Friday, 24 May 2019 20:59

'MATTer of Opinion' Sports Column: Sometimes sports end like 'Game of Thrones'

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If you know me, then you know I love two things: sports and "Game of Thrones."

After suffering through approximately an hour and a half of the disappointing finale of the GoT series, I spent some time wondering how on God's green Westeros I would be able to tie this show in with some type of sports column.

None of my ideas were really good, but the best of the bunch was how endings — whether it be to a series, movie trilogy, relationship or sporting event — can sometimes leave us in the lurch — or, at the very least, unfulfilled.

People can deal with endings well when they have nice, tidy bows on them. It's easy to watch a hero ride off into the sunset with the girl, accept a breakup to a bad relationship or leave a stadium after your team was soundly beaten by a superior opponent. The issues come when you are left with more questions at the end than you had in the beginning.

For instance, how can a show that had been so unpredictably fascinating (and fascinatingly unpredictable) for 95 percent of its run have such an uninspired final few episodes? "Game of Thrones" had done such an incredible job of making us believe in its world's total make believe-ness until these last few weeks literally jerked fans from their fandom.

The parallel to sports would be when a team sucks its faithful into the fantasy of destiny; a seemingly steep mountain was about to be climbed against insurmountable odds.

The Georgia Bulldogs in 2017 come to mind as that squad had quite a ride for 14 games. The star quarterback gets hurt in the first game, only to see a wide-eyed, but cool and collected, freshman in Jake Fromm take over as if he were a seasoned veteran.

Even with a hiccup against Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Dawgs were able to win the SEC crown, out-gun Oklahoma in a game for the ages and dominate Alabama in the first half of the National Championship to the point where the Tide was forced to make a quarterback change to a freshman of their own. All signs pointed to an end of decades of Georgia frustrations. 

Despite UGA's allowing Bama to tie the game, the fates still seemed to favor the Bulldogs after Alabama missed a chip-shot field goal to win, Georgia nailed an incredible field goal of its own in overtime, and Tua Tagovailoa took a big sack on Alabama's first attempt in OT.

Then, very unceremoniously from a Georgia fan's perspective, Tua hits a bomb to Devonta Smith immediately after the sack to win the title — an ending no one saw coming. Actually, it was the exact opposite of the ending you would expect based on years and years of experience dealing with momentum. The images of Georgia players staring at the replay board in disbelief as the crimson and white confetti rained down on them are lasting.

Now, Bama fans believe that pass, that catch, that entire scene was magical. But from Georgia's point of view, it was like the last episode of "Game of Thrones." It was an unforgettable run of greatness culminated in a finale of "What did we do to deserve this heartbreak?" type of disbelief. 

There are so many other examples too: Alabama's running roughshod through the college football world en route to a three-peat only to be shocked by a pick-six against Auburn; the Tennessee Titans coming up a half-yard short on the final play of a Super Bowl; Sid Bream sliding into home plate just under the tag in the Atlanta Braves' 1992 National League Championship game; and so many more.

Sometimes the lead-up to the grand finale is better than the finale itself —  just like in "Game of Thrones."