Wichita State, KC Royals among most surprising teams


wichita state shockers-2014-ncaa-tournament

Bruce Springsteen wrote and sang about the “Glory Days” of a high school buddy who was a huge baseball star. Of course, the glory days of the Kansas City Royals were back at almost the exact same time of the Springsteen single by the same name. KC last won the World Series in 1985, back when the Giants’ Tim Lincecum was still in diapers.

The Royals aren’t the first team to rise from obscurity and regain national headlines. Look back at some of the “really?” teams of sports in recent years. One team, Wichita State is right in there home state.

wichiita-state-shockers cheerleaders

Wichita State Men’s Basketball, 2013

A program with very little history, the Shockers suddenly found themselves squaring off with Louisville in the national semifinal. Wichita State arrived as a 9 seed–not even technically projected to pass the first round (or the second round, or whatever the 8/9 games are with this play-in development) as the bracket is structured. Yet despite a humble Missouri Valley Conference background and a solitary previous Final Four appearance, Wichita State came within four points of knocking off the eventual champion Cardinals.

wichita state shockers

St. Louis Rams, 1999

Nobody’s formula for winning the Super Bowl involves an undrafted quarterback who had been stocking grocery store shelves until he hit the Arena League. Yet that’s exactly what the Gateway City’s team did in 1999. With Kurt Warner calling the shots, the Rams outscored everybody to win the Super Bowl in a one-possession triumph over the Tennessee Titans.

Golden State Warriors, 1975

Speaking of formulas, how would you rate the prospects of a 48-34 NBA team winning it all? Back during the Ford administration, former Warriors player Al Attles was the head man of Northern California’s NBA team when he led Jamaal Wilkes, Phil Smith, and Rick Barry past the heavily favored Washington Bullets in not just a major upset, but an upset four-game sweep. The Warriors are still waiting for their next title….still waiting…..still waiting.

Golden State Warriors new logo

Alan Kulwicki, 1992

It came down to the season’s final event, the Hooters 500, for the 1992 NASCAR championship. Busted transmission and all, Kulwicki got a love offering from Swervin’ Ernie Irvan in the form of a spinout that collected Davey Allison, clearing the path for the #7 Hooters car to grind and grunt across the line in 2nd place–good enough to edge the race’s winner, Bill Elliott, by ten points in the final standings. Kulwicki had surged from 278 points down just six races from season’s end to collect the title. It would be his only Cup championship, as he died in a plane crash just a few months later.

kansas city royals

Something about the energy produced by these teams improbable runs is inspiring to has-been amateur athletes. It gets them to start thinking they might still be amateur athletes. They’re slathering on the liniment, sizing cleats, and checking out the new softball bats for 2014. They’re latching onto the Royals’ magic and trying to internalize it for themselves.

Play ball.

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  1. http://Brian says

    This is really nice to read…man…

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