Tuesday, June 9, 2015
The Best of Sports
I paced during the final laps of the Pocono Race with my fingers crossed, scared to death that once again, bad luck would intervene to keep Martin Truex, Jr. from taking the checkered flag. We'd watched it so many times before - having one of the fastest cars, leading the most laps, coming heartbreakingly close and having victory snatched away at the last minute. A caution, strategy that played out the wrong way. Truex began to seem like the living embodiment of the old adage about nice guys finishing last, or at least, not finishing first.
He'd certainly paid his dues in the deserving it department. He got screwed after the fiasco in Richmond when, he, the innocent one in the whole mess, lost his sponsor and his ride, when his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, was diagnosed with cancer (for which she's still undergoing treatment), when Furniture Row seemed to backslide compared to Kurt Busch's year with them when they made the Chase.
Compared to that, 2015 has been nothing but up. Fast cars every week. Top ten after top ten. He would have made the Chase on points even if he'd never made it to Victory Lane. But still, those ever-elusive wins continued to slip through his fingers and for race car drivers, wins are the be all and end all. He didn't want to be the guy who made the Chase without a win. He had something to prove. He wanted the trophy and the confetti and the hat dance and the "winner" sticker on his car.
And we, the fans and the garage as well, wanted the fairy tale to play out. The story of the little team that could. The one-car team from Colorado taking it to the big boys. Barney Visser competing and winning against Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs.
So, the fans erupted as he crossed the finish line and driver after driver and crew chief after crew chief and owner after owner sought them out to congratulate them. And those of us who watched on television sat back with a sense of contented satisfaction. It was the kind of joy that sports only delivers now and then....which is a good thing because we'd start to take it for granted if it was too common.
And speaking of joy in sports: here's another face of it. Jimmie Johnson brought Beau Smith, one of his biggest fans to Pocono to be an honorary crew member, spinning a few hours of a child's life into a time of pure of pure happiness.
And finally, off the NASCAR topic but staying with the theme of the joy sports can deliver, here's the last one. American Pharoah winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown after a 37 year drought.
Horse racing fans my age were beginning to wonder if we would ever see another Triple Crown champion in our lifetimes. But, finally, there was American Pharoah flashing across the finish line to the mighty roar of an ecstatic crowd.
All in all, a thoroughly wonderful weekend in sports.