THERE’S A LESSON for everyone in the Avs’ victory over St. Louis in Game Six of their Stanley Cup playoff series last Friday night. Maybe more than one.
“You sulk for three minutes and move on,” said captain Gabriel Landeskog after the Blues rallied to beat Colorado in overtime last week in Denver. “It’s as simple as that.”
Superstar Nathan MacKinnon, after scoring a hat trick with a spectacular third goal that put the Avs ahead 4-3 late in the third period, shrugged off his personal achievement: “It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to move on and come back and win Game Six.”
And that’s exactly what MacKinnon and his teammates did.
Of course, it wasn’t easy. And therein lies another lesson for us all. The Avs fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 but never stopped believing, never stopped working hard.
They trailed until J.T. Compher tied it with 9:42 to play in the third period, then didn’t lead until only five seconds remained in regulation. That’s when Darren Helm rifled a shot over goalie Ville Husso’s shoulder into the upper right corner of the net—to score his first playoff goal in six years.
After last week’s bitter disappointment, Avs fans were, of course, crushed. To those in the stands and in front of TVs wherever they were watching, it was a loss that lingered well past Wednesday. It’s always that way for fans.
“That was one of the most embarrassing losses I’ve seen in a long time,” wrote one on Twitter.
“The fact that MacKinnon’s goal was wasted is sickening,” wrote another.
But those feelings were not shared by the Avs. And that’s the big lesson.
“Wash it off,” is the popular sentiment in baseball. And nowhere in professional sports are there more opportunities to do just that than in baseball with its six-month, 162-game season.
The Rockies are washing off a lot right now. A few weeks ago, they scored seven runs in the seventh inning to take a 7-6 lead on Kansas City, only to see the Royals score twice against closer Daniel Bard in the ninth for an 8-7 victory. KC manager Mike Matheny called it “the best win of the year.”
It was demoralizing for Rockies fans, who couldn’t stop damning reliever Bard as unreliable, and the defeat as one that would linger.
But Colorado manager Bud Black said, “You learn to turn the page and bounce back.”
Wash it off.
It doesn’t always happen right away, as Bard himself proved. The next day he gave up a ninth-inning home run to Mike Yastrzemski and was the losing pitcher again.
In Pittsburgh a week later, though, he escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam in the bottom of the ninth, then returned in the bottom of the 10th after the Rockies had gone ahead 2-1. This time, he struck out two and got a groundout to third for a two-inning victory—his first multiple-inning appearance of this season.
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up,” said Babe Ruth.
I recently interviewed the Rockies’ first clubhouse manager, Dan McGinn, about the night catcher Brent Mayne was the winning pitcher for Colorado in a thrilling 7-6, 12-inning victory over Atlanta in 2000. (That’s the subject of my next book.)
“There was some hootin’ and hollerin’ and stuff,” McGinn recalled, “but it’s one day. Everybody’s there, and everybody’s part of the excitement. But then everybody realizes, you gotta go back to work the next day. You have to turn the page.”
Wash it off.
A short memory is an essential part of being a professional athlete. Somehow, they’ve learned to have it.
But the rest of us?
It’s not just that we live and die with our teams and take every defeat hard—especially those we feel should never have happened. It’s how we handle the setbacks and disappointments we all experience in our everyday lives.
Think of an example in your life, an unexpected obstacle, a negative outcome—a bummer. How long did it take you to “move on” or “turn the page”—to wash it off?
“Difficulties in life are intended to make us better . . .” said former Broncos head coach Dan Reeves.”
After their incredible comeback last Wednesday, the Blues, to a man, talked of the team’s resilience.
Miriam-Webster defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
Speaking of resilience without ever using the word, that famous baseball philosopher Satchel Paige said: ““Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way.”
The Avs did that last Friday night. Twice.
Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 14 books, eight of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at denny\email@example.com.