Carlo Experiences Cruel Reality of Sports

Every athlete plays his or her sport with a single goal that trumps everything else. Everybody wants a chance to compete in the playoffs, with an opportunity to win a championship.

Sure, kids are taught when they are young that sports are about having fun and building camaraderie. All they have to do is give their absolute best effort, and in the end, it doesn’t matter if their team wins or loses as long as they tried hard and they enjoyed themselves. That’s how kids are taught because, at a young age like that, we don’t want them to become so overwhelmed with competitiveness that they lose the ability to show good sportsmanship.

But eventually, as kids continue to play sports and they continue to grow older, the competitive spirit continues to grow inside them. Some kids love playing their sports so much that they continue into high school, maybe even college, and the really lucky ones — the ones gifted with God-given talent — might even get a chance to play professionally.

Brandon Carlo Bruins
In two NHL seasons, Brandon Carlo has been injured just before the playoffs both times. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As they continue playing the sport they love, they come to realize that they aren’t just playing the sport because they enjoy it. They play the sport because they want to be the best at it. They want to reach the top of the mountain, and look down at all the other players and teams who couldn’t make it as far as they did. That’s the spirit of competition that makes sports great, and the athletes that are serious about their sport realize that their single biggest goal is to play in the postseason — because that’s when they have the opportunity to prove that they are indeed the best.

But sometimes, sports — and life — are just plain cruel. For 21-year-old Brandon Carlo, a second-year defenseman for the Boston Bruins, the cruel reality of sports has now crept up on him twice, slashing his postseason dreams just before they’ve gotten started.

An Unfair Ending … Again

This past Saturday, the Bruins willed their way to a convincing win at home over the Florida Panthers. As usual, they fell into an early 1-0 hole, but then powered back to score an amazing five unanswered goals to win 5-1.

But the victory came at a very unfortunate cost for Carlo, who went down to the ice awkwardly while battling for control of the puck. Just like that, he had a fractured ankle, and had to be stretchered off the ice. Carlo’s season was over in an instant, with fewer than two weeks remaining until the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

As the late great Yogi Berra would say, it was deja vu all over again. The same thing happened to Carlo toward the end of last season, only that time, he suffered a concussion instead. Nonetheless, his season was ended prematurely just as the Bruins were about to head into the playoffs. Fortunately for him, he didn’t miss much last year. The Bruins were still learning how to get back on their feet under new head coach Bruce Cassidy, who had replaced Claude Julien just two months prior, and they were eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in the first round.

Brandon Carlo Bruins
Brandon Carlo suffered a fractured ankle against the Panthers on Saturday. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This year is a different story. Boston has a chance to enter the playoffs as the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference. As one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, they have a serious shot at making a run all the way to the Stanley Cup.

The only problem is Carlo won’t be a part of it, because the cruelty of life and sports got in the way in the form of a broken ankle. Every NHL player comes into every season with the goal of playing in the playoffs and competing for the Cup, and the for the second year in a row, Carlo has been stopped just short. That’s not something I would wish upon the most hated player on my most hated team. Whether you like somebody or you hate them, you never want to see them get injured, and especially not right before the playoffs. Injuries can be a real dream killer.

That’s just one of the many crazy things about sports. They aren’t always nice.