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 its ugly little cracks and cobwebs will begin to emerge. This is why, over time, the focus of writers and fans alike becomes embittered by the more negative aspects of sports. The cheating. The discrimination. The exploitation. The inequality. It all becomes overwhelming. We forget why sports are so great, and why they fascinated us long before we grew caustic to what they could offer. 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. Doing Stuff For Sick Kids (Part One)
On Wednesday, Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers, along with Make-A-Wish Oregon, hosted 8-year-old Atticus Lane-Dupre and the rest of the Green Machine soccer team for a scrimmage at Jeld-Wen Field. Last year, Lane-Dupre was diagnosed with cancer after doctors found a tumor on his kidney while performing tests for unexplained pain that persisted after he was hit in the stomach with a soccer ball. Following surgery to remove his kidney, the young boy endured several rounds of chemotherapy that rendered him unable to play for his soccer team in the final games of the season.
The missed matches were more than made up for when his team beat the Timbers 10-9 in front of 3,000 singing and chanting fans who came to help make Lane-Dupre’s wish come true. The storybook day ended as it should, with the boy scoring his team’s winning goal in the final minute of play.
I remember playing out scenarios like this in my imagination as a child. I absolutely love that Lane-Dupre, a kid forced to suffer by randomness and genetics, could enjoy the thrill of a fantasy in real life through the efforts of others. No one could possibly appreciate this more, and its evident by the almost stunned unbelievability of his actions in the video above.
2. Doing Stuff For Sick Kids (Part Two)
Nerlens Noel spent his abbreviated freshman season as a star center for the Kentucky Wildcats. Despite tearing his ACL in February, the 6’11″ forward is expected to become the first overall pick at the 2013 NBA draft. In addition to rehabilitating his knee, Noel has been able to spend some time at the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital where he met Kelly Melton, a 7-year-old boy who suffers from leukemia.
Noel invited Melton to accompany him to the running of the Kentucky Derby this past Saturday, and it was probably the sweetest thing associated with the horse race. When asked about his company for the day, Noel didn’t make a big deal out of his charitable decision to bring Melton with him.
I invited him here to come experience this with me. It’s my first, it’s his first. It’s a great opportunity for us to come out here and just enjoy it.
Oh, and this photo:
PIC: Nerlens Noel helped 7-year-old Kelly Melton over some puddled water as they arrived at the Kentucky Derby. twitter.com/ExCats/status/…
— ExCats (@ExCats) May 4, 2013
3. A Childlike Capacity For Joy
In Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, the author describes one of his characters as having a childlike capacity for joy. This, in my mind, is the personification of that wonderfully descriptive phrase.
No adult would ever be capable of so blindly celebrating a moment.
Things not on the minds of these kids at this moment in time:
- Retirement funds;
- Relationship problems;
- Health concerns; and
- Family issues.
Thing on the minds of these kids at this moment in time:
- MY FAVORITE TEAM JUST SCORED AN IMPORTANT GOAL AND IT’S THE BEST THING EVER.
We all know that eating pizza – even chicken (?) pizza – should always come a close second to watching playoff sports.
Your first impulse will likely be to credit the person ordering the pizza – despite their questionable choice in toppings – primarily for prioritizing their life in a proper manner, and secondly for having the courtesy to notify their local pizza establishment of the shift in necessary action. However, a healthy dose of credit is also due the telephone operator at the call center who spared no detail in recording the alteration from pickup to delivery.
5. Close Finishes In Auto Racing
In theory, auto races on street courses should be amazing. In practice, not so much. While the potential for background architecture and close turns is appealing, too often the lack of space to pass causes something that resembles a procession more than a competition. However, sometimes, it all seems to work out. Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 from Brazil was one of these instances.
