I know this blog can get dreadfully solipsistic at times, so, like, y'know, sorry, whatever, shut up.
I know when I've seen a great moment in sport because I laugh. And I do mean "moment" here: it doesn't happen when I see, for instance, Alberto Contador repel attack after attack apparently so comfortably it looks eerie, or when Roger Federer and Andy Roddick give two of the greatest ever displays of serving, or when the horse I've backed in the Grand National runs a masterful four-and-a-half miles, staying near the head of the race but on the fringe of the pack, out of trouble, before surging to a glorious victory (thank you always, Comply Or Die).
No, it has to be something extraordinary and suddenly climactic. Like a joke, in fact. Not that I'm a neuroscientist, exactly (or even approximately), but I can well imagine the two experiences sharing some circuitry. They are structurally similar: a build-up which may or not resolve in a way that may or may not be strong. Football is great for this type of thing. You watch a game in the knowledge that you may not see a single goal, so when there is a goal, it has weight. And it rarely comes from just nothing: it is usually preceded by the anticipation that comes with a build-up of some sort. Most of these build-ups yield nothing, but some bring resolution. And some of these resolutions are so exceptional to the exceptional that they take you utterly aback and move you to respond in an unusual way. They are brilliant punchlines.
The YES I'M DAMN WELL GOING TO MENTION IT AGAIN Wimbledon final of last year seemingly had the best of all brilliances. As well as being one of the few matches that genuinely deserved to be called epic, it contained moments of such audacity that, even though you knew a point was, by definition, going to result from the rally, you were moved to awe – and me to laughter. Not big belly laughs, granted, but happy, disbelieving laughs that were nonetheless real for that.
But I now have a new sign of greatness to look out for: falling off the couch, instinctively clasping my hand to my mouth and saying in a – get this – totally non-ironic way: "Oh. My. God." Repeat: non-ironic. Thus dawns the post-post-post-post-modern age.
(Wait — is it the post-post-post-post-post-modern age? I can never remember.)