NBC sportscaster Bob Costas be damned, the celebration that ensued after Kirk Nieuwenhuis' walk-off homer lifted the New York Mets to a 4-3 comeback win over the Chicago Cubs epitomized why sports are worth watching and hapless teams are worth following.
During a break in golf coverage of the U.S. Open, Costas recounted the dramatic Met win as highlights rolled of Nieuwenhuis gleefully flinging his helmet in the air and leaping into a huddle of ecstatic teammates.
Costas inexplicably added a sarcastic footnote to the celebration:
"And a team 14 games under .500 celebrates as if it just won the seventh game of the World Series."
The commentator then reached for an even more expansive, and bizarre, putdown:
"Another indication of the ongoing decline of Western Civilization."
Watch and listen to Costas in all his sardonic glory:
I understand that Costas' hyberbole here is supposed to be humorous, but the joke falls flat for a number of reasons of which Costas probably isn't aware.
He probably doesn't know, for instance, how many recent outings Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner had pitched with grit and general precision only to have a buoyant performance sink without run production, or worse, drown in a wave of fielding errors.
In Hefner's most recent outing prior to the Cubs game, the Mets coughed up five unearned runs while he was on the mound.
The Mets' and Hefner's woes continued against the Cubs. In the fifth inning, sure-handed third basemen David Wright made a spectacular diving play on a grounder destined for left field, but he then uncharacteristically launched an easy toss far over the head of first basemen Daniel Murphy.
Murphy scrambled for the ball and threw off-balance and off-line toward home as Hefner watched two more unearned runs threaten to further mar his already ugly record with yet another well-pitched loss.
But the Mets finally got him off the hook.
In a season in which the playoffs are a distant field of dreams, it would have been easy for the Mets to roll over in the face of a daunting 3-0 ninth-inning deficit.
Fittingly, though, the heroics fell to a Met who has fought hard against failure.
The Mets had high hopes for their rookie center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis in 2012, and early in the season he exceeded expectations. Nevertheless, a precipitous hitting drop-off landed him back in the minors. He made the Met squad for the beginning of the 2013 season, but his woeful start led to yet another demotion.
Nieuwenhuis got another call-up after homering in eight of his last 14 games in Las Vegas, but he still failed to capitalize on his return to the Mets. Before a pinch-hit on Saturday, he was 0-for-21.
So the generally sour tone of this season for the Mets in general, and players like Nieuwenhuis in particular, made his three-run walk-off homer that much sweeter.
The unbridled revelry was fitting. Costas' Grinch-like sarcasm wasn't.
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