There’s only one winner. As we know so well. And so painfully, if the players we choose, the team we choose, is not that winner. Then too often, that ultimate loss, in the Wimbledon final, in the Super Bowl or in this instance for the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup, overwhelms all the bliss and the results that went before.
Sure it was quiet in the Sharks locker room on Sunday night. Sure the words came slowly and arduously. Sure the fans who so much wanted a championship — as did the players — were downhearted, although after a time they could be heard chanting, “Let’s go Sharks, let’s go Sharks.” The team had gone far, farther than ever in its history. Just not far enough.
It’s no surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Sharks four times out of the six games they played in the Stanley Cup final that ended with a 3-1 Pens win at SAP Center. The Pens were the better team, and isn’t the better tram supposed to win?
The problem is fans, constituencies, deal less in logic than in emotion. Twenty-five years the Sharks were in business without going to the last round. Until this time. What a great story, the Sharks, guys who had been around for so long like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, making it to the top at last.
Sport, however, isn’t good wishes. It’s great performances, and the Penguins performed greater.
Fans at SAP booed when the traditionally white-gloved aides, stepping on red carpets that had been rolled out on the ice, pretentiously brought the mammoth cup to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who handed it to Pens captain Sidney Crosby, who then joyously skated about with the trophy above his head.
You almost could hear someone shout, “Not in our house,” but yes it was happening in their house, the “Shark Tank.”
It was a wonderful few days in Northern California, the Sharks in the Stanley Cup, the Warriors in the NBA Finals against Cleveland, COPA America soccer at Levi’s Stadium, the Giants facing the Dodgers at AT&T Park. The sports capital of someplace or other.
Now it’s up to the Warriors, and the Giants and Athletics. Hockey has fled.
“It’s a hard trophy to win,” reminded the Sharks’ Brent Burns, who with his shaggy beard and missing teeth is the exquisite example of a playoff hockey defenseman.
“Such a long battle,” sighed Burns.”You play all year. Then the playoffs. So many things have to go right to get yourself into this position. Then after you get here, the battle is not over.”
He is 31, certainly a veteran, six years with the Sharks after six previous years with the Minnesota Wild.
“This is a dream I wanted so long. It was a tight fight, hard hockey. Then both sides are shaking hands. That’s one of the great things about hockey. You battle a guy for two weeks, then you look him in the eye and congratulate him. But it’s better to be on the other side.”
The first three rounds, against the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks were on the other side. They were both a surprise and a delight. A quarter-century of frustration had been stopped. Except now there’s a different frustration, of being unable to reach the summit.
“It was a good season,” conceded the Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski. “We had a lot of fun along the way. We just didn’t believe it should end.”
Not like this, at least.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes onwww.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.