Sports are about more than wins and losses (although in practical terms those are factors that decide fates). Sports fans invest not just in teams or players, but in the belief that perseverance, passion, effort, talent, and just a bit of luck can create a special moment in time. If the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true, then hockey fans are suffering from love to a near obsessive degree over the last two months.
With an increase in stress and a decrease in a sports outlets, fans are spending time remembering and reflecting on the triumphs and tragedies of years past. We hope you will indulge the OTF staff as we reminisce over those sports moments that made us a little verklempt.
I don’t consider myself an overly emotional person. Sometimes, the in-arena military salutes will get me choked up. Often, the ambassadors for Hockey Fights Cancer get me emotional as well. However, when the Preds FINALLY got over the hump against Anaheim and secured the Campbell Trophy in six games in front of the Nashville faithful, I found myself with some real tears in my eyes.
The arena was insanely loud. It felt like a giant pulsing wave of gold was roaring for hours at the joyous skaters on the ice. Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen were present on the bench to celebrate with their team, and the injured Mike Fisher appeared to accept the Campbell Trophy. That WAS the biggest event in Preds history to that point. Can you cry and be overjoyed, ecstatic, absurdly hoarse, delirious? Yep.
As a longtime sports fan and a borderline empath, tears and sports have too often gone hand in hand, starting back on January 27, 1991 with the heartbreaking declaration “Wide right”. Over the years I have learned to separate myself (mostly) from the emotion of sports, but there have still been a few standout moments when my bladder leaked out my eyes because of the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
That Goalie Goal
I share this with slight embarrassment but full disclosure. When Pekka Rinne scored his goalie goal, I shed a tear of joy and actually had trouble sleeping that night from excitement. In a trying season, Rinne’s rare goal was one very bright moment. It wasn’t just the point on the scoreboard and the uniqueness of the goal that made me tear up, though. Rinne appears to be a quiet example of what is good in a league that has some challenging issues to address. Rinne’s grin after making that shot is a brief, but beautiful reminder that while this sport brings players large contracts and high expectations, hockey also still brings them great joy.
The death of Walter Payton
Walter Payton is the reason I’m a sports fan. His nearly superhuman abilities on the football field absolutely captivated me. I read any article I could find about his insane training habits and wore out the binding of his autobiography Never Die Easy. I was sad when he retired, doubting I would ever see another running back like him. When Sweetness held a press conference to announce his liver disease and need for a liver transplant, I clung to a belief that he would find a way to will himself to health. He was the standard of stength and toughness that I measured everything against.
When I heard that he passed away on November 1, 1999 I cried all evening. Losing the person who introduced me to a love of sports and who I viewed as nearly bulletproof was heartbreaking. I still have a special place in my heart that belongs to Sweetness, and he remains an inspiration to me today.
Hmm. I’m not sure this counts....but it was in 1975-1976 and persists to this day. I was in junior high school in a “gifted” program in California, which meant work was at your own pace and you could do as you wished all day. Well, they were showing a movie in one room, so in I went. It was Brian’s Song (which was released in 1971). I watched that movie and cried my eyes out. I watched it again, same thing. To this day, I am crying within the first 15 minutes. I literally, decades later, cannot watch this movie without turning into a puddle of tears. While I have teared up over other sporting events over the years, nothing even approaches Brian’s Song.
I’ve had my fair share of sports “tantrums” over the years—and by “over the years,” I mean “as a grown adult who should be setting a better example for our nation’s youth.” But I can only remember one game that actually made me physically cry.
Warning: the following photo may not be suitable for all audiences...
As a 10-year-old, I had been fairly blessed with sports success. I grew up watching the Red Wings win two Stanley Cups, Michigan football winning a national title, and the Michael Jordan Bulls (because what non-Utah-born child DIDN’T think the Bulls were the coolest thing in the World) tear through the NBA. The Titans Super Bowl was really the first championship I remembered watching where my team lost. When I saw Kevin Dyson place the ball on the goal line, I was convinced he scored. It wasn’t until I saw Dick Vermeil and Kurt Warner run onto the field in celebration that the sting of defeat finally sunk in.
I am an emotional person when it comes to the extreme highs and lows most of us feel when it comes to sports: yelling in excitement, yelling in anger, gasps, jumping up and down, etc. However, I am not an emotional person when it comes to crying. I’m not a crier. In fact, I have somewhat of a reputation for being a ‘robot,’ but for every rule there is an exception and I am not exempt from having shed a tear due to sports on a very rare occasion.
Kentucky fans have a reputation for being crazy—I’ll admit it, I’ll take it. The football team breaks my heart often, but the basketball season has really done damage to my heart. The fateful 2015 tournament run was a rough one for me. With a historic, undefeated season on the line and team mixed with upper classmen (Willie Cauley-Stein, the Harrison twins, Dominique Hawkins) who deserved the accolades and young freshman (KAT, Devin Booker, Tyler Ullis) who played unselfishly, my emotions ran high. Every game put me on edge, I held my breath for every basket, and the further Kentucky moved in the tournament, the more my nerves wore thin. I felt uneasy from the moment the bracket was released and I saw a potential rematch with a still-angry Wisconsin team.
The night of the game I admittedly partook in one too many adult (alcoholic) beverages. The longer the night went on, the more I partook, the further the Wildcats fell behind, the more I partook. When it was clear all hope was lost, I hit my breaking point, stormed out of the living room — and out of the apartment altogether — made my way to the balcony, sat down, and sobbed, “it was supposed to be our year.” The saddest (and most pathetic) of sobs. 38-1. It still hurts. So does the memory of being hungover on Easter and having to pull pork for Easter lunch after spending the night “sick.”
Now we’re curious—what sports moments made you cry?