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Murph: USA’s cross country ski relay team reminds us why we keep coming back to sports

Let’s go over the current state of our major American sports:

— In the NBA, we have a team (the Dallas Mavericks) admitting it is trying to lose. We have another team (the Warriors) so bored with the regular season its head coach is emptying his motivational tricks bag just to keep his players interested. And we had a Sports Illustrated investigation into a team’s workplace (again, the Mavericks) prove to be so pitifully laden with sexual harassment and cover-ups, you wonder if the owner (Mark Cuban) is fit to be in the league.

— In college basketball, we have an iconic program (Louisville) being told its NCAA violations are so severe, their 2013 national championship win doesn’t even count anymore, and an ongoing federal investigation into the sport rumored by Yahoo! Sports to be so deep, that many major programs will be wrecked by its findings.

—In the NFL, the league’s crown jewel franchise (the New England Patriots) was the subject of an in-depth ESPN story that showed its historic quarterback (Tom Brady) and coach (Bill Belichick) to be warring over a personal trainer’s authority, so much so that the duo’s future is in doubt.

— In Major League Baseball, the belief that young fans are fleeing the game is so worrisome, a commissioner (Rob Manfred) is scrambling to change the rules to try and save the sport from dying off. Things are getting so dire, Rich Eisen reported that an MLB executive told him of an idea to let the trailing team send up any three batters it wants in the 9th inning. Yes, I just typed that sentence.

Amid the tanking and the ennui and the harassment and the violations and the bad feelings and the desperation, I present to you Jessica (Jessie) Diggins of Afton, Minnesota (pop: 2,900) and Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Alaska in reminding all of us why we keep coming back to sports, over and over and over and over.

How much do you know about cross country ski relays? Yeah, I thought so. Me, too. And yet, watching Randall hand the final lap to Diggins in an attempt to win USA’s first-ever cross country relay gold, and watching Diggins’ Miracle-on-Ice-styled effort against the greatest skiing nations on Earth — Norway and Sweden — might be the best thing you’ll see in the calendar year 2018.

(I mean, besides Pablo Sandoval catching Tim Lincecum in a Giants game this year.)

Check this out, and your goosebumps and thank me later:

https://www.nbcolympics.com/news/us-ends-42-year-olympic-cross-country-medal-drought-historic-gold

When have you ever seen anyone try as hard to win something as Diggins tried on that final lap, in those final 100 meters? I don’t know if I ever have.

Diggins’ guts and moxie and lungs and heart is one of my favorite Olympic moments ever, and reminds me that this whole silly dance we do in sports is, ultimately, so worth it. Yeah, color me an Olympic sap. ‘Cause I am *down* with these two American sporting heroes:

https://www.nbcolympics.com/video/kikkan-randall-jessie-diggins-detail-unreal-gold-medal

You’re welcome, sports fans.