Friday, March 4, 2011

And David Put His Hand in His Bag, and Took Thence a Stone, and Slang It

The sporting victories that galvanize us most, the moments that crystallize in the retelling and live forever in the hearts of fans, the games you know will live forever the moment you see them, are the ones that even the biggest fans don't dare hope for. Joe Posnanski recently wrote about talking to Nick Charles, who recalled sports writers betting on in which 10 second window of the first round Mike Tyson would knock out Buster Douglas. The Miracle on Ice needs no introduction.

On the back of one of the greatest individual one day batting performances ever, Ireland beat England at cricket. Kevin O'Brien recorded a thirty ball half century and a fifty ball century. If that doesn't mean anything to you, it's bananas. (Despite my recent flirtation with cricket, I won't bother trying to do justice to the mechanics of the sport.)

This is a perfect storm of sporting wonder. England is a cricket superpower. They invented the damn sport. For all that relations aren't that bad these days, Ireland and England have a long, deep history of antagonism. England put up a big number, and then Ireland came storming back to win it. The slow build of cricket must have made this mesmerizing. Ireland opened at a good pace, but I doubt anyone felt they could keep it up over the entire course of their innings. The slow, extended narrative arc of the upset must have been perfect. The shift of the idea of an Irish victory from impossible to hypothetical to possible to, in the final over, fact. To win the match in the last seconds against the overwhelming favorite, and, furthermore, for the win to be over your country's former colonialist ruler? I don't know how you'd build a more perfect narrative. You don't have to know the sport to enjoy this, but if you're a cricket fan it's electric, and if you're Irish it will live forever.

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