Saturday, July 16, 2005

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My contribution to the greatest sports moments meme

Earlier this month, Steven Taylor of PoliBlog provided his anwer to the "Ten Unforgetable Sports Moments that You Actually Saw (not ones you saw later on tape)" meme. Kevin Drum offered his as well. More specifically, it's events you saw live, be it in person or on television.

Taylor puts together a pretty good list, but he betrays his youth -- most of his examples are in the last ten years.

Here are my answers -- and remember, the key adjective is "unforgettable," not "greatest":

10) The Fumble (1978). The New York Giants had a regular-season game wrapped up against the Philadelphia Eagles. Then QB Joe Pisarcik was told to hand the ball off to Larry Csonka instead of downing it himself. Herman Edwards (now the coach of the New York Jets) caught the fumble and went on to score, propelling the Eagles into the playoffs. Because of this play, in part, my father still cannot watch the Giants live.

9) The Pass (1985). Doug Flutie's 60 yeard heave to Gerald Phelan in the closing seconds of a regular season game against Miami on Thanksgiving Day. It capped an extraordinary display of offense by both teams.

8) The Tackle (1999). The Tennessee Titans' Steve McNair, on the last play of scrimmage in Super Bowl, completes a pass to Kevin Dyson at the Rams' one yard line. Mike Jones makes the game-saving tackle as Dyson tries in vain to break the plane of the end zone.

7) Mark Ingram's catch (1990). Super Bowl XXV, third quarter, down by two, third and 13 at the Buffalo 32. Ingram catches a two yard pass, breaks four tackles, and gets the first down. The Giants take the lead on that drive, which was the longest in Super Bowl history.

6) The Dunk (1983). Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma was supposed to destroy N.C. State in the 1983 NCAA tournament final. Lo and behold, an airball + Lorenzo Charles = Jim Valvano running around the court like a maniac.

5) Joe Theisman's last play (1985). Monday Night Football's introduction of it's "super-slo-mo" instand replay coincided with Lawrence Taylor sacking Theisman into the back of Leonard Marshall (I think). Immediately after the play ended, Taylor started gesticulating wildly to the Redskins bench for their trainer. ABC showed why -- the images of Theisman's leg breaking must have been replayed in super slo mo at least ten times before play resumed. I have no memory of who won that game, but I'll always remember Theisman's shin bending in the most unnatural way.

4) Michael Jordan's final minute as a Bull (1998). Strong drive to the basket for a lay-up. A steal of Karl Malone under the Bulls' basket. A a 20-footer with 5.2 seconds left, nothing but net. Having seen the final shot replay numerous times, I'm still not sure if Byron Russell fell down because Jordan faked him out or if there was a push.

3) The fourth set tie-breaker (1979). The British despised John McEnroe before his first final against Bjorn Borg. After the tiebreaker in the fourth set -- in which McEnroe fought off five match points -- the relationship turned more into a love-hate one. With the big serves in today's tennis, I'm not sure this match will ever be equalled.

2) Back to Foulke (2004). Until Foulke caught that ball, I wasn't completely convinced that the Red Sox were actually going to win the World Series (The NESN DVD, interestingly enough, shows that Foulke almost didn't hold onto the ball). The moment he caught it, I stopped caring about 1978, 1986, etc....

1) David Ortiz's final at-bat, ALCS, Game 5 (2004). Sure, Ortiz hit more dramatic homers, but his at-bat against Loiza led to the walk-off hit than ended the greatest game of the 2004 postseason, and perhaps the greatest game ever in baseball. Loiza hada lousy 2004 season, but he pitched well that night, and Ortiz fought off five straight nasty cut fastballs before he finally muscled the game-winning single.

The end of this game is #1 for another reason -- my wife finally got it. Until Game 5, Erika thought my Red Sox fandom was a particularly extreme aberrational aspect of my behavior. Fox's coverage of the extra innings -- in which there were plenty of shots of fans on both sides gnawing at anything to try to keep some semblance of emotional control -- convinced my lovely wife that this was a regional epidemic, and hardly unique to me.

That's it -- feel free to add yours. [Where the hell is the Miracle on Ice? You saw that, right?--ed. Oh, I saw it, but no one outside of the ice rink saw it live. ABC showed the game tape-delayed. And thank God there was no World Wide Web back then, because it would have been too tempting to find out who had won beforehand. As it was, my parents turned off all the radios and TVs in the house to ensure ignorance.]

posted by Dan on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM


Dwight Clark's 'The Catch' has to be in there somewhere, but as a Cowboys fan I acknowledge it with more than a little distaste.

