Our Favorite Games
Some contests put the lie to the phrase, "It's only a game," and let us say, without equivocation, that we believe -- for we have seen miracles on ice, on grass, in midair
Posted: Tuesday October 19, 1999 01:18 PMBy Richard Hoffer
Not every game is the concentration of crisis or the management of miracle we'd wished it would be. Lots of games are boring. Have no importance, little elegance. Offer scant entertainment. We can get pretty puffed up about our sports, what they mean in our culture, what they mean in our lives, but -- timeout! -- not every game teaches us a lesson. Sometimes a game is just an afternoon at the park, the lazy languor of watching people at play, so that all we might remember is the sunshine, the company, the small brushfire beyond center field in Chavez Ravine.
The real fan argues that it takes a season for a team to fully reveal its poetry (puffing up now), and that any particular game is just a piece of the puzzle. It would be unfair, given how many games there actually are, to expect thrills and chills on a daily basis. Most games are the dues we pay for membership in this sports club to which we are so devoted.
Of course there are games, and there are games. These, our favorites, are aberrations, so beyond the normal experience that they become spikes in personal time lines. They have drives, comebacks, fades, muffed kicks, a slow grounder right between the ankles. Heroism that can't possibly be repeated, gaffes that will not necessarily be redeemed. Maybe it was 40 minutes of sustained brilliance, or an explosion of spirit that four quarters simply couldn't confine. Or maybe it was an occurrence of such improbability -- a Hail Mary pass or a kickoff return that threaded through a marching band -- that the role of fate in human affairs must be reexamined. Or maybe it was the pure expression of personality: Michael Jordan's competitive drive as a tantalizing glimpse of man's outer limits.
These are games no dramatist dare schedule. They are unlikely events, and it's only after we've seen and considered them against the backdrop of the more humdrum season that they allow complete understanding. These are the games that set the threshold of possibility (puffing up) and serve as useful and eye-widening instruction. These are the games that (fully puffed) teach us a lesson: You never know.
Issue date: October 25, 1999
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