“Bo” knows all, and according to Bo, you don’t know diddly, but in the case of sports, Bo couldn’t have been more right … and that’s what makes them great.
The best things in life are unpredictable. Sure, it’s comfortable to see what’s coming and in many ways defies stress in the process, but comfort by definition denies excitement and excitement is what makes life worth living.
I may be bordering on depth not befitting sport, but in the realm of hobby, sport offers excitement through means of unpredictability. You watch games for entertainment, rooting interest, and in some cases financial gain (or loss), but you also watch for that element of surprise. That “wow” moment that you didn’t see coming. The catch you can’t believe was made, the shot you can’t believe went in, or that team you can’t believe won. When it comes to sports it’s what may happen that draws you in, and what could happen that keeps you coming back.
Monday’s BCS Championship Game left few clamoring for more. The outcome was assumed by many, and the manner in which it occurred by many more. But throughout the college football year and the sports year in general, there have been far more “haves” than “have-nots” the likes of last night. Sports “keep it real,” and it’s that reality that gave Notre Dame the outside chance that put their detractors in front of the TV. Alabama was a heavy favorite and few gave the Irish even the slightest of a chance, but in the infamous words of Lloyd Christmas, even 1-in-a-million “has a chance.” Villanova had little chance against Georgetown in 1985, America’s Olympic hockey team had even less in 1980, and no one in their right mind saw John Daly winning the PGA Championship in 1991, but in every instance the outcome became and remains significant due to its surprise winner. Sports aren’t math; there’s no right or wrong answer, just a sum of varying parts. And as long as the parts continue to vary, the sum remains the mystery that keeps us coming back.
In August, no one predicted a 9-win Oregon State football team, but 4 months later, Beaver Believers found themselves disappointed by a narrow defeat to an iconic Texas program which left them on the cusp of just their 3rd 10-win season. If you’re the Alabama Crimson Tide, 9 wins might warrant a call to the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, but if you’re a card-carrying-member of Beaver Nation on the heels of back-to-back losing seasons, every win was a pleasant surprise and every win thereafter a hope for something bigger and better.
For more than a year, we’ve heard nothing but varying forms of certainty regarding Chip Kelly’s departure to the NFL. It wasn’t if or when, but rather where and how many minutes following Oregon’s bowl game the soon-to-be former coach of the Ducks would be in Philadelphia, Cleveland or any of the other 7 vacant NFL cities. Death and taxes felt volatile compared to the confidence attached to impending exodus. Yet, here we stand, 3 days removed from a statement regarding his return and on the cusp of another Oregon run at a first national title.
How about the Blazers? No Brandon Roy, no Greg Oden, and a bench full of players fresh from the “has-been or never-was” all-star team, yet competing for a playoff spot on the backs of an All-Star power forward, inconsistent and overpaid small forward, and a rookie point guard who’s making the 6th pick look like a steal. I expected little from this team in their first game, but as we near the halfway mark, I am beginning to think they’ve got a legitimate shot at the 8th and final playoff spot, while the Lakers – who’ve got more star power than an Oceans movie – currently find themselves on the outside looking in.
Over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to hear and read “experts” tell you what’s going to happen regarding the NFL playoffs, NBA trade deadline, and college recruiting. Soon thereafter, you’ll hear more “experts” tell you where players will go in the NFL Draft, who’ll likely win the World Series, and whether or not an extinct culture or iconic seer correctly predicted the end of the world. But the only certainty regarding any of it, is the uncertainty of it all. There’s nothing wrong with an educated guess and I’m a strong proponent of a hearty opinion, but sports aren’t science and that’s why they’re so appealing. It’s the mystery and the storylines that stem from the mysterious outcomes that capture our attention, not the sure things.
Sports have no sure things … and that’s why we love ‘em.