There was Will Power coming from the 22nd starting position to move through the field in the first twenty laps, before an engine fire ended his day. There was Brazilian driver Tony Kaanan taking the lead on lap ten, and looking like a certain podium finisher before running out of fuel on lap 50. And then, there was the last six minutes of the race which saw Takuma Sato try to hold off Josef Newgarden (who started last), and then James Hinchcliffe, as the three racers battled through the final five laps.
Making the race all the more exciting was broadcaster Leigh Diffey whose inspired play-by-play included referring to Hinchcliffe as the Mayor of Hinchtown. The Mayor of Hinchtown! Of course, it all came down to the final turn on the final lap in what was perhaps the most exciting Indy race of the last few decades.
6. Kentucky Derby Hats
I love it when people get into the spirit of things, especially when there seems to be a collective acknowledgment that whatever being done is kind of silly, but it’s done nonetheless as a means of deliberately enhancing your experience. There’s likely nothing that better describes what I’m writing about than wearing Kentucky Derby hats. What started – and continues – as a tradition among the wealthy spectators in ”Millionaire’s Row” has been beautifully perverted by the commoners taking advantage of general admission to the race and going to outlandish and inevitable extremes with their head wear.
Here, we have The Great Encompassing:
Then, there’s the hat on the guy who feels as though it’s alright to wear a t-shirt in public with a semi-dressed woman – who also possesses wings – on it:
We also get the guy who ingested as many rose petals as he put on his hat:
And, the Kentucky Derby hat watch wouldn’t be complete without the person who is unsure as to whether three-year-old thoroughbreds are competing or unicorns:
Sadly, no one dresses like this at the off track betting establishments.
No matter how advanced we, as the human race, might become. Farts will always and forever remain funny. This is even more so the case when those farts interrupt a serious moment in the most irreverent way imaginable. As evidence for this theory, allow me to present last week’s Snooker World Championship Semi-Final at The Crucible in Sheffield.
8. Baby Steps
Over the weekend, the Saudi Press Agency reported that private girls’ schools in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to practice sports as long as it remains in accordance with the rules of sharia law. This includes adherence to “decent” dress codes and female teachers supervising activities.
While our immediate response might be to think of this as solely a rights issue, it’s also a bit more practical than that. The freedom to exercise through sport is a matter of health for women in Saudi Arabia. Despite two female athletes representing Saudi Arabia at the 2012 Olympics, sports for women have largely been exclusive to the elite and wealthy after large amounts of female-only gyms were shut down in 2010 for being unlicensed.
The removal of some restrictions for private schools is certainly good news, but it remains unclear if plans to expand sport education in public schools will actually lead to girls being granted a physical education that at least compares to the one that boys receive.
9. Steph Curry’s Capabilities
After dominating Game Two of the first round series between the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets with 30 points and 13 assists, point guard Stephen Curry, despite being hindered by an injured ankle, blew up in the third quarter of Game Four, scoring 19 points in a stretch of just over four minutes of game time. Then, during the third quarter of Game Six, Curry spent seven minutes hitting all four of the three-point shots he took, adding three assists, and taking Golden State from being down by two to a double digit lead that would eventually bring them into the next round to face the San Antonio Spurs.
In Game One of the second round series, Curry again went off during the third quarter, shooting nine-for-12, including four-for-five on three-pointers to put up 22 points, and give the Warriors a 12 point lead going into the fourth quarter. The Spurs would eventually tie the game and win in overtime, but the lasting memory from the first encounter of the series is that of Curry’s brilliance.
There’s a frantic excitement to Curry’s play that reminds spectators of the best moments of College Basketball. It was one thing when Curry brought that kind of energy to Davidson, but to do the same thing at the NBA level, during the the most intense games with so much on the line is staggering to those of us watching on television.
10. The Greatest Video Bomb Of All-Time Ever
The internet concluded on Wednesday night, following the Houston Rockets Game Five win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, when the post game show on the local Comcast Sports Network was subtly interrupted by a toddler in the background whose pants miraculously fell to his ankles. RIP internet. RIP.