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:
The relationship shared between the military and sports has always seemed strange to me. Fans and sports writers frequently use terminology associated with military exploits, while the military is often given a platform with which it can reinforce its importance – whether through pregame ceremonies or honorary camouflage jerseys – at sporting events.
How you feel about this association shouldn’t matter in the least when you watch this video:
This isn’t about the military. It’s about a little girl for whom circumstances – most likely rooted in noble intentions – have removed her father for an extended period of time and placed him in danger. That frightening absence was ended this past week, and the Tampa Bay Rays were able to facilitate its dramatic conclusion in a fashion that made the reunion that much more impactful.
It’s a beautiful, almost primal moment that reminds us how natural it is to love those who look after us with complete abandon. I’m glad that it was able to be played out on a large stage for us to see, if not for anything else than to remind us of how fortunate the majority of us are to have our loved ones in close proximity.
2. A Child’s Single-Mindedness
In seeking out the special moments from sports each week, it’s become increasingly apparent that the majority of the excellent things that sports have to offer involve children. It makes sense. Sports are essentially a game, and our fascination with these games is more often than not rooted in our own experiences feeling the thrills and agonies associated with sports at a young age.
After a successful season that saw them win a European trophy, and qualify for next year’s UEFA Champions League, the friends and families of Chelsea’s players gathered on the pitch following their last game to thank the crowd at Stamford Bridge, and say goodbye to the retiring Paulo Ferreira. As the defender addressed the fans, Josh Turnbull, the son of goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, decided to take advantage of the open space between him and the goal.
The crowd is so appreciative of little Turnball’s efforts that in addition to a wild cheer for his goal, they regal the kid with a “sign him up” chant. My favorite part of the video, though, is Turnbull’s celebration which consists of standing on the goal-line staring blankly ahead for a second before turning around to face everyone on the pitch and throw his hands in jubilation. Duplicate that, professionals.
3. Athletes Responding To Tragedy
Last week we featured Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp giving a disabled fan in the front row at AT&T Park the shirt off his back at the end of his team’s series with the San Francisco Giants. It was such a noble act – to which we were only made privy because of another fan quietly filming the moment – that even the assembled Giants supporters who witnessed it were appreciative.
Kemp is making it even more difficult for rival team’s fan bases to cheer against him, as the Oklahoma native has promised to donate $1,000 for every home run he hits between now and the All-Star break to relief efforts following the devastating tornado that recently ripped through the mid-West.
I’m giving $1000 for tonight’s HR and every HR until the All-Star break for the victims of my hometown in OKC. #PrayforOklahoma
— Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) May 21, 2013
For those cynical enough to question the motivation behind an athlete publicizing their generosity, Kemp’s commitment has caused others to follow suit. This is making it increasingly difficult for all of us not to hope that Matt Kemp hits all of the home runs over his next 51 games.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant is the only person not talking about his $1 million donation to the Oklahoma tornado disaster relief fund. The NBA superstar is often cited as the nicest guy in basketball, and with such an incredible display of generosity, it’s not difficult to understand why.
4. Mitchie Brusco’s 1080
This is 15-year-old skateboarder Mitchie Brusco performing the first 1080 in an X Games competition:
Perhaps the most remarkable part of the high schooler’s MegaRamp run in Barcelona was the relative ease with which he landed his massive jump. He doesn’t just barely pull it off. Brusco looks fluid and relaxed while doing something as a 15-year-old that no other X-Games competitor has ever managed.
5. “If You Can’t Read It, Go To School”
For the second year in a row, Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace took to network news following his team’s departure from the NBA Playoffs to present the weather.
I’m not sure if the whole Metta World Peace shtick is designed to overcome the image he created for himself with poor behavior prior to the name change, or if it’s a social comment on our fascination with athlete superstars, but it’s pretty much the funniest thing ever.
6. The Ian Kinsler Slide
This is an incredibly bad slide from Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers:
It’s hilariously bad. So funny, in fact, that on it’s own it would easily be considered as one of the happiest moments from the past week. But far more important than Kinsler’s slide was his manager’s reaction.
