There are reasons why we who operate the sports desk located somewhere below decks of the Good Pirate Ship RedState refuse to abandon games and leagues despite incessant attempts by participants both on the playing surface and behind front-office desks to go woke as quickly as possible. The whines of the Colin Kaepernicks of this world are thankfully swiftly drowned out by roaring crowds reveling in athletic excellence and the delicious unpredictability inherent in any sporting event. The favorite does not always win. The underdog will have its day. These are the things that keep us who remain as fans going.
Two exquisite examples of this took place on opposite sides of the country yesterday. In San Jose, California, the home team Sharks were looking to bounce back from their most recent game, a listless, lifeless 4-0 drubbing endured earlier in the week at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately, two obstacles were on hand. The first problem was the opponent, namely the Winnipeg Jets, who came into the contest having won four straight. This streak reminded everyone why they are considered one of the top teams in the Western Conference, if not the top team period, especially when factoring in the Vegas Golden Knights early-season inconsistency. The second problem was the opponent for normalcy over the past year-and-a-half, namely COVID.
While the NHL’s COVID protocol does not strictly mandate all players get vaccinated, it might as well courtesy of a clause stating no unvaccinated player can cross the Canada-U.S. border and how generally miserable it makes life for unvaccinated players. Thus, all Sharks players and coaches are vaccinated. Yet to the utter astonishment and amazement of all (who, me sarcastic?), come Saturday morning, a slew of positive COVID tests came out, including head coach Bob Boughner and five players, among them, team stalwarts Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The Sharks were in a pickle without Pickles and company.
Fortunately, the Sharks AHL (top minor league) team, the Barracuda, also play in San Jose and happened to be home this weekend. Even with this ability to quickly fill out the roster, there was uncertainty whether Los Tiburones could play the game. They could, albeit delayed thirty minutes from its initially scheduled 4:00 PM PDT starting time so the players added to the roster could get settled and someone in the team store’s backroom could get jerseys made for the new additions. And so, with a roster including two players making their NHL debut, the Sharks looked to be at a more significant disadvantage in this West Side Story than if Riff had brought a submachine gun to the rumble with Bernardo and company.
Naturally, the Sharks won in overtime 2-1, playing with fierce intensity and passion throughout the proceedings. Considering the team had lost three straight before Saturday’s tilt, perhaps the currently sidelined players might want to look at their effort level when they are cleared to resume play.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, on the strength of back-to-back home runs by the eighth and ninth place hitters, the first time this has ever occurred in a World Series, the Atlanta Braves took a three-games-to-one lead in the 2021 World Series by winning Saturday night three to two. Houston took a two-to-nothing lead, due in no small part to Jose Altuve’s second home run of the series, a solo shot in the fourth inning. Atlanta scored its first run in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out single by Austin Riley, who earlier in the game had robbed Altuve of an extra-base hit by snagging a hard low line drive down the third base line. The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the seventh when first Dansby Swanson, then pinch-hitter Jorge Soler, took Astros reliever Cristian Javier deep.
As mentioned in the Game Three write-up would happen, President Trump and First Lady Melania attended the game. And, apparently, immensely enjoyed themselves.
— August Westerly (@AugustWesterly) October 31, 2021
Games like these are why I refuse to set aside fandom. We will most likely always have wannabe social justice warriors in sports trying to spoil the fun. But we will also always have the magic of sports, and to this, I unhesitatingly hold.