redemption in sports

for those of us who are a bit older, we remember the opening tagline of abc’s wide world of sports: the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. they showed a crashing downhill skier as the example of the agony of defeat.

defeat can be a hard pill to swallow for athletes who had put in countless hours of hard work into perfecting their craft. to come back, however, the next time to win is sports’ version of redemption. this type of sport’s redemption does not happen all the time– but when it does, it is extra sweet.

as an nba fan, this happened for us sonic fans back in 1977-78. bob hopkins was fired as the coach after a dismal 5-17 start. fan favorite, lenny wilkins took the helm, made some changes and the sonics went on a historic run to turn the season around. surprisingly, we made the playoffs, and rode the winning momentum all the way to the finals against the washington bullets. both teams were hard nosed, defensive ball clubs and the series was a real nba battle. the finals went to game seven– in seattle!

we lost.

105-99, the final score, is etched into my mind forever. even though we had been playing over our heads all season since the coaching change, the seventh game loss– at home– was a tough pill to swallow. our sonic hoops’ hearts were broken.

but this sonic team had a strong will, great leadership and a tough resolve– and these served them well for the 1978-79 season. we mowed through the regular season, had some tough playoff games and once again met the bullets in the finals. but it was a different result: we beat them four games to one. the championship was SO sweet because it was redemption for the sonics organization, players and us fans. our hearts were healed.

sports redemption can wipe away years of futility. the thrill of victory cleanses the agony of defeat. just ask any long time red sox or cubs fan.

as far as this current nba season, i have been cheering for the milwaukee bucks. the past few years, these players have had their hearts broken in the playoffs. with the high expectations from the regular season. with two time league mvp giannis antetokounmpo, they have been bounced from the playoffs and have received some well deserved questioning and criticism from hoops analysts. for the bucks players and the current fans, it would be sweet redemption to win it all tonight or thursday.

the phoenix suns have a broken-heart argument too. the organization has never won an nba title. so for the long time fans who lived through the 1976 and 1993 finals losses have broken hoops hearts. also, one of my favorite players in these recent years, chris paul, has never even made the finals– a championship for CP3 would seal an already hall-of-fame- career.

but for almost all the other players on the current suns’ team, just making the playoffs is a first. if their hearts are broken in these finals, it would be motivation for next year. the suns’ redemption table would be set. unfortunately for them, there are no guarantees that they would return to the finals. the basketball gods can be fickle.

so tonight’s game might be the last of the season if the bucks can prevail and there will be much partying in wisconsin. and many tears in arizona.

if the suns win, it will set up my favorite sports event: game seven in the nba finals.

would that the final score be 105-99 in a game seven to end it.

then, i can put all my efforts in cheering for the mariners. redemption for them is another post for another time…

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