WARNING: The following has no definitive conclusion, an exercise that for years has frustrated and angered and pushed sports fans to their emotional brinks, more contentious than conversational, more obsessive than objective.
More lunacy than lucid.
There is no unified answer. There is no unanimous opinion.
We’re about to examine one of those greatest-ever lists.
Underdogs have forever played a major role in scripting some of history’s better storylines, and the Golden Knights this NHL season certainly qualify as a narrative of unforeseen achievement.
They open Monday against Washington in the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena, and the fact an expansion team owns home ice advantage in the best-of-seven championship series just adds more annoyance for those who can’t fathom such a remarkable run from a first-year franchise.
I mean, the thought of it is driving some bonkers.
Canada is this close to proclaiming Monday a national day of mourning, and I’m pretty sure Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck never admitted the Western Conference Final ended and has been showing up for morning skates this week.
But it allows us to evaluate one of those ultra-popular subjective arguments, ones that make for good water cooler banter and fill segments across sports radio.
It’s Michael vs. LeBron sort of stuff, sure to elicit personal feelings and tastes and judgments on both sides.
It’s just not possible for many to merely accept the Knights have earned a place among all-time astounding sports stories, that no matter which side of the fence you exist in terms of how much of an expansion draft advantage they received — and it was significant, for sure — winning the Pacific Division and going 12-3 in the playoffs to reach this final is in itself worthy of inclusion.
Some folks just always have to compare.
“You have to think we’re up there with the craziest things that could happen in sports,” said Knights defenseman Luca Sbisa. “People tell us they think a movie will be made about this. Look at the sports books. They made us 500-1 odds (to begin the season), and I’m sure they’re now all clinching their butts a little bit. But that’s why people love sports. Every now and then something like this happens, and it’s just nice to be part of it.”
Man, if they’re clinching at 500-1, what in the world were they doing at 5,000-1?
‘Do you believe in …’
The latter were initial betting odds for Leicester City to win the Premier League in 2015-16, for a club from the East Midlands region of England to claim the country’s top division of football, a side that had to play near flawless soccer the last few months of the previous season to avoid being relegated.
Leicester City is the poster child for all things implausible in sports, and yet it hardly owns the patent on long shots creating magical memories.
There wasn’t a Knights player born when the Miracle on Ice occurred with the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, and yet while just a handful in the room are Americans, most understand Kurt Russell is an actor and wasn’t really the late Herb Brooks.
But the political legacy alone of that semifinal victory by the Americans over the powerful Soviets, in the midst of a tense Cold War between the two countries, along with the fact it changed the face of hockey in the States, places the result squarely among the greatest sports stories.
How to really decide?
Is the guarantee by Joe Namath in Super Bowl III more impressive than North Carolina State shocking Phi Slama Jamma? Was the fact Villanova beat Georgetown more compelling than the Miracle Mets? Where do the Giants of Super Bowl XLII rank?
Know only this: That all such examples, and several more like them, include those critical elements needed for consideration, things like theme and plot and interesting characters and a certain style and tone and drama to such incredible journeys.
And they all own a resolution … except one.
“I think we are the same kind of story as (Leicester City),” said Knights forward Tomas Tatar, resident soccer expert within the Vegas roster. “But the difference is, they finished on top. We haven’t won anything yet. We have one final step to make and it’s going to be the hardest one. We’re close, but we have a hard job left.
“I saw the movie (“Miracle”). It’s just so hard to compare. All we know is that this is something amazing, special for sure, and we’re one step away. We have to finish it, and then we can talk about comparing it to other great stories.”
Or it can be left to what it is: A 500-1 shot at season’s outset owns home ice in the Stanley Cup Final.
There’s nothing subjective about that.
Where does it rank?
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.