Some real, some imaginary, some impossible.
Read Time: 4 minutes
As August (and another season of Game of Thrones) draws to a close and schools crank back up, much of America begins to slowly put the lazy days of summer behind us (except that it will be 90-degrees where I live until late November). We tend to re-focus on the more substantial aspects of our lives and culture-namely sports. That's right. Sports talk radio spends the better part of July and August STARVED for content. Now we see college football kicking off, fantasy leagues gearing up for epic drafts, and major league baseball getting down to the games that matter. The official 2017 - 2018 sports season has begun. I'd like to commemorate this occasion by taking a moment and reflecting on my greatest sports moments, from a fan's point of view. I turned 40 this year, and I've forced myself to admit that my own window for making the pro tennis circuit is rapidly closing (I mean, I figure I have four to five years MAX to make that happen). Given this sobering fact, I thought it might be nice share the five seminal moments that have cemented this Gen-Xer as a sports fan for life. Some of these things actually happened, some are Hollywood crafted embellisments, and some may actually have been fabricated in the Matrix. Nevertheless, they all get the adrenaline flowing and leave you wanting to pump your fist in the air, all Jordan-over-Ehlo-style.
Number 5: The mother of all trick plays gives birth to twins.
When I mentioned some of these may have been a construct built in the Matrix, it would be this one. No one gave then-little-known (and even less respected) Boise State much of a shot in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. They were matched against perennial NCAA powerhouse Oklahoma and head coach "Big Game" Bob Stoopes, who counted a national title among his accolades. Boise shocked the college football world, and jumped out to 21-0 lead early in the game. But you can't hold Goliath down forever. Oklahoma tightened their defense and fired up a high powered offense, and climbed back in the game. Then with close to a minute remaining, the Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky throws a pick-6, putting OK up 35-28 with 1:02 left on the clock. Skip ahead....skip ahead....with 18 seconds remaining, Boise State is facing a 4th and 18 and looking down the barrel of "way to hang in there, kids" handshakes from Stoopes and company. What happened next may be the greatest series of trick plays (and intestinal fortitude) in college football history.
If you didn't know, Ian Johnson (the guy who carried the ball into the end zone on that Statue of Liberty play) immediately proposed to his girlfriend (who was a cheerleader...of course) right after scoring the game-winning two-point conversation. This year, they celebrated their 10 year anniversary.
Number 4: The true "The Catch"
There have a number of "the catches" in professional football. Franco Harris and the "Immaculate Reception." An actual "The Catch" that was Montana to Clark in the back of the end zone. For me, the pass from Eli Manning to David Tyree - or more precisely to Davie Tyree's helmet - tops all great pitch and catch performances. If for no other reasons than: Manning/Tyree occurred in the Super Bowl, against an undefeated team, Manning was very nearly (and should have been) sacked, Tyree