The Beautiful Unlikely

When I was a teenager, my dad was fond of setting my curfew early and saying, “Nothing good happens after 10:30.” With adult hindsight, I can admit that he was, for the most part, spot-on about that.

In my present life, however, something really good happens after 10:30 (actually, from 10-11) each weekday night: “As It Happens” airs on Minnesota Public Radio.

Produced by the Canadian Broadcast Company and featuring all the puns and jazz flute one can stomach (my threshold for both is admittedly pretty high), AIH often includes stories that wouldn’t appear on U.S. news shows. A couple of nights ago, they aired an interview with Norwegian artist Morten Traavik about his cross-cultural multi-genre project, which includes a delightful cover of A-ha’s “Take On Me” by young musicians from North Korea:

There is much that is unlikely about this performance, beyond just the pairing of the song and the instrumentation. The AIH story noted that North Koreans don’t get to listen to a lot of pop music; that is, their government doesn’t allow it. It is unlikely that the young musicians had heard “Take On Me” before Traavik introduced them to the song (along with some Norwegian folk and classical music, too), and it is unlikely that we North Americans would have access to images or a video of North Korean citizens doing everyday things; most of what we see coming out of the country is highly stylized and controlled.

Isn’t the realization of the unlikely one of the greatest pleasures about watching (and playing) sports? It is unlikely that a pitcher will throw a perfect game, but when it happens, it’s thrilling. Likewise, we crave walk-offs and Hail Marys, buzzer-beaters, broken records, and incredible comebacks. Often a great moment becomes great because before it happened, we didn’t think it would or could happen: no person could run the mile in under four minutes; no black man would sign a Major League contract; no gymnast — let alone a 14-year-old — could score a perfect ten.

A little bit (or a lot) of talent plus the right opportunity can produce something not only sweet, but beautiful — like the sound of an accordion quintet.

—-> Here’s a neat listing of some great moments in sports, according to one writer. What are some of your favorite moments, unlikely or otherwise?

One Comment to “The Beautiful Unlikely”

  1. Dude. You’re my hero. Good finds, crafty segues, fantastic writing. Also, I can’t stop watching those Koreans rock out. It’s kinda beautiful.

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