When God (or whatever you decide is the name of the invisible being you keep nagging for favors for your favorite sports team) stops letting the nutters run the world and starts listening to the constituents, we will get Thunder-Blazers and Knights-Sharks on a loop that never ends, with a crawl across the bottom of the screen that reads, “When you’re done screwing each other, the planet and the future, you can have this every day.”
You can have Damian Lillard defying any number of laws to beat and eliminate Oklahoma City, 118-115, with a ridiculous 37-foot buzzer-hastened jumper to cap a frantic rally that also gave him half a hundo for the night, a shot to cap an evening he and East Oakland will always revere and never forget.
And then the San Jose Sharks said, “Okay, but I’m going to need you to hold my beer, my coat, my phone, my keys and my pants. I mean, you shouldn’t really need to hold my pants, but you get my drift.” In an extraordinary burst of history-defying and panic-fueled initiative, the Sharks took a 3-0 deficit and a head injury on a cross-check to team captain Joe Pavelski with 10 minutes to play, scored a record-tying four times on the ensuing five-minute power play (Cody Eakin was given five minutes and a game misconduct for the penalty) to go ahead, then gave up the game-tying goal to Vegas’s Jonathan Marchessault inside the final minute of regulation, and then won the game and the first-round Western Conference series they deserved to lose with Barclay Goodrow’s game- and series-winning score.
But this isn’t really about which team’s improbable comeback was better. They tied for Best WTF In Show. Lillard’s singlehanded subjugation of the Oklahoma City Thunder was brilliant, San Jose’s four-goals-in-4:01 power play and subsequent overtime win over their new most hated rivals in Las Vegas was purely jaw-slackening.
What’s more, both losing teams tried to dismiss the events as either “a bad shot gone good” (Paul George) or “officials calling the result of a play rather than the play” (Jonathan Marchessault), and bitterness in the face of cruel defeat can fuel a fan base for months.
What entwines these two seemingly separate events, though, is the way they happened after most of the country went to bed, and thus could wake up and get whiplash twice. The curvature of the earth and our diurnal sleep patterns are the two features of our world that keep everything from happening in the now. Most people on this continent missed one or both comebacks, and because they were so outside the norm—San Jose’s more than Portland’s to be sure, since there have only been two other four-goal power plays in NHL history and neither of them were in the postseason let alone in a seventh game—they share the same space, namely, an entire coast waking up to a joint feeling of “What the hell did I miss?”
On an objective level, San Jose’s comeback was a rarer event, since a 3-0 deficit in the last 10 minutes of a game gets erased far less often than a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and four-goal power plays and an overtime winner has never happened. It was a comeback so stunning and shambolic that the other extraordinary rallies in Cup history, even the Miracle On Manchester 37 years ago in which the Los Angeles Kings rallied from 5-0 down to Edmonton in the third period to win 6-5 in overtime, must fight for the silver medal.
And we would have suggested the same of Lillard except that what he did and the way he did it was in its way every bit as stupefying as what the Sharks did. Lillard’s reaction to his deed was as cold-bloodedly silencing as the Sharks’ was uncontrollably hysterical, but the truth is Lillard ended a series with the same level of amazing performance that the Sharks did.
In other words, while these two events would create the usual internet don’t-cross-the-streams pissing contest about which sport’s postseason is better and on and on, they actually combined to remind everyone that this is the thing we’re all in this for—the ridiculously amazing. Otherwise, what’s the point of any of it? You just got handed two of the best games in modern postseason history, one in each of two seemingly diametrically opposed endeavors, at roughly the same time, and to obstinately denigrate one because you’re pot-committed to the other sport is the reason Vladimir Putin first got the idea to fix our elections.
Because we often substitute stupid for sublime.
We got all the playoffs simultaneously Tuesday night. Lillard became a fully national thing, and the Sharks became a perfectly killer second story on the show rundown—except where hockey is bigger than basketball, in which case the Sharks come first and Lillard second. Or in Toronto, where the entire day’s programming is about the Leafs for the same reason that Vatican City’s sports section always leads with Jesus’s intervention in all the sports. All entertainment, like all politics, is local, and when two different sports define their best moments at the same time, the only sensible thing is to hat-tip them both simultaneously.
But if you must be territorial about it, the West Coast kicked all the continental ass on this one. We saw them both through the power of the “Last” button on the remote; you in the east saw the insides of your eyelids, you candypants sissycowards. Why else do you think we developed caffeine and a workplace with desks to lay your disoriented heads? You should have toughed it out, rubbed some dirt on it and walked it off. After all, you’ll sleep when you’re dead.
That, though, isn’t the real point here. Two monumentally stunning things in two different sports happened more or less simultaneously, it was two wonders to behold, and they’re more remarkable if you take them as a single unit of joy that both basketball and hockey fans can share. In a world that works very hard every day to shove happiness in a weighted burlap bag and head out to sea, forgetting your affinity to one sport or the other and combining them as a magnificent whole is the best solution.
So to the Blazers and Damian Lillard, and the Sharks and Barclay Goodrow, and all the other players on each team who helped propel us to those two ridiculous moments, thanks. You did the deeds that make this sports thing even moderately worthwhile, and reminded the animals of the earth that while they will inherit whatever we don’t blow up, waste or irradiate in the next 100 years, we’re taking games like these with us.
And best of all, even more than the deeds, the contexts or the time in which they occurred, both Lillard and Goodrow and these two amazing games happened before the start of the NFL Draft, which never ends and always sucks. Beat that with a stick.
Ray Ratto will tell the tales of this amazing night to his grandchildren, unless his grandchildren get very lucky and end up someone else’s grandchildren instead.