The independent news organization of Duke University

SPORTS  |  COLUMNS

For the love of the game: On the cusp of history

It’s that time of year again. Major League Baseball is dragging through the end of its 162-game season with October just around the corner and National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell is slinking away from a New York courthouse in defeat as the NFL season gets underway. I wonder if he decided to draft Tom Brady on his fantasy team this season?

Maybe I am a little cynical about all of this. My Atlanta Braves are 32 games under .500, hopelessly careening down the National League East standings, and Deflategate has left me a little flat. I know, too soon, right?

But despite the gaffs in the sporting world that induce moments of head-shaking, it has been a great year to be a sports fan because of the numerous flirtations with history on the big stage.

Entering the weekend, Serena Williams was just two matches away at the U.S. Open from taking home every major piece of tennis hardware this season. Italian Roberta Vinci had other plans, however, defeating Williams 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals, before losing in straight sets Saturday in the final against Flavia Pennetta.

Whether you are a fan or not—either of tennis or of Williams—the prospect of witnessing that kind of dominance in any sport is exciting. Just one major separated the sporting world from watching the first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf recorded a Golden Slam—the four major titles and the Olympic gold medal—in 1988.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, but it was exciting while it lasted.

Even on the other side of the tournament in the men’s singles, Novak Djokovic was busy wrapping up his third Grand Slam of the year, defeating Roger Federer for the second time in a Grand Slam final this season—the first came at Wimbledon in July. In retrospect, if Djokovic had defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in the French Open final—the only major championship that the Serbian superstar has yet to win—he would have captured the first men’s Grand Slam since 1969.

Despite the near misses for the tennis stars, golf fans are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that they just witnessed the rise of a bright new star to replace the epic collapse of Tiger Woods.

Jordan Spieth—the 22-year old phenom from Dallas—took the PGA Tour by storm in 2015. After blowing away the competition at the Masters with an 18-under-par performance that matched Woods’ 72-hole record, Spieth shot five-under-par and held on to win the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Tacoma, Wash. With the victory, he became the youngest golfer since Bobby Jones in 1923 to win the U.S. Open.

The former All-American at Texas seemed poised to take a third consecutive major tournament at The Open Championship, but a bogey on the 17th hole and a missed birdie putt on the 18th left him one stroke out of a playoff and tied for fourth. Spieth would finish second behind Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship, which earned him the No. 1 world ranking.

For the season, Spieth averaged a second-place finish at major tournaments, netting him PGA Player of the Year honors for 2015. Did I mention he is only 22? Yeah, what have you done with your life lately?

Although fans did not witness complete dominance in tennis or golf, for the first time in more than 30 years a thoroughbred captured the Triple Crown on the race track. American Pharoah—the three-year-old racehorse trained by Bob Baffert—became the first since Affirmed in 1978 to win the elusive prize of horse racing after running away with the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Even if you are not an avid fan of horse racing, or remotely interested in overdressing to watch horses tirelessly trot around in a circle, the sporting world can rejoice at the 12th Triple Crown because of its rarity. At least we can all agree that it is exciting to say, “I remember where I was when…” in sports—this was no different.

The list of impressive feats in sports this year continues, and for the most part, it makes me happy to be a sports fan in the modern era. The Braves may have little hope of capturing a win every time they take the field, but six no-hitters in 2015—all in the span of 81 days—make me tune in to every Atlanta game in hopes that someone will make it through nine innings without a ball landing in play.

That, in essence, is the joy of sports. If your team is having a bad year, shrug it off and rejoice in the history being made night in and night out. No matter what, sports are always there to pick you up, dust you off and put you back on your feet.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the baseball season and the slow burn that is the start of football. Sports are here to stay, and it’s time to enjoy them for the love of the game.

Discussion

Share and discuss “For the love of the game: On the cusp of history” on social media.