Rupp’s basketball quote surprisingly found its way onto the DecoTurf tennis surface of Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday, ringing especially true at this year’s US Open men’s semifinals.
No one predicted #14 seed Marin Cilic’s upset of #2 seed Roger Federer, nor #10 seed Kei Nishikori’s shocking victory over #1 seed Novak Djokovic to reach tomorrow’s finals.
The unexpected Cilic – Nishikori match will mark the first time in 38 major finals in nearly a decade that Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray will not be represented.
Can tomorrow’s US Open men’s final be the harbinger for a changing of the guard in men’s tennis? Only time will tell. Tennis fans will look back a few years from now at the landscape of the men’s game to see whether tomorrow’s final will serve as a bellwether for the sport.
However, it was only a few years ago that the landscapes of other sports were totally different than where sports fans find them today.
In the shocking way tennis fans could not have comprehended both Djokovic and Federer being upset in the US Open semis, football, basketball, baseball, golf and soccer fans have also found themselves incredulous by what has transpired in their sports in recent years.
Without doubt, a Djokovic-less, Federer-less, Nadal-less, Murray-less US Open tennis final is pretty mind boggling.
Well, how about NBA Playoffs without perennial powerhouses Los Angeles Lakers or the Boston Celtics?
Or, NFL Playoffs without former Super Bowl winning franchises like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants?
Or, Tiger Woods failing to show up on a leader board or, worse yet, missing the cut at a PGA event?
Or, dominant cyclist Lance Armstrong not being allowed on a bike again in a sanctioned race?
Or, the most decorated Olympian ever Michael Phelps failing to qualify for a swimming race?
Or, favored Brazil getting walloped 7 – 1 by eventual champion Germany on its home pitch in this summer’s FIFA World Cup?
Or, Spain, the 2010 World Cup champion, failing to advance from group stage in this summer’s tournament?
Or, recent World Series entrants like the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox falling so fast from the Fall Classic to bottom of their respective MLB divisions in just a few years?
Yes, a Cilic – Nishikori finals in the grandest tennis event on the tour is as unexpected as it is fabulous.
The US Open finals pairing is also as improbable as the Butler Bulldogs advancing to back-to-back NCAA basketball championship games, the Curse of the Bambino being lifted in Boston, Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House, the Miracle on Ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics and innumerable other upsets across all levels and types of sport.
And, that’s why Adolph Rupp’s famous sports adage is equally as applicable today as when he originally coined it in 1965.
Yes, coach, “That’s why we play the games.”
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!