The high price of being great

by Beacon Staff • April 19, 2006

Boston is a sports town and the Red Sox are the number one team, but a couple of things kept going through my head.,I was listening to WEEI sports talk radio after Boston's 3-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners last Saturday and was simply amazed about how many angry callers there are in Boston.

Boston is a sports town and the Red Sox are the number one team, but a couple of things kept going through my head.

It's April. There are still five months left in a season that spans 162 games. There is time for anyone to recover if a month goes bad. It's not the end of the world if a baseball team loses one game in the first month.

Teams are going to lose games. Even the 1998 New York Yankees finished 114-48 one season and was still considered one of the greatest teams of all time.

That's just how sports work. Teams lose games. The apocalypse is not coming, despite the numerous callers who said otherwise.

That's what happens in any sport: two teams play and the better one, on that day, wins.

There's no scientific reason as to why a good team loses or a horrible team wins. It's just how the system works. I can't explain why and if any so-called expert on ESPN says they can, they're lying.

No one can predict an upset. If that was the case, George Mason University would have been in everyone's Final Four bracket during last March's men's college basketball tournament.

Being a great team is fun, but it also comes with more pressure and higher expectations.

Whoever said it's lonely at the top must have been referring to sports teams. Case in point: the U.S.S.R. men's hockey team.

After winning gold medals in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976, they came into 1980 looking for a fifth consecutive gold medal.

But Team USA won 4-3 in the semi-final game, pulling off the greatest upset in sports' history. Even though that game will always be remembered by those who watched it, one image described by the game's broadcaster Al Michaels will always stand out.

In an interview for the HBO documentary Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team, Michaels said the US was naturally going crazy after beating the best team in the world.

But it was the Russians who held the lasting image.

He said the entire team had a look of relief on their faces. It was almost like they were happy to have the burden of perfection lifted.

In the same HBO documentary, one of the Russian players said his team won so often, he and his teammates forgot the simple joy of it. The players forgot the emotion of winning a close game or winning a big game. It was actually sad to hear someone not knowing that.

Being a dynasty in any sport is the toughest thing to go through. Everyone expects you to win and no one will pity the great team that loses anything.

Besides that, the opposing team will play its best game with more passion and heart as the contest becomes closer.

So before you wish your hometown team was unflappable and unable to lose anything, just remember what it might cost.