- Jeff MacGregor
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If it wasn't the best sports day in history it was certainly one of the busiest. It started strange and got stranger still. On Friday night six Mariners threw a combined no-hitter. That Seattle has always been a hotbed of left/right progressivism and collectivism made this seem reasonable.
On Saturday morning Maria Sharapova won the French Open to complete her personal Slam. The LPGA Championship teed off in upstate New York. The men warmed up on the range in Memphis for the St. Jude, and Denmark and the Netherlands kicked off among the consonants somewhere on a map of Eastern Europe.
On Randall's Island in the East River in the crosshatch shadow of the Hell Gate bridge, some of the best athletes in the world gathered for a track meet. Familiar names did familiar things as they tuned up for the Olympics. Some failed and some succeeded and Tyson Gay is sound again.
Across Manhattan and the gunmetal Hudson in New Jersey, Lionel Messi of Argentina -- 5-foot-7 and 147 pounds in the program, but only if holding a cinder block and standing on an apple crate -- dismantled the footie war machine of the nation of Brazil.
Up in the Bronx, the suddenly sexy Mets were playing the unsmiling Yankees in the least interesting sporting event in New York. There were 14 other Major League Baseball games as well, and down in Baton Rouge, Stony Brook and LSU were trying to make it to the College World Series in Omaha.
In St. Louis, the national gymnastics championships went on. Nairo Quintana won the sixth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in the French Alps. Joey Logano took the pole at Pocono, Sebastien Vettel at Montreal. Justin Wilson won in Texas. There was a shooting near Auburn University.
As the sun fell behind the swayback row houses of Newark, the New Jersey Devils faced off against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals. Age and guile and Martin Brodeur hung on for at least one more game.
$2,500 for a courtside seat and they make you wear a T-shirt that looks like a 50/50 cotton/poly blend? No thanks, Miami. What will forever defy analysis and quantification and the passion of every Southie fan is how a pro team grows old all at once at the worst possible time. Praise in all forms high and low to the Heat for exercising their near-limitless potential on Saturday night, but where the Celtics went in the second half will be a lifetime question for every skip-tracer and epistemologist from Haverhill to Barnstable.
And without the Triple Crown story and contender I'll Have Another, the Belmont was only anticlimax, one of the slowest Stakes in half a century. Attendance and TV ratings both way down from Triple Crown years. And largely unmentioned amid the pomp and nonsense, almost every trainer still in that race had violated, at one time or another, the medical regulations of a state thoroughbred racing board somewhere. The Belmont without the Crown is a fun day out for local railbirds and Damon Runyon characters, but an afterthought to history.
The only other sport as corrupt and brutal and beautiful took one on the chin, too. Another outrageously bad boxing decision came out of Las Vegas on Saturday night, as Manny Pacquiao was robbed at pencilpoint. A split decision by a panel of lunatics handed the win to Timothy Bradley Jr., who doubted the origins and legitimacy of his own victory. "I have to go home and see the tape to see who won," he said later.
With only outrage and absurdity left to sell, all boxing needs now is a laugh track.
It was possible to make it through most of Friday and Saturday with access to a couple of televisions, a DVR, a tablet and a smartphone. If you had to walk out to run an errand, around 4 o'clock you could update the score of Germany versus Portugal just by the roars rising out of the bars on Rivington Street. In fact my colleagues at the New York Times kept a running diary.
This is the age of endless distraction and constant entertainment, of plugged-in overabundance, an embarrassment of sporting riches. We'll have more days like this ahead. They come at us faster and faster, and maybe our struggle isn't just to see it all or even make sense of it in the moment, but to make meaning of it over time. To make our long-form metaphors and heroes. To remember it somehow and what it all stood for and how it made us feel. Isn't that what sports are for?
It's not just that there's too much raw data competing for our time and our limited attentions; it's that there's too much empty information before and after, too. We're overwhelmed by predictions and analysis and our own passions and biases and appetites, and in feeding ourselves the present maybe we undo the apparatus for making memories from the past. Maybe we need a whole new class of instant metaphysicians -- historians, poets, statisticians, mathematicians and videographers whose job it will be to dig up what we no longer recall from last night or last week or last month or last year. Or maybe we already have them. Maybe that's all sports writing and blogging ever was.
In Paris, Nadal and Djokovic wait out the rain. The Sunday sky brightens and darkens and America wakes to begin again.
17hEric D. Williams
9hChris Broussard and Marc Stein