Time Wrap: An Inspiration to Us All

Inspiration can be found in instances big and small. From an international treaty signing to a 100th birthday, we look all around for moments that lift our spirits higher. This epidemic is no different. It has given many the chance to contribute to the effort of inspiring neighbors and strangers alike. This has also let us look back on some other examples to learn from.

With that in mind, I wonder what sports moments since November 10th, 1979 have provided the most inspiration.

February 20th, 1988: Cool Breeze on an Ice-Covered Track

In my mind, this is one of the ultimate stories of thinking outside your surroundings. Usually, people from northern climates will move families and (especially) prodigal talent southward for more opportunity to play and grow. Sometimes, the trend goes the other direction. The medal tote boards at Winter Olympiads are a bit compacted from their Summer counterparts. Frozen ponds and mountain powder aren't readily available in many places near the Equator.

That's what makes a Jamaican bobsled team so out there. The size, scope, and location of the Caribbean island presented itself as one of the last places on the planet where people would scream down a snake of ice. This sport is a unique blend of technical skill, synchronicity, physics, and speed that takes time to even get a hold of. The eventual Calgary Games participants developed enough proficiency to qualify in about six months. Even with their eventual crash during the second day of the four-man competition, the Jamaicans provided a prime example of taking your environment and turning it into your dream.

September 4th, 1993: "Nothing" Couldn't Be Sweeter

In baseball, you have your throwing hand and your glove hand. But what if they're one and the same? Jim Abbott held the ultimate answer to that question. If you grew up a fan of baseball in the 1990s, you know his story. Born without a right hand, Abbott developed into the type of pitching prospect that was a first-round draft pick, participated on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, and made appearances in 10 different major league seasons.

But it was on a Saturday afternoon in early September that Abbott would create his own piece of history. Over a 119-pitch outing, the left-handed veteran induced 15 ground outs (including 2 double plays) and 7 fly outs. Combine that with 3 strikeouts, and the New York Yankees celebrated their first no-hitter in 10 years. For his career, Abbott wound up having a well-below .500 record (thanks, in large part to a poor 1996 campaign). However, for that one game against Cleveland, he ended up on top of the world.

August 15th, 1995: A Return For the Ages

Coming back from injury is borderline mundane in athletics. Heck, many sports even have annual awards set aside for this. Another tradition that made itself known in the 1970s and 80s included some non-players finding their way on the areas of play. This came to a stunning, nearly tragic, head on April 30th, 1993. Tennis' top-ranked female, Monica Seles, had supplanted Steffi Graf as the best player in the world. One out-of-his-mind Graf fan took ultimate umbrage.

On a changeover, the man emerged from the stands and stabbed Seles in the back. Fortunately, the biggest part of her recovery wasn't healing from the stab wound. Unfortunately, that didn't appear to be the most important part of her recovery. It took over two years for Seles to return to the WTA Tour. In her first event back (the Canadian Open in Toronto), she breezed through the field and won the tournament without losing a set. In the end, Seles' career potential was stolen from her. But the fact that she continued her career at all is a comeback story grander than most others.

July 27th, 1996: Vaulting Into Legendary Olympian Status

After years (and I mean years) of Soviet and Eastern European dominance, the United States made inroads toward the top of the mountain in Olympic women's gymnastics. The national team came in 3rd during the 1992 Olympiad in Barcelona. In 1996, the women wanted to replicate what the men's team did in 1984 ... win a Team All-Around gold medal on home soil. As the American system was rising, the edge had been sliced from Eastern European regime, largely aided by the breakup of the former USSR.

Going into the final routine of the final rotation, Kerri Strug looked to solidify the first ever gold-medal finish for the U.S. As we all know, Strug performed her first of two vaults, but she slightly under-rotated and injured her ankle. Needing to land the second vault to secure the gold, she managed to sprint down the runway, get into the vault, and successfully land it. The impact forced her to complete the routine on one feet, creating one of the gutsiest and most famous images in Olympic history.

April 25th, 2003: Maurice Cheeks Assists With National Anthem

Technically, this was an off-the-court moment that happened on-court. During this moment in time, some people are showing support through notes. Whether it's bells ringing, instruments playing, or a group sing-along, those looking to support the health workers and first responders fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is inspiring unto itself. Music has a way of bringing people together.

That was the case ahead of Game 3 of the 2003 first-round playoff series between Portland and Dallas. When a young contest winner suddenly forgot the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, Trail Blazers coach Mo Cheeks walked over and helped the young lady through the rest of the song. Now, this may have been a minor occurrence to provide assistance. But Cheeks wasn't necessarily in his element at that moment. I mean, are you anxiously anticipating his Greatest Hits album, "From Fo-Fo-Fo to the Rose Garden"? That's why Cheeks' decision still makes people smile to this day.

April 26th, 2008: Sportsmanship Has No Opposition

The ideal for an athletic competition is that everyone on the field of play gives it their all. No tricks. No cheats. No loafing. Every ounce of sweat that can be squeezed out of the body is for the length of time that the game is contested. At the end, everyone shakes hands and walks away with a smile on their face, content with the results. As a wannabe athlete back in my youth, I did make efforts to the last part of it. I failed several times.

That didn't happen on a Saturday afternoon in Ellensburg, WA. During a late-season double-header, NCAA D-II program Central Washington hosted conference rival Western Oregon. The WOU Wolves were fighting for their first ever spot in the D-II regional tournament. They weren't letting anything get in their way. Not astronomical odds at the plate. Not what could only be categorized as an injury due to joy. Not a ruthless opponent. Actually, that last part didn't happen.

An act of sportsmanship, in the truest sense, happened just as the "viral video era" was taking flight. I can't do the story justice, but I can say that Western Oregon did get that NCAA tournament bid. (Turns out, losing to eventual national champ Humboldt State in the regional final could stop the Wolves' run.)

July 17th, 2011: For Honor, For Pride, For Country

On paper, there was a clear favorite. With regard to individual talent, there was a heavy favorite. In terms of pedigree, it was a mismatch. But sometimes, kismet gets in the way of all that. I remember the first time that the U.S. took on Japan in a Women's World Cup final. It was another opportunity for the Americans to get back on top, where they belonged. The patriotism was flowing across the country. Call me unpatriotic, but I was actually rooting for the other side that day.

Our country has seen its share of catastrophic events, whether man-made or at the hands of Mother Nature. Just four months before this match took place, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck off the eastern shore of the island nation. What happened next made the quake feel miniscule. A massive tsunami bowled into Japan's northeastern shoreline. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, more than 18,000 lives were officially lost due to the tsunami. Structural damage skyrocketed into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Multiple nuclear power plants went into lockdown, with one in particular (Fukushima Daiichi) going into partial meltdown.

A mere few months later, with parts of their homeland in tatters, the Japanese women's team played for futbol's biggest prize half-a-world away. Their resulting penalty shootout win couldn't bring someone back to life, save a washed-away home, or mitigate any of the leaked radiation from the nuclear plant. What it did was bring joy to a nation desperately in need of a momentary smile. The U.S. would get its revenge in 2015, but it did not lift the world as much at that 2011 result had ... at least, that's my hope.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site