Sports is all about the timing
Despite the optimism that enveloped the greater Tampa area before this past NFL season, conventional wisdom said that it would be improbable for Tom Brady to switch teams, adjust to the competition in a new conference and division, and appear on stage after Super Bowl LV clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The images of Brady tossing the trophy during the Buccaneers victory boat parade on the Hillsborough River attest that anything is possible in sport.
At seemingly regular intervals, an upset or an achievement of historic proportions telegraphs a reminder that outcomes are not predicated on probability or prognostications.
Bianca Andreescu, Buster Douglas and Don Larsen triumphed under the brightest of spotlights despite skepticism that they could measure up when the stakes were highest.
In the final of the 2019 U.S. Open in New York, Andreescu became the first woman to win a singles title in her debut at the tournament.
She was 19 when she defeated the then 37-year-old Serena Williams, who was attempting to tie the record for the most Grand Slam singles title wins ever.
Twenty-nine years prior and nearly 7,000 miles away, in Tokyo, Douglas stepped into the ring to face Mike Tyson, the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world.
The odds were so great against Douglas that only one Las Vegas hotel would take bets on the fight. Douglas knocked out Tyson in the 10th round.
Larsen entered the 1956 World Series with a sub-.500 career pitching record. He had been pulled in the second inning of game two of the Series after walking four batters.
Yet, he was selected to start game five and rewarded manager Casey Stengel’s faith in him by throwing the first and, to this day, only perfect game in World Series history.
Baseball is flush with remarkable comebacks, fairytale endings and individual heroics.
The 1960 World Series had all three.
It was a series in which the mighty Yankees outscored underappreciated Pittsburgh 38-3 in winning games two, three and six, but was ultimately clinched by Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run for the Bucs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the first in a deciding World Series game.
History has also produced the 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey team, which stunned a veteran Soviet team in the gold medal game, 4-3.
The U.S. victory was later proclaimed the “Miracle on Ice.”
Less than two weeks earlier, the Americans had been throttled by the Soviets, 10-3, in an exhibition game.
The list goes on, but these few examples demonstrate that it doesn’t matter what occurred in the weeks, months or years before a championship event.
What counts is the level of performance in the moment.
In the movie Rocky II, the trainer/manager Mickey tells Rocky that he is going to have to transform himself from a southpaw to a right-handed fighter, if he is to have any chance at victory in the rematch with Apollo Creed.
When Rocky says that he “can’t learn to fight righthanded no more,” Mickey shouts, “What’s can’t. There ain’t no can’ts.”
Those words were spoken by a fictitious character in a movie, but they could have been the inspiration for any of the underdogs in sport who reached the pinnacle by beating the odds and disproving the skeptics.
After all, improbable is not the same as impossible.
Caltagirone resides in Altoona. He is a frequent contributor to Voice of the Fan.