…or in the final outs, for that matter. Boy oh boy, what a night. The Tampa Bay Rays took the final American league playoff berth in a fascinating way. Now I have witnessed quite a few last minute comebacks in football, but this was simply ridiculous.
Of course turnaround plays are fascinating. Just think of the 1999 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United at Barcelona’s Camp Nou. Bayern had it all wrapped up with only two minutes to play in additional time. Then came Sheringham, then came Solskjaer, and the rest, as they say, is history. One of my favourite finals, by the way, only because Bayern was at the losing end of things. But that’s a nother story.
There is a reason why the German Bundesliga plays its’ final two matchdays on just a Saturday. All 9 matches start at 15:30h and the table is set for some real drama. In 1999 three teams were tangled up in a battle for relegation, the radio broadcast of the day is one of the greatest moments in German radio history. The way Eintracht Frankfurt clawed their way back into the game. Meanwhile VfL Bochum falling apart against Rostock who themselves were facing the threat of relegation. And then Nuremburg with the great voice of Günther Koch calling the game from the Frankenstadion.
“Hello, this is Nuremburg, we are calling from the edge of the abyss…”
(Even without knowing any German maybe the intesity of the moment can be felt.)
In only a few minutes the whole table changed and Nuremburg who seemed to be assured a place in next season’s Bundesliga, were relegated yet again.
In 2001 Schalke 04, who celebrated their last championship in 1958 were on the verge of lifting the trophy once again. They needed to win against Unterhaching, Bayern had to lose in Hamburg. Schalke won 5-3, then the attention turned to Hamburg. Sergej Barbarez scored with only seconds left to play, people were going nuts at Schalkes ground, thinking they had finally clinched the championship. But the game in Hamburg was still on and Bayern was rewarded a last penalty which, … well, they scored on. With a final score of 1-1 Bayern was the new champion and Schalke was left in tears and traumatized for generations. Even nowadays people talk of the “4-minute-championship”.
2002 and 2007 saw close calls as well and last season’s (2010/11) finish for the relegation places was a thriller again.
And then there came the wild card race 2011. Now, my problem is living in Germany I simply cannot watch the games at night when I have to work. But whhat my work allows me to do is check the scores at 4:00 am in the morning (which is 10:00 pm EST). So when I got up this morning and checked the scores, Tampa was trailing the Yankees 0-7 and Boston was up 3-2 on the Orioles. Alright, I thought to myself, this is it. Congratulations to the Red Sox, tough luck to the Rays. I didn’t check the innings and drove to work. When I settled in there I checked again and so that the Rays had tied the game at 7. Wow. Now that was something. But what made this great is the timing. The way those two games intertwined for only a few minutes. Boston loses, bam! Homerun Longoria a few minutes later, bam! The way the people reacted when the final score of the Boston-Baltimore game was posted, priceless.Not to mention that the National League had an almost identical finish between St. Louis and Atlanta.
This is what sports is all about. Heartbreak and Tears of Joy. Those two opposites. One has to walk through disappointment to really know and acknowledge the taste of triumph, I think.