On the plus side, Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson and the 'Hail Mary' against the Vikings.

Franco Harris and his 'Immaculate Reception'.

Lance Armstrong looking back at Jan Ullrich and then torching him on L'Alp D'Huez in the 2001 Tour de France. (No catchy name for that one.)

Christian Laettner buries ____ (UConn or UK ?) with a last-second turnaround from the top of the key (after catching a full-court throw in).

Dave Henderson topping the Angels in '86 - with the Red Sox reaping what they sowed about two weeks later.

1984 Olympics - some kind of men's swimming relay. American kid held off the world's best swimmer, Michael Gross, and American took home the gold.

posted by: Rofe on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]


Laettner beat UK in 1992 with the turnaround from the top of the key after the full-court throw in. He beat UConn in 1990 with a last second shot from near the top of the key after a pass from the sidelines near mid-court.

Francisco Cabrera's hit and Sid Bream's slide in 1991 are also one for me. Fandom (of Duke and the Braves) will do that to you.

posted by: John Thacker on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

The Kirk Gibson homer in the '88 World Series was pretty ridiculous, too. That at bat was just crazy, with Gibson fouling off every fastball until he finally got the slider.

posted by: John Thacker on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

Not a good memory, but unforgettable--I was watching the last few minutes of the Daytona 500 so I'd have something to talk about with passerby the next day (I was in Charlotte) and saw Dale Earnhardt hit the wall. It was a remarkably unspectacular crash--which is why it killed him; the car just hit the wall and stopped--didn't flip, didn't bounce--just stopped--200 to 0 in milliseconds.

posted by: SamChevre on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

Nice concept, however I think you should restrict it to games that you witnessed in person.

Either way, my best moment was Game 6 World Series at Shea Stadium where my teenage brother and I never had any doubt that the Mets would take that game and the series.

A close second is Pedro's "Who's your daddy" game in the 2003 playoffs. The force of 55,000 fans chanting "pedro....pedro...." as he was belatedly removed from the game still echo in my mind.

Perhaps these memories have been cheapened by the 2004 WS. To be fair, I was also at Game 7 of the ALCS that year. It was the exact opposite of 1986: I knew before the game that the Yanks were going to lose. I also knew that the Yankees were really the last barrier to uphold the Curse, and that the WS was essentially a foregone conclusion.

Given that was clearly my WORST sports experience, I'm slightly surprised that you didn't include it in your list. Then again, perhaps it was just an "oversight."

- Mike

posted by: Michael Weiksner on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

How is it possible that the word Buckner appears nowhere in that list?

posted by: Mark Nau on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

Mark: I was so irate after Bob Stanley's wild pitch let in the tying run that I switched off the TV, and didn't see the Buckner play live

posted by: Dan Drezner on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

For me, the most memorable sports event I've seen in person is Game 4 of 2002 NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals, where Benito Santiago skied a two-run homer in the 8th inning to win it. It seemed like a pop-up the second he hit it, and then it just kept going... (yeah, yeah, I know he was probably using steroids). Also went to Game 3 of that World Series, but it was forgettable -- aside from the argument I had with the drunk guy next to me. Most bizarre play I saw live was Ruben Rivera for the Giants getting lost on the basepaths as a bunch of little league mistakes accrued, eventually resulting in a 9-4-5-6-2 putout (and yes, I was actually scoring it).

As for television, Mark Ingram's first down would also be on there somewhere, as well as Jim Leyritz's homer against Wohlers in the 96 World Series. But ahead of those would be Steve Young's last-second touchdown pass to Terrell Owens to beat the Packers early in the 1998 playoffs. That was probably magnified by the fact that I was on a ski trip, and there was a fire alarm in the hotel shortly before that happened, so I didn't even know if I was going to be able to watch the end of the game and not only did I make it back to the room in time, it ended with such a dramatic Niners win (plus I'm a huge Steve Young fan).

But the all-timer for me (and nothing else is even close) is the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between the cup-cursed NY Rangers and the NJ Devils, won by Stephane Matteau's wraparound that somehow beat Martin Brodeur. In double sudden-death OT.

Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!

posted by: fling93 on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]


Thanks for the link.

BTW--I am guessing we are the same age, at least by looking at your c.v. (we grauduated from college the same year).

I tried to comment the first day this was up, but comments weren't working for some reason...


(and Mike: limiting it to events seen in person would be very elitist thing to do, don't you think? ;)

posted by: Steven Taylor on 07.16.05 at 08:18 PM [permalink]

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