accuracy.
He would manage to dribble past every defender on the opposing team only to shoot the ball wide, or high, or even occasionally off of a post and cross bar. It went from odd to comical to frustrating to just being odd again. By the second or third time our team played together, we began referring to the phenomenon as Dan’s disease. Shortly after that, it caught on with other teams, and any missed shot became known as Dan’s disease. Then, missed basketball shots and dropped baseballs both began being the result of Dan’s disease. And finally, any blunder in anything was considered to be the result of Dan’s disease.
After watching the video above, I feel as though it’s safe to assume Beerschot striker Nicoletta den Ridder from the women’s Eredivisie has a rather severe case of Dan’s disease. So severe in fact that perhaps it should henceforth be renamed Nicoletta’s disease.
Why didn’t she just put the ball in the net?
8. Hockey’s Brodown
On Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes started their game against the New York Rangers with a forward line consisting of Jordan Staal, Eric Staal and Jared Staal. All three are brothers. And all three played on the same team after Jared was called up from the AHL. This, in itself, is amazing for obvious reasons, but there’s more …
The Hurricanes were playing the Rangers, who happen to employ a defenseman by the name of Marc Staal who is, you’ll never guess, a brother to the other three who play for the Hurricanes. Unfortunately, Marc was injured on Thursday and didn’t play in a game in which there could have been four brothers all on the ice at once.
But we’re not done yet. Somehow, three brothers playing on the same team isn’t even all that rare. It’s happened three times before in the NHL, most recently in 1985 when Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny and Marian Stastny suited up for the Quebec Nordiques. According to NHL.com, Thursday’s game was the tenth time in North American professional sports that three brothers played on the same team.
9. The List Of Defendants In Brian Burke’s Lawsuit
Shortly after Brian Burke was fired as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, rumors began circulating that his personal life might have had something to do with his dismissal. More specifically, internet message boards suggested an extra marital affair that led to the impregnation of Rogers Sportsnet reporter Hazel Mae was the cause of his firing. It’s the type of thing that most people roll their eyes at and move on, but apparently not Brian Burke.
He’s taking the fight to those who published such rumors online, suing several defendants. It all sounds like serious business, and as you read through the letter released by Burke’s lawyer this is certainly the sense that you get. But then you get to the point where the names of the defendants are listed:
“NoFixedAddress”, “CamBarkerFan”, “Lavy16”, “mbskidmore”, “Tulowd”, “Loob”, “Naggah”, “mowerman”, “Aaronp18”, “Steve”, “KaBoomin8”, “THEzbrad”, “Slobberface”, “Poonerman”, “isolatedcircuit”, “Kanada Kev”, and “sir psycho sexy”.
10. Professional Wrestling Nostalgia
I’ve never been more reminded of a moment from my childhood than when I saw this GIF of a girl who was upset that her favorite wrestler lost a match.
It was 1987. The World Wrestling Federation came to Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and featured a bout between my favorite wrestler, Junkyard Dog, and the Intercontinental Champion, The Honkey Tonk Man. JYD was winning the match until Jimmy Hart distracted the referee and The Honkey Tonk Man smashed his manager’s megaphone over the challenger’s head. He was knocked out. And The Honkey Tonk man covered him for an easy pin. I was devastated to the point of tears.
My mother, who so graciously accompanied me to the local auditorium to see the wrestlers, comforted me in the most amazing way. Placing her arm around me, she told me that not only did I know in my heart that Junkyard Dog should have won the match, but Junkyark Dog knew in his heart that he should have won the match, as well. And that’s what’s most important.
I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but this was probably her greatest moment of parenting.