Monday, June 20, 2016

Karma, baby

Nearly a continent apart, they got what was coming to them. At long last.

In suburban Pittsburgh, on a course bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the golf gods at last decided they were not going to show Dustin Johnson the road.

In Oakland, Calif., in an arena where visitors rarely win, a strong man wept tears of joy, and his entire beaten-down city at last got to see what the right side of impossible looked like.

Karma is frequently a mother, as better minds than this one have often noted. So maybe it figured that on Father's Day, it would finally reward rather than punish.

On a fabled track called Oakmont, it rewarded a good man who has been about to win a major for some time. But something always happens to Dustin Johnson. A few years back, in another U.S. Open, his ball landed in a bunker no rational person would have recognized as a bunker -- it was full of grass and there were spectators were standing in it, for God's sake -- and he grounded his club, which cost him two strokes and likely the title. And who could forget last year, when he three-putted from 12 feet on the 72nd hole and lost by a stroke to Jordan Spieth?
Johnson made a lot of fans that day for the way he stoically scooped up his young son and marched off without an angry word or gesture. And so no wonder they were chanting "DJ! DJ!" as he marched up 18 with the setting sun painting everything in light and shadow, his lead at four strokes and his ball resting inches away from a close-the-book birdie.

He scooped up his son again, after jarring the putt. Only the circumstances were yea different.

Hours later in Oakland the circumstances were different, too, in ways you couldn't get your head around. Perspective vanishes when the last time an American city celebrated a title in any sport, Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. That was the Cleveland Browns in 1964, and it had been one long heartache since. A certain mythology had grown up around it, oral history passed along mournfully in smoky shot-and-a-beer bars: The Drive and The Fumble. The Shot and The Blown Save. The Decision.

And then came one more, and it will be passed along, too, but in a way that expunges all the others. Where were you when The Block happened, and karma finally smiled on Cleveland, Ohio?

The Block was the signature moment in a signature piece of history, and if it didn't decide Game 7, it at least signaled that something fundamental had changed. When LeBron James came out of nowhere to pin Andre Iguodala's fastbreak layup to the backboard with 1:51 left and the score tied, a half-century of sourness seemed to slide away. And then Kyrie Irving hit The Shot II over Steph Curry, and the horn sounded, and LeBron, the native son, was face-down on the floor, one hand covering his eyes, sobbing as if he would never stop.

It wasn't just that he'd done what he came back to northeast Ohio to do, after all. It was how it happened. The Cavaliers not only won, delivering Cleveland from its 52 years in the wilderness, they did the virtually impossible, becoming the first team in NBA history to successfully overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. And did it against a team that won a record 73 games in the regular season ... in its barn ... in a Game 7.

It reminded you of the 2004 Red Sox, who erased 86 years of their own sour history by doing the virtually impossible, too. Remember the comeback from 0-3 down to the Yankees in the ALCS?

Maybe that's the just the way it has to go in these deals. Maybe, after so many years of having the impossible done to you, the only way to break the spell is by doing the virtually impossible yourself.

Karma plus irony equals redemption. Works every time.

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