My wife, Laurel, like lots of non-sports fans, can't understand the appeal of watching football games.
Or any games, for that matter, aside from the Puppy Bowl that's held every Super Bowl day for those who are more interested in watching young dogs run around on a playing field than grown men.
What I try to convey to Laurel, with decidedly mixed success, is that sports becomes as fascinating as a engrossing novel, movie, or TV show if you follow a team closely enough to know what a game means, and who the main characters in the drama are.
Drama is precisely the right word to describe yesterday's Oregon State University vs. Stanford football game held in Palo Alto. OSU was favored, but looked out of sorts for most of the game, while Stanford was playing great.
When the score was 24-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, I figured that the only reason I should keep watching was to see how bad the final score would be. However, OSU made a good comeback, trailing only 27-22 with 58 seconds left.
So now I thought that I'd watch OSU come up just short, which would have felt worse to me than losing badly. I was tempted to stop watching the game and turn to the evening Portland news, but decided to stick it out until the very end.
Good decision. Because this happened. (The highlights video starts with the crucial pass play.)
An Oregonian story describes the amazing catch by Tre’Shaun Harrison.
With the Beavers down by five points with just seconds remaining, quarterback Ben Gulbranson fired a pass toward the right sideline, looking for receiver Tre’Shaun Harrison.
As Harrison tried to haul in the pass, he snared it off of Cardinal defender Ethan Bonner’s helmet. Bonner and Stanford safety Patrick Fields, who was also covering on the play, seemed momentarily stunned that Harrison had made the catch, and by the time they started after him, Harrison was racing to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.
Here's a blurry screenshot from the video of the catch. Harrison is way up there in the air, grabbing the football off of the helmet of #13 Stanford defender Bonner.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post that mentioned sports writer John Canzano saying that Oregon State snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in their disappointing game against USC.
And yesterday OSU snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Same team. Way different outcome. In each case, all because of a single play.
I felt amazingly good as soon as Harrison ran untouched into the end zone. Moments like this one are what make sports a great reflection of life, which obviously isn't all that surprising, since sports are part of life.
A back-up quarterback, Ben Gulbranson, was playing for OSU. The ESPN announcers said when he took over with 58 seconds to go that this was Gulbranson's chance to go down in Oregon State history as staging one of the great all-time comebacks for the football team.
When I heard that, I thought, yeah, right, not much chance of that happening.
Yet it did. Which goes to show that just when things are darkest, it's possible that light will dawn. But the flip side is that just when things are brightest, it's possible that darkness will fall. In other words, we just can't tell what the future will bring.
For most of the game, ESPN showed shots of really happy Stanford fans. After Harrison's touchdown, their demeanor changed markedly.
But there's always another game. Next time us OSU fans could be the ones with sad faces. That's the attraction of watching sports for me. You just never know. Just like life.