Last November, 71 people died when a plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team to the biggest game of its history crashed into a mountain in Colombia. Only three players for Chapecoense—known to fans as Chape—survived. Nineteen died. A heartbreaking deep dive into the tragedy by ESPN brings the final moments of the team's doomed flight to the South American Cup final to life: "The lights in the cabin go out, and the air circulator goes quiet. There is no turbulence or shaking; it feels instead as if the plane is floating toward the ground." There are the frantic calls to an air traffic controller, the plane's speed and elevation, the way it breaks when it hits the mountain, and the difficulties faced by rescuers.
But that's not really what the piece is about. It's about the team's groundskeeper destroying his stadium's drainage system in a heroic effort to keep the coffins dry. It's about the players in the locker room, celebrating their final victory before the tragedy. It's about one player in particular who can't stop texting the 19-year-old love of his life who just told him she was pregnant. It's about the team's longtime announcer waking up among the trees and the mud and wondering where his friends are. It's about the stray dog who used to chase birds inside the stadium but hasn't been seen since the tragedy. And it's about how the announcer, and groundskeeper, and survivors, and families, and fans all came together to witness a Chape goal 54 days after the crash. Read the full piece here. (Read more Longform stories.)