Moments in the world of sports that last a lifetime in your memory

People watch different things on television. Some like movies. Many have a favorite sitcom or simply take in the news. My wife watches a particular soap opera and has for years. I, on the other hand, tend to watch sporting events. I used to suggest to her that at least what I was watching was real!

But I have no problem with her watching a soap opera. My dad did the same thing during his later years of life. He also watched sports. Maybe, in both cases, he was trying to escape reality. Sporting events are real, but they also give us a break from our own day-to-day existence.

We root for our teams and watch for our amusement. Occasionally, something will take place that carves out a space in our mind. Something special that will never be forgotten. Secretariat’s win at the Belmont Stakes comes to mind. So does the memory of Dale Earnhardt Sr. winning the Daytona 500 after years of trying.

I vividly can recall the memory of him driving down pit road after the race as crew members of every team came out to congratulate him. Of course, the same track was the site of Earnhardt’s fatal crash, and that is another moment that race fans will never forget.

Do you recall Christian Laettner’s turnaround? How about Kirk Gibson’s pinch hit home run or the Immaculate Reception? Of course you do. Some moments are permanently etched in our memories.

In the last couple of weeks I watched three more sporting moments that likely will live with me for a long time. Sometimes the outcome of the sporting event becomes secondary. That was the case in all three of these situations, at least for me.

Sunday morning I tuned in to watch the Formula 1 race from Spa in Belgium. There was a poignant moment before the race began and a subdued trophy presentation following the race. The reason: an accident at the track the day before claimed the life of a 22-year-old Formula 2 driver.

Anthoine Hubert passed away from injuries sustained in the crash and the Formula 1 drivers stood in a semicircle surrounding Hubert’s racing helmet in a moment of silence honoring their fellow racer.

Hubert’s parents were on hand and I can only imagine how difficult it was for them. It reminds us that auto racing is dangerous and drivers put their lives on the line each and every time they strap themselves into a race car.

Charles Leclerc won the race and was on the podium with Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas. The three drivers were presented with trophies and the traditional huge bottles of champagne. Normally they would shake the bottles and spray the liquid all over each other and the surrounding crowd.

On this day they simply took the bottles and walked off the podium. They were in no mood to celebrate as one of their own had been taken from them. Again, sometimes the outcome of the event is not that important.

The future of women’s professional tennis was on display recently as 15-year-old Coco Gauff took on the world’s number one player Naomi Osaka, significantly older at 21! The top seed prevailed in a spirited match, 6-2, 4-6, and 6-4. It was what happened afterward that had people talking.

After congratulations at the net, Osaka asked Gauff to take part in the on court press interview. As the crowd was rooting strongly for the teenager, Osaka felt it would be good to do an interview with both players. Coco initially declined as she said she believed she would cry. Osaka said that was better than crying in the shower and Gauff relented.

The sportsmanship exhibited by Naomi Osaka was great to see. If these two are at the top of the women’s game for the next several years, as I believe they will be, the game is in good hands.

Finally, the third event also took place last Sunday. The Cleveland Indians brought on a relief pitcher late in their game against the Tampa Bay Rays. When Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco took the mound, the entire stadium stood and applauded.

Carrasco had been diagnosed with leukemia in May. His life was in danger and pitching again was not even a consideration. But there he was, toeing the rubber and everyone was thrilled for him.

Every member of the Rays came out of the dugout and stood applauding. It was an emotional moment for Cookie, as well as anyone who was watching. How he performed was not important. The fact that he had overcome his illness to the point where he could play again was the truly inspiring fact.

Carrasco is one of the nice people in the sport of baseball. He is very giving off the field, lending his time and money to others who are less fortunate. The Venezuela native will be an inspiration to all young people who take up a sport.

All three of these events will stick with me for a long time. It’s moments like these that convince me that the world of sports is indeed real and worth watching.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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