The newest Mortal Enemy of Hope

Posted by Iannucci | 8/06/2009 | , , | 8 comments »
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On the surface sports is about winning and losing, but what makes sports resonate deeply are the stories behind the victories. Fans want some kind of drama from sporting events, and the preferred drama involves and underdog overcoming some kind of adversity on the way to victory to show us that no matter what even the most lofty dreams are attainable. It's called hope, and it's the reason we enjoy multiple viewings of "Hoosiers" and "Rudy" and would never imagine watching 10 seconds of hypothetical flicks like "The 72-Win Bulls" or "Belichick's Brilliance".

Who among us wants to watch the favorite win every time? Who wants to see a lifetime of dreams vanquished in an instant? Who wants to watch the underdog get beaten down and put back in his or her place? Ryan Briscoe, that's who.



A few weeks ago I was glued to my TV watching 59-year-old Tom Watson lead the field through 71 holes of the British Open. The record for oldest person ever to win a major PGA tournament is 49 years, and here was a guy 10 years beyond that on the cusp of claiming a tournament he had last won 26 years prior. But fellow American Stewart Cink sunk a birdie put on 18 to put the pressure on Watson, who despite needing only par on the 72nd hole was unable to get up-and-down from about 20 yards out - and Tom is literally the guy who wrote the book on getting up and down. Watson finally began looking all of his age in the playoff, and Cink went on to win easily and destroy the hopes of every middle-aged golfer in the world.

Earlier this year I was similarly gripped by the Super Bowl, which featured my local Arizona Cardinals in their first appearance in the NFL's championship event. This is a team that has suffered such incomprehensible futility they had won exactly one playoff game in 60 years! But this year they had magically won their division, rolled through the playoffs, and scored 16 points in the final quarter of the championship game to take a 23-20 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers with two minutes and change remaining. However, the Steelers subsequently marched down the field, and with 35 seconds left Santonio Holmes made a mind-boggling, foot-dragging circus catch in the end zone to give Pittsburgh the lead for good, crushing the long-held dreams of the 46 Cardinal fans in existence.

And while an IndyCar race in Kentucky has nowhere near the significance of the British Open or the Super Bowl a parallel still exists. Ed Carpenter, who because of his stepfather and his futility in nearly 100 IndyCar races, has spent most of his racing career as some kind of open-wheel punchline, but for one brief and glorious moment last Saturday night he had enough of both a car and good fortune to find himself leading in the waning laps of a race. As improbable as it may have seemed, there he was - a winless driver on a winless team, suddenly hurtling headlong towards an epic victory on a day when all cars looked more equal than they have in years.

I'm guessing most of you have at one point have made a disparaging comment about Carpenter, and I'm guessing that same lot of you were standing and shouting "COME ON, ED!!!!" every one of those last dozen or so laps in the hope of seeing a victory by the underdog. Every one of you that is except Briscoe and the Team Penske bunch, who for the second time this year crushed what could have been an amazing story. Recall the last few laps in St Pete, where had he not been passed by Briscoe on the final restart Justin Wilson would have kicked off the 2009 season with a win Dale Coyne's first win. It may sting a little less that Wilson and Coyne later got their first win at Watkins Glen, but don't forget who was lurking in second place at The Glen as well. That's right, Mr Briscoe.

Ryan Briscoe is a professional and he's paid to win, just as Stewart Cink and Santonio Holmes are, and in no way am I suggesting that any of these fellows should have stopped trying to win. A victory that is not earned is hollow, so by all means gents keep on trying. But know that sometimes the circumstances of victory comes at a cost, and for each of you that cost is that you are now forever known as a killers of dreams. You are the Mortal Enemies of Hope. You are, henceforth, "the bad guys". This is the path you have chosen, and unless you cure some form of cancer or dedicate your life to saving children sold into slavery you need to accept your role.

Sorry, Ryan. You once had our sympathy as a guy who overcame a giant ball of fire and a few years out the IndyCar series to become a championship caliber driver, but since you've decided to start vanquishing the likes of Wilson and Carpenter instead of Dixon and Franchitti you're no longer the lovable little Aussie we thought you were. You still seem like a nice enough guy, but you selfishly went off script and crushed our vicarious dreams in a completely unnecessary fashion. Congratulations - you're the bad guy now. BOOOOOO!!!!!!!

8 comments

  1. JE Clerk // August 06, 2009 6:46 AM  

    heh, nice article jeff...

    and welcome back.

  2. Anonymous // August 06, 2009 8:39 AM  

    I couldn't have said it better myself. Nice type!

  3. SkipinSC // August 06, 2009 8:52 AM  

    Well said, Jeff. You could add to the list Greg Norman in last year's Open Championship and Rocco Mediate in last year's U. S. Open to the list, (although Norman HAS won two Open Championships previously and his "destruction" has often come by his own hand.)

  4. Anonymous // August 06, 2009 10:27 AM  

    Its true. Even my 10 year old 6 year old game in to watch the end of the race. They know of a foyt and a carpenter. Neither one gives them much to cheer for normally.
    But last weekend, they were cheering like crazy and yelling.
    Than the "evil empire of red cars" crushed thier hopes and mine.
    We changed the channel so to not have to listen to the same old speeches of the same old winners. But we did come back and listen to kanaan and carpenter.

  5. Leigh // August 06, 2009 11:42 AM  

    so what you're really saying is ryan briscow is the new darth vader - i like that!!

  6. pressdog // August 06, 2009 1:54 PM  

    So, you mean it's NOT fun/entertaining/worth paying for to watch the big two bitchslap everyone? Huh. And having FOUR people from the Big Two having even a remote shot at Indy is buzz kill? Huh. And people really do like it when, as the VERSUS TV ad says, people "flip the script?" Huh. Well, those are all new ones on me.

  7. JE Clerk // August 06, 2009 2:07 PM  

    Pressdog's comments are brought to you by the National Sarcasm Society, were our motto is "Oh really?"

  8. Roy Hobbson // August 06, 2009 7:17 PM  

    This post? It's exactly why Jeff is the best IndyCar writer there is.