Monday, September 21, 2015

Just what does it take to turn around a hat trick day gone wrong?

Those of you who read this space regularly (and feel free to let me know if you do personally, because I'm pretty sure I could count you on one hand) are probably aware that on those sublime, fortunate afternoons and nights where three different teams I root for win, I like to boast that I've had a hat trick day. Some of those days are truly memorable. Some, however, are not. And then there are those special inverse hat trick days that are so brutally painful that you start to question why you wrap up so much emotion in a trivial event you have no direct influence on in the first place.

Then again, maybe it's not so much that I have no direct influence as it is that I wore the wrong Eli Manning jersey yesterday. We can't really know for sure.

The point is, it often takes something pretty remarkable to overturn the misery of an inverse hat trick day, let alone one where all three teams you're following happen to blow leads in the process. Yesterday, I got to test the theory of just how unlikely a positive occurrence you need to be connected to to truly block out that kind of disappointment, particularly when, at one point, it looked like I might be in for a pretty damned good day.

It all started around 11:12 a.m. ET as I sat in my office watching Southampton, which has not exactly set the world on fire like it did a year ago when the Saints spent half the season in second place in the table. Yesterday the Saints were playing those irritating 800-lb. gorillas known as Manchester United, the type of outfit that overspends to the point that you can mock their inefficiency, but still get steamed that even if quadrupling your payroll only gives them a better team than yours by a hair, they've still got that single hair. At that time, Southampton striker Graziano Pelle had slammed an easy rebound into the net to give the Saints a 1-nil lead over United, which got me thinking I could be in for a hell of a day.

At 11 Southampton faced Manchester United. At 1 the Giants opened their 2015 home schedule against the Atlanta Falcon. At 8 the Mets looked to cap a Subway Series win against the Yankees. And finally, at that same time, the Emmys would be happening out in Los Angeles. Typically, I don't care that much about the Emmys, but, see, I knew a guy who was nominated or something.

Once Southampton, perhaps the longest shot of the four, took an early lead, I thought I was in for an afternoon and evening that might somehow surpass a hat trick night that included the Giants winning the goddamn Super Bowl. Three wins including a major upset, a Subway Series victory for my once-moribund Mets and my brother winning an Emmy? Come on. What's topping that?

Then, of course, the wheels fell off.

Almost immediately after a friend texted me that his weekend triumvirate of Northwestern, AC Milan and the Denver Broncos had all taken care of business and he hoped I'd have the same luck, Anthony Martial knotted the game up for ManU in the 34th minute, sparking three unanswered goals that would bury the Saints. Pelle would score again late and Southampton put several close shots on net in the closing minutes, but a superb afternoon by keeper David De Gea meant the first piece of the puzzle was gone.

I was bummed that Southampton had come up short, but surely the Giants would lift my spirits and bounce back from an epically frustrating loss at Dallas last week. After lumbering first half against the Falcons, New York finally put it together after the break, eventually taking a 10-point lead with Odell Beckham breaking out after being largely contained a week earlier. With the Giants firmly in control of the game in the second half and driving for another score that would have salted the game away with a 17-point lead, Eli Manning was sacked and fumbled at the eight-yard-line, turning over the ball and sparking two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Atlanta. Those, a sloppy final drive, and the Giants insipid refusal to avoid punting in fourth-and-short situations led to a 24-20 loss right on the heels of last week's collapse. If it sounds unusual to have those two debacles in back-to-back weeks, it's because it is. In fact, no team had lost two games to start a season in which it held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in both until yesterday.

At this point I was convinced the Mets would implode against the Yankees while my brother simultaneously came home empty-handed. The Mets did their best to convince me otherwise, taking an early 1-0 lead that had me thinking the drought might finally end. Meanwhile, on the Emmy front the show dragged along with no sign of my brother's category in sight. My eyes darted back and forth from the TV to my laptop as I kept track of Andy Samberg's at times funny rambling and at times flat-falling jokes while Matt Harvey did his best to keep the Yankees at bay.

Then, at about 9:55 p.m., the drought ended.

Many things in life can trend toward the surreal. Watching that guy you used to piss off every night at the dinner table speak on stage at the Emmys must be one of those things, particularly when he publicly thanks, "our families and all the people we know, who are very nice to us all the time," and you realize he cannot possibly be referring to you because you spend more time deliberately being a pain in his ass than being very nice to him.

At this point I have gotten used to seeing my brother's name pop up on media websites or his face occasionally being thrown on screen during Daily Show episodes, but something about it is still kind of odd. It's equally strange to see "That random guy on the TV" become the butt of internet jokes of all kinds, or go unrecognized by the formal authorities that are tasked with recognizing him.

If my brother has seen any of this malarky, I'm sure he could not give a damn because, well, he went home with this last night. The fun thing no internet commenter really wants you to know is even if they take advantage of a chance to mock or tear you down in a public space from the comfort of their keyboards (I once got a comment on an article that said "david kalan u suck at writing"), all that really matters is, at least in my brother's case, he's the one who just got a highly-prestigious award for making fart jokes about politicians. I guess he laughs last, right?

So after fielding about two dozen text messages from friends and family far and wide after my brother's big moment on TV, I settled in with no more Emmys to distract me and pivoted to the Mets game. The Mets then promptly gave up five runs.

My last gasp hope for a positive sports day eventually lost 11-2, and I went 0 for 3 in my quest for history's greatest hat trick night.  And you know what? That kind of sucks. But those days will happen. If you follow as many sports teams and invest yourself in them as heavily as I do, you will have those struggle-filled afternoon. It is inevitable.

But they're just games, kids. Sometimes the real stuff happens. And when that's the case, I couldn't care less for a few hours that the Mets' bullpen imploded on national TV. Sometimes you realize a series of losses aren't that big of a deal when you see the people close to you make real achievements as opposed to the ones you watch on TV. Or maybe, in rare cases, those people close to you are the ones on TV. But you get the point.

Perhaps it says something about my own mental issues that it takes something as crazy and rare as my brother winning an Emmy to make me forget about my sports teams being in disarray...but I did forget about them. The Saints are stumbling and look like they won't come close to European play this season. The Giants might be headed toward another losing campaign. The Mets are furiously trying to quell fears, irrational as they may be, that another historic collapse is in the making.

Those aren't good things. In fact they could all be bad things. But who cares? My brother won an Emmy last night. Despite what I tell all of you, priorities, to some degree, were in order. I'll worry about the Mets tomorrow.

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