On Saturday I watched with great interest the Belmont Stakes. I wasn’t alone. More than 20 million people watched for probably the same reason I did. To see if American Pharoah could win the Triple Crown of horse racing for the first time in forty-some-odd years.
Tuesday night I tuned into MLB.TV to see if Chris Heston of the San Francisco Giants would no-hit the New York Mets. Because I’m a Giants fan? Or a Mets fan? No and no.
In both cases, what drove me to tune in was the story. Would we finally see a Triple Crown winner? Would we see a no-hitter? Fortunately, if you like sports stories, the answer in both cases was, “Yes!” These kinds of stories are a big part of why we watch sports.
Which brings me to the NBA Finals.
From the beginning, I have had a soft spot in my heart for the Golden State Warriors. I vaguely remember the Milwaukee Bucks winning the title in 1971 because the big story was the big kid in the center, Lew Alcindor. But the first Finals I actually took an interest in and watched was in ‘75 when the Warriors defeated the Washington Bullets. I was pulling for Coach Al Attles’ team then and I am pulling for their successors now.
Except the great sports story is what Cleveland has managed to pull off to this point in the series and the greater, head-exploding story would be if the Cavaliers somehow, someway, improbably pulled off the upset and won the title. If the Warriors win, it will be expected because they appear to be the deeper, more complete team. When they get rolling they are scary fast at putting points on the board. They led the league in victories this year and they have the league MVP, Stephen Curry. Cleveland, on the other hand, has LeBron James and a bunch of guys you never heard of. The Cavs employ two other stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but they are both injured and will not play in this series. So how is it that Cleveland leads the series 2-1?
There are a number of reasons, but this is not the time nor the place, nor am I the one to explain it. The point of this story is the story that is unfolding game by game and the improbable spot we have been brought to and the possibility, however remote, that something we all thought impossible might actually happen.
It’s why we watch.