Will the final chapter be kind to Lightning?

by Gary Shelton on March 22, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

Will fans like the ending of the Bolts?/JEFFREY S. KING

Will fans like the ending of the Bolts?/JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Juliet died. The Godfather made amends. The Death Star blew up.

Hannibal had a friend for dinner. Rick put Ilsa on the plane. Private Ryan lived to be old.

We are all about the endings. The rest of the story, really, is just details. Rocky lost, then he won, then he made a bunch of sequels until he became a Grumpy Old Man. Keyzer Soze lost his limp. Wesley and Buttercup rode off into the sunset. Will Kane stayed past noon.

It is that way in sports, too. Memories only last when they are wrapped in confetti and accompanied by a trophy. You are a champion,

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The Bucs are still chasing another trophy./JEFFREY S. KING

The Bucs are still chasing another trophy./JEFFREY S. KING

or history will toss you out and leave you by the road. No one cares about how smooth the voyage was unless the ship pulls into the harbor.

This is what the Tampa Bay Lightning needs to remember. Theirs has been a terrific season, filled with highlights and stars and great moments. And if the Bolts stumble in the playoffs? We'll forget about all of it in an hour.

It is the way of the world. We have long memories when it comes to champions. But not for those who stumble short of the finish line. Then, we shrug and we turn around. Yep, winning is better than losing, but unless you're winning the whole shebang, no one will care.

Do you remember the 1999 Bucs season as special? No, because they lost in the NFC title game. Ah, but the 2002 Bucs' season is considered the gold standard around here. Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp made the Hall of Fame. John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Mike Alstott, Simeon Rice, Jon Gruden and Monte Kiffin are still cult favorites.

A bit later, it was the Lightning that were the golden boys. Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier and Dave Andreychuck and Nikolai Khabibulin and John Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko and John Tortorella are still idolized.

Ah, but every great team doesn't have a happy ending. Consider: The best regular season in the NFL, the NHL, the NBA and MLB all fell short of the title.

Think of the 2007 New England Patriots. The Patriots were terrific that year with Tom Brady throwing to Randy Moss and the the team winning games with ease. New England was 16-0 going into the Super Bowl, and already, there was "greatest ever" talk floated around. But the Giants upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and as unfair as it may seem, the Patriots were remembered as ... ordinary.

How about the 2001 MLB playoffs? The Mariners, under Lou Piniella, won a staggering 116 games. But the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the ACLS, and Seattle became a trivia answer.

(In 1906, the Cubs also won 116 games, but they lost 10 fewer games. Still, the Cubs lost, too, falling to the White Sox in the World Series.)

It happens in basketball, too. In 2015-16, the Golden State Warriors won at an .890 rate, They won a record 73 games. But in the Finals, the Warriors lost to the Cleveland Cavs. No immortality for you.

How about 1972-73? As good as the Boston Celtics have been through history, none of their teams were as good as that year. They won 68 games  on their way to the post-season. But they lost to the Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals. Say goodnight, Boston.

Because of a shorter season, perhaps, or the one-and-done format of the post-season, the NFL has had a lot of regular-season wonders who have come up flat.

How about the Bears? In 1934, Chicago went 13-0 ... and lost in the NFL championship game to New York. In 1942, Chicago went 11-0 ... and lost in the NFL championship game to Washington.

During the Super Bowl years, both Indianapolis (2009) and Carolina (2015) started their seasons 14-0. Neither won the Super Bowl.

Six teams: the '67 Raiders, the '69 Colts, the '98 Vikings, the '04 Steelers, the '11 Packers and the '15 Panthers all went 15-1 in the regular season. None of them won the Super Bowl.

A bad ending? How about the 1968 Colts? They were undefeated (11-0-2) going into their final regular season game. They didn't make the playoffs.

If the Lightning need a cautionary tale from their own sport, however, they can start with the 95-96 Red Wings. Detroit won a record 62 games that season behind  Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey and Nicklas Lidstrom, But in the NHL Finals that year, the Wings lost to Colorado in six games.

So it goes. This could be remembered for the finest regular season in team history, or for the biggest disappointment. Such is the tightrope that the team is on.

How about college football? Once, I was in a discussion as to the best-ever college teams. But both of them lost their bowl game: 1983 Nebraska and 1986 Miami. You could put the '08 Oklahoma team, the '06 Ohio State team, the '02 Miami team and the '05 Southern California team into the discussion. They all lost their bowl game..

In other words, good doesn't guarantee a great finish. That's what is at risk for this Lightning team. Nothing is guaranteed. Something may yet trip them up.

This, you know:

The finish will be terrific.

Or terrible.

Stay tuned.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecil DeBald March 22, 2018 at 9:16 am

Terry Malloy coulda been a contender, Lee lost to Grant, Pluto’s lost its planethood, ET, Goodfellows and Saving Private Ryan all lost the Oscar, Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican Bobsled Team didn’t medal, Dan the Man lost his only superbowl appearance…

But your point is well taken, Gary, sports teams for sure are only remembered if they win it all…or lose in spectacular fashion…the Loveable Loser’s of 1962…

Go Lightning

Cecil

Reply

Gary Shelton March 22, 2018 at 12:13 pm

I don’t think any loser would be lovable these days. Though the Rays have tried.

Loved the Pluto line. You’re funnier than I am.

Reply

Bill Myers March 21, 2018 at 10:46 pm

That’s what I’ve been talking about! Getting to the post season for the Bolts is pretty much a lock! The post season of course is a whole new season where every team starts out fresh! This has been a great season for the Lightning and I just hope they can make it a fantastic one! No tripping allowed! GO BOLTS!!

Reply

Gary Shelton March 21, 2018 at 11:50 pm

A lot of fans started thinking about the post season from January on. I think fans would fine in the short run if they make the Finals, but this season will only be memorable if they win it all. I’m ready to get it started.

Reply

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