Magnificent. Miraculous. Magical.
Those are the descriptions of the Tampa Bay Rays comeback that culminated with an Evan Longoria home run a few minutes after midnight Thursday morning. And they still don't do justice to a night that ranks among the best in Tampa Bay sports history.
These are the moments that unite a region and span the geographic divides of water and interstates, neighborhoods and social status. These are the shared experiences that help transform a crowd into a community. And these are the games that knit sports into the fabric of a place right along with landmark museums and vibrant downtowns and gorgeous waterfronts.
History will put into perspective the Rays' unprecedented September comeback, the Boston Red Sox collapse and the significance of Wednesday night's individual heroics. In the longer view, making the playoffs for the third time in four years with a modest $41 million payroll will take on greater meaning. And that crowd of more than 29,000 witnesses in Tropicana Field will surely swell over the years to 290,000 in the retelling by fans who will swear they were there.
But for now, Tampa Bay can savor the present. Forget about the low attendance and the outdated stadium and the deadlocked talks about a new home for the Rays. Amid the high unemployment, low housing values and angst about the future, here is a reason to smile and feel good about a fairy tale season by a team that never gives up.