It was the longest four seconds of my life as a sports writer.
Not the 4.2 seconds on the music box when the Toronto Raptors Marc Gasol passed the ball to Kawhi Leonard during the seventh game of the Raptors' second round.
We all saw one version of this game – an out-of-bound game late in the game. Not quite routine, but we see them often enough.
And from my point of view, as someone who works when people play, a shot to win a tie is a much better suggestion than a win-lose scenario.
A missed summer beater in a tie simply means overtime and, in my view, some time out and breaks to find out what's going on if I try to cobble together a meaningful story.
It's an "every Tuesday" thing in the NBA.
But when the history of a franchise begins to falter and how did the psyche of an entire city feel, if not the country?
These approximately four seconds from when the ball leaves Leonard's fingertips to when it finally stops jumping and falling felt like an eternity interrupted by an avalanche .
As a sports journalist at heart who plays a TV guy on TV, the expectation is that my column about the game everyone is watching should be as close as possible to the last buzzer. We're talking about the buzzer – actually a horn in the NBA – or minutes later.
You have the option to tidy things up in a second draft that includes quotes, colorful details, and everything you can collect in locker rooms and other players after the game. However, the first draft was written spontaneously.
It is far from working in the intensive care unit during a pandemic – or, to be honest, even storing it on the shelves of grocery stores – but it has its burdens and requires tricks of the trade that go beyond the quick Go beyond typing, which helps absolutely and not mine is strength.
The closer the game gets, the more difficult the task becomes to the point that in really close competitions, many authors work on two stories at the same time – one when Team A wins, another when Team A loses – and every now and then The fourth quarter (or the third period or the last innings) are playing out.
The result is millions of words written about the outcome of playoffs on laptops around the world that have never been released – a complete alternative sporting reality in which the Blue Jays didn't win the sixth game in 1993, Kerry Fraser didn't This spring, Doug Gilmour didn't miss the Gretzky high stick call. Vince Carter's shot against the Sixers in 2001 hits the edge and falls, and Tom Brady and the Patriots don't finish the Super Bowl comeback against the Falcons.
Choose your magical sport moment and there is either a happier or a sad story – depending on your perspective – that never saw the light of day.
One of the "best" stories that I – at least officially – never wrote was my column "Raptors win the title", which was lined up with the Raptors in a few minutes in game 5 of the NBA final and was ready for use until six. This became irrelevant after Steph Curry and Klay Thompson scored nine points in 95 seconds to send the series back to Oakland.
But back to "The Shot". Since I jumped live to the post-game show with Brad Fay and Alvin Williams, I saw from our broadcasting position in section 105 which is the kitty corner to Raptors Bank – an excellent vantage point, as it turned out.
I sit there with my laptop open and wait for the unknowable to happen so I can write down the first thing that comes to my mind, pray that it makes sense to send it to the people on Sportsnet.ca and then close my laptop, swing around to step in front of the camera and try to understand everything on live TV.
So, from a purely professional point of view, when Leonard & # 39; s shot – which was about 13/10 on difficulty when he pushed right at full speed with Ben Simmons and then Joel Embiid in pursuit – hit the edge , I met almost relaxed.
He missed. We're going to work overtime, and I have more time to get rid of the mess I typed into my computer.
Then it bounced off again.
At that point I was confused. I had seen the light come on around the backboard to signal the end of the game. The horn had sounded. The ball didn't go in … what was going on?
Then it bounced off again.
Damn it. This ball could fall. This could be hairy.
I will always remember the silence at that moment. The entire fourth quarter had been a price war with the Raptors and Sixers. Leonard had been great – on a rough, rough shooting night (10 out of 30) he ended up with an upswing and lost 15 points in 6 out of 9 shooting in his 10 minutes in the fourth. The crowd in the Scotiabank Arena was locked up for every possession. It reminded me of seeing Celtics-Lakers when I was a kid when the energy flowed through the (shitty) TV.
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But for those few beats, the arena was quiet.
The third and fourth jump saw the ball being sucked into the edge as if the net were magnetized, but you never know that these are the Raptors trying to leave 25 years of sketchy history behind them.
When it finally failed, it was as if the beat was falling in the largest club in the world – uncoreographed and yet perfectly synchronized, the entire arena exploded and acted as a unit.
I just started typing and hoped for the best:
"Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
It is not a Dr. Seuss-Rhyme, but it's a storybook that ends like you probably won't see in the Scotiabank Arena or anywhere else. "
That was what I came up with to find about 1,500 words that explain the path and how and why it matters.
And then I turned around, put up the microphone for television and finally had a moment to see all the faces.
Nobody moved. Everyone wanted this moment to last forever. People hugged and clapped and cheered. Everyone smiled and tears of joy ran down their faces.
And I breathed.