Virtually every sports fan has a story of a Game 7 that broke their hearts.
At least, those sports fans who enjoy games incorporating a best-of-seven round somewhere — baseball, hockey, basketball … There’s Game 5 do-or-die contests in baseball too, in the Division Series, but “Game 5” doesn’t quite come with the same gravitas. Game 7 is the ultimate. Six games played, three up and three down, and two undoubtedly tired teams must then fight one last time, winner take all. They are sports all wrapped up in one defining game: the highest highs, the lowest lows, the nail-biting and teeth-gnashing and incoherent joyful shouting and some of the most heart-racing seconds you will ever experience.
I’ve got plenty of Game 7 stories, having grown up a hockey fan. It’s where the awe and terror of those words was instilled in me, bound into my instincts. Say “Game 7” to those of us in the know and our hearts begin to pound and our hands start to sweat. They’re the scariest words in sports. Those nights are the best day of someone’s sporting life, and the worst day of someone else’s.
Last season was my first MLB playoffs, and we all know well what Game 7 broke many hearts (and buoyed up many others) then. If we’re going to be perfectly accurate, though, it was Game 6 that did the breaking; the next was just the cherry on top. It ensured that I’ll never be able to confidently say “Down to their last strike” about the Cardinals again—a valuable lesson that no game is ever certain, no lead protected, until the game is over. The Rangers had so many chances, were so close every time, and could never quite make it.