Monday, June 8, 2015

The thrill of not seeing it coming

This is why we watch, to see convention's knees buckle. To see the smart money go down like Frazier. To see what we all knew to be true transform into that-can't-be-right in a single immortal stride or painfully mortal swing of a club.

You want to know what happened this weekend?

Nothing anyone thought was going to happen.

American Pharoah won the Triple Crown pulling away, shattering the illusion that such a thing was no longer attainable here in the science fiction-y year of 2015.

Tiger Woods, who once was golf itself but is now just a guy playing golf, shot an 85 on Saturday and finished dead last at the Memorial, going off alone in the morning cool Sunday like some common schmuck.

Stan Wawrinka, an anonymous Swiss with an old timer's one-handed backhand, took down the regal Novak Djokovic in four sets in the French Open men's final, silencing all the presumptive talk about Djokovic's career Grand Slam.

And the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost both Game 1 of the NBA Finals and their second-best player in one stroke, stole back homecourt with a gritty overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2.

You count out the Cavs at your peril, apparently, and lots of people were after Kyrie Irving went down with a shattered kneecap in Game 1. The talking heads all mourned, saying it was a shame the drama was now gone from what seemed a compelling Finals. Darn the luck, they all said. Here's hoping the Cavs at least put up a fight in Game 2.

Now it's all even going back to Cleveland, and don't think for a second the entire city won't be waiting to wade into a Warriors team that suddenly looks too rickety by half. Steph Curry shot 5-for-23 in Game 2, and that sound you hear is air being pumped into the meme that finesse jump-shooting teams can't win the big one. It's all about blue-collar values now -- defense and rebounding and plain old Midwestern work ethic -- and that's how it will remain until Curry and Klay Thompson go off on another of their otherworldly tears.

At which point the wise guys will say, "See, I told you the Cavs couldn't win it without Kyrie."

Of course, they're also the ones who think Tiger Woods still has five more majors in him, or who thought American Pharoah was just another mutt who'd get taken out by Belmont Park, or who looked at Stan Wawrinka and saw nothing but a stage prop in The Novak Show.

But Tiger, at 39, is turning out to be as mortal as any other 39-year-old. And Pharoah brayed in Belmont's face. And Wawrinka erased Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the last three sets, disposing of him as easily as if he'd been some weekend warrior at the local racquet club.

Ain't it grand?


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