In sports, and in life, the small moments are oftentimes the most meaningful.
I noticed something recently that stuck with me for a few days. Late last month, I covered the girls state wrestling tournament in Coralville. It was a hectic, but fun day full of inspirational and important stories, like the state title victories of Charles City’s Kiki Connell and Lilly Luft.
But the most poignant moment I witnessed took place on the medal stand, and involved someone who ultimately fell short of their goal. Osage senior Emma Grimm, who finished second at last year’s state meet, came into the day hoping to clinch her first title.
In the end, Grimm finished 3rd overall at 126 pounds, after losing in the semifinals to Avery Meier of Waverly-Shell Rock
After the matches are done, the wrestlers all stand on a podium and have their names announced over the loudspeaker. When the announcer got to Grimm’s name, she closed her eyes for a second, and took a deep breath to steel herself when the words “third place” echoed through the arena.
She was clearly disappointed that she hadn’t come out with the win after countless hours of work over the past several years, but it was one of the most heartfelt and human moments I have seen in awhile.
It made me think again about the small moments in sports, the ones that make it more than just a game. I wrote about a few them last year.
Unfortunately, those moments tend to get overlooked. Except by me.
To me, the best thing about being a sportswriter is finding the human element to any story. Why does the second baseman jump over the first base line when he runs onto the field? Why does the wide receiver point to the sky after scoring a touchdown? It’s those things, the spaces between the home runs and touchdowns, that make sports interesting and fun to cover.
Here are just a few more of those moments in sports that I love.
Wrestling cheers: When I first arrived in Iowa in January 2019, I knew almost nothing about wrestling, and was frankly bewildered by a lot of what was going on. I understood the basic rules, but I didn’t know what people were talking about when they mentioned specific wrestling moves, and I nearly jumped out of my skin when fans would suddenly leap from their seat and shout “TWO! TWO!” at the referee.
I know now that these fans are not just screaming their favorite number, but are calling for two points after a takedown. The sport makes sense to me now, and the drama it creates often has me on the edge of my seat. My boss would kill me if I ever took to screaming at the referees, but in my head, I am shouting “TWO!” along with you all.
The first timeout: There is a point in some basketball games where a team goes on a big scoring run, which leads the opposing coach to call a timeout to try to get their squad back on track.
When the ref blows the whistle, the other team’s crowd and bench goes nuts for a few seconds, celebrating the fact that they have pushed the opponent to the brink. Even though I am forbidden from ever cheering in front of you, I do enjoy that moment very much. Despite my face, I am oftentimes having a tremendous amount of fun when I am doing my job.
The catcher point: In baseball, there is a wonderful little flash of friendship that brings me great joy. When a pitcher throws an especially good pitch, at exactly the right spot, the catcher will sometimes recognize the pitcher’s efforts by pointing right back at him with his glove. It’s so full of camaraderie and bonding. I love it.
The post game football speech: Win or lose, a good post game football speech gives me chills. After a victory, the coach will give a shout-out to one or two of the key players, and the team will end it with a loud cheer. After a loss in the playoffs, the coach will usually still tell his players how proud he is of them. Either way, it leads to young men showing emotions, which is something I have gone on record supporting. Happy or sad, the post-game football speech is something that will stick with people for a long time.
The first bite of nachos: Something salty, something sweet, something pricy, something meat. No, it’s not a traditional wedding rhyme, it’s my ballpark food ritual. Back in the days when we were allowed to attend professional games, I would try to sample as many of the stadiums' food offerings as my wallet and belt buckle could handle.
Hot dogs, Dippin’ Dots, and a lukewarm $15 beer typically satisfy the meat, sweet, and pricy portions of the list, but nachos bring the salt. One of the best parts of attending a game is the first bite out of your $9 nacho tray, before the cheese has gone cold and the sodium has mixed with your bloodstream to create a bubbling stew of dehydrated regret. Once I’m vaccinated and ready to attend professional games again, that is one of the moments I am most excited for.
In the meantime, please keep wearing your mask and staying safe. Hopefully soon, COVID-19 will fade into our collective past, and we can all get back to enjoying our favorite moments in life, both big and small.
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.