Allow me, if you will, to drift back to Saturday night in Philadelphia, to an evening when sports jumped out of the box in which it is usually contained, and became something much, much more.
Jamie Moyer, a man more than a decade older than almost everyone else on the field that night, holds a team full of 20-somethings in check for nearly seven innings, culminating a more than 20-year quest for playoff glory.
(And, if I might point out, ponder this for a moment: Jamie Moyer, born Nov. 18, 1962, has been the poster child (man?) for older athletes for the past month or so. In fact, for the past half-decade he's been held up as a geezer. Well, think about this - Jamie Moyer is a full year younger than Barack Obama. How you like them apples?)
Anyhow, there was a moment in the sixth inning when Moyer, clearly nearing the end of his tether, is denied a strike by the home plate umpire. He receives the ball from the catcher, pauses for a moment to gather himself, toes the rubber, and leans in for the sign.
At that moment, watching on television, any person who had ever played competitive sports knew exactly what was running through his mind. "Jamie," he seemed to be thinking to himself, "focus." For more than 20 years he had been reaching for this opportunity, and he was not about to let it slip away.
At that moment, you would have had to have been made of stone (or from Tampa) not to be cheering for the man.
Later, after the game was finished and Moyer received his accolades for a job well done, I was reminded of Nate McMillan's frustrating experience as a member of the Sonics during the 1996 NBA Finals.
Like Moyer, McMillan was an immensely respected veteran player and, like Moyer, he was near the end of his career. This chance against Chicago would likely be McMillan's only chance at drinking from the championship cup.
Sadly, as all Sonic fans know, Nate's shot at glory was sidetracked by injury, and while he was able to get an ovation from the KeyArena faithful when he checked in during game three, you had to know his inability to play full out in the NBA Finals must have killed him, especially when his team lost a close fight with the Bulls in six games.
In any event, watching Moyer Saturday night reminded me again why we love sports. As much as we cheer for Moyer and as much as we cheered for McMillan, we were also cheering for ourselves, for the possibility of achieving greatness. With the Sonics leaving Seattle this year, I've grown more and more disillusioned with the NBA and pro sports in general. The continual begging for more public funds, the extortion of fans and cities, the betrayal of built-up loyalties, it's all there.
But on Saturday night, I remembered why I love following sports so much. Sometimes, beyond all the garbage, there's a beautiful moment. Thanks, Jamie, for reminding me.