Chris Weidman, Andy Murray, And Why We Love Sports

Above: Chris Weidman wins middleweight title fight at UFC 162 / Andy Murray wins Wimbledon

A British male hadn’t won at Wimbledon in 77 years, dating back to the last of the late Fred Perry’s three consecutive titles from 1934 to 1936.

While Anderson Silva’s reign of dominance was ten-times shorter than the drought of the English at the All England Club, it too was a streak that seemed destined to carry on with every victory the Brazilian legend collected.

In less than 18 hours split between Saturday evening in Las Vegas and Sunday morning in London, both streaks came to an end, captivating all who watched, and combining to be the perfect pairing to embody all that is truly awesome about sports.

Saturday evening, Chris Weidman did what 14 other men before him failed to do; he defeated Anderson Silva, becoming the new UFC middleweight champion in the process. The undefeated fighter from Baldwin, New York refused to deviate from his game plan, even when the champion egged him on, offering up his chin and dropping his hands to his waist like he has been wont to do in the past.

Where other fighters were no able to capitalize on the openings Silva was ready to hand them, Weidman connected, landing a short left hook on Silva’s jaw, dropping him to the canvas in a heap.

And just like that, a new champion had emerged, and the incredible unbeaten streak that carried the 38-year-old Brazilian to the top of the list of all-time greats in mixed martial arts history was no more.

The next morning and thousands of miles away, another streak came to an end, as Andy Murray collected a hard-fought, straight sets victory over world number one Novak Djokovic to become the 2013 Wimbledon Champion. It was a fairy tale ending to a 12-month stretch of ups and downs for Murray and the loyal British fans who have been thirsting for one of their own to be the last man standing on the burnt, browning grass at Centre Court for far too long.

Last year, Murray became the first British male to make the finals since Don Budge in 1938, and when he took the opening set against Roger Federer, it looked as if the drought would end, but it wasn’t meant to be. Federer roared back to win the next three sets, leaving Murray – and a nation – in tears on the final Sunday of Wimbledon. In cruel twist of fate, Murray would defeat Federer in straight sets just a month later to win the gold medal on the exact same court.

This year, however, the streak really did reach its end, as Murray turned aside Djokovic with scores of 6-4, 7-5, and 6-4 to capture the title in one of the most genuine feel-good sporting moments in recent memory.

Going into the weekend, the possibility of both things happening was very real; many viewed Weidman as the most dangerous opponent Silva had faced in years, while Murray was on a roll on grass, and had broken through to win his first major last summer at the U.S. Open.

But given the history – 16 consecutive victories and 77 years without a British male hoisting the golden trophy at Wimbledon – banking on either happening was going against the odds, and betting on both transpiring seemed like a stretch.

Yet here we are on Monday morning, with a new UFC middleweight champion and Andy Murray’s name listed next to the words “2013 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion,” reflecting on two tremendous performances that truly embody everything we love about sports.

Weidman’s win over Silva – particularly the way it happened – will stand as a marking in the memories of fight fans for years to come. Those who predicted the Hofstra University graduate would emerge victorious likely anticipated a decision win after 25 minutes spent on the canvas or in the clinch, but instead, the 29-year-old challenger did to the champion what he had done to so many others in the past, knocking him out cold with the perfect shot, sending everyone watching in shock, mouths agape, unsure if what they just saw was real.

Murray’s victory over Djokovic was less shocking, but even more impactful, the equivalent of the Boston Red Sox ending “The Curse of the Bambino” by winning the World Series in 2004. The front page of Monday’s edition of The Times captured the moment perfectly – a mass of people collectively embracing their champion, a combination of adulation, excitement, and relief all rolled into one.

They are the kinds of moments that make sports so outstanding, producing visceral reactions, and lasting imprints on our memories. They are the kinds of moments fans will talk about for years to come, individual “Where were you when…” markers for the MMA and tennis audiences, and the group of all-purpose sports fans that fall into both categories.

Seven days ago, if you told me that there would be a new UFC middleweight champion and a British male will have won Wimbledon, I’d have called you crazy, but that’s precisely what transpired over the weekend, and that is why we love sports so much.

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