Ron. Washington. Everyone.
7. A Multi-Layered Wind Bag
It ends up that foul smelling gasses emit from more than one of the orifices belonging to Skip Bayless, or so we will ourselves to believe. During ESPN’s First Take on Thursday, viewers heard a suspicious noise at the conclusion of a segment on Kevin Durant. It’s impossible to say for certain what the source of that noise was, but based on the following bits of evidence, we might embrace a theory.
First of all, we must admit that the noise in question, which some may refer to as a fart sound was made when Bayless was not on screen. However, prior to the large gaseous release sound there was a similar, albeit smaller noise made (at the 0:05 mark). This one happened while Bayless was on screen, right after he adjusted where he was sitting in his chair, obviously leaning to his left following the completion of his sentence.
This is followed by a rare look of shame on the face of Bayless, but not just any shame, it’s the shame of a man who passed gas while still attempting to hold in much more gas.
That is the look of a man whose valve was squeezed tightly before everything had been released.
So, when a much louder and longer sound is heard merely seconds later, you’ll forgive the assumptive reasoning that informs our naming of the culprit. Even without all this evidence, however, it’s far more fun to imagine that it was Bayless, and this is all that I need.
8. Successful Millionaires Bickering
During the Third Round at The Players Championship last weekend, Tiger Woods decided to take a wood, signifying to the crowd that he was going for the green on the par-five second hole just as Sergio Garcia was taking his swing. The crowd cheered Woods’s decision, causing Garcia to slice his shot.
During a rain delay, Garcia vented some of his frustration while speaking with the Golf Channel:
Well, obviously Tiger was on the left and it was my turn to hit. He moved all the crowd that he needed to move, I waited for that. You do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit and right as I was in the top of the backswing, he must have pulled a wood and everybody started screaming. So that didn’t help very much.
Woods called Garcia a whiner, and when asked if he intended to apologize for the remark. He simply said, no.
Then, Garcia, presumably fresh off reading his favorite chapter of Sinbad’s Big Bad Book Of Snaps told ESPN.com:
He called me a whiner. That’s probably right. It’s also probably the first thing he’s told you guys that’s true in 15 years. I know what he is like. You guys are finding out. He can and will beat me a lot of times but he is not going to step on me. I’m not afraid of him.
If this bitter feud persists, we can expect the respective mothers of the golfers to eventually be informed, and god only knows what might happen after that.
9. Defensive Tennis On Clay
During the Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarterfinal match up between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, this happened:
Three times it appeared as though Ferrer would have to wait to clinch the second set against Nadal, but his maximum effort defensive shots made defeat look impossible. In my mind, this is the very best that clay court tennis can offer.
Eventually, Nadal would go on to win the third set and by extension, the match. By then beating Tim Berdych in the semifinals, Nadal set up a memorable final against his old nemesis Roger Federer. As is his wont on clay, the Spaniard beat the greatest tennis player of all-time in straight sets. The tournament in Rome marked the ninth time that the duo have met in the final on clay, and every single time, Nadal has emerged as the winner.
This was merely the conclusion to a very eventful tournament.
10. A Matchstick Replica Of Yankee Stadium
More than the end result merely being incredibly awesome, there’s a wonderfully understated pride from Bill Becker for his 75,000 piece matchstick replica of Yankee Stadium. That pride isn’t in the devotion of time over four years of working on the project or even its exhibition at the real Yankee stadium and the resulting media attention.
Becker is most proud of his granddaughter “doing everything in her power and succeeding” in getting the Yankees to put the replica on display. In fact, during his interview with a television station in New York, the 87-year-old New Jersey native talks more about his grandchildren than his hobby.
It’s just a wonderful story of an older man putting his mind to something with which very few others would bother, and working hard over a long period of time to accomplish a goal. What makes the story endearing is the satisfaction he gains, not by the results of his devotion, but in the involvement of his own family in this little creation receiving the attention it deserves. It’s all so folksy, and American, and uniformly heart-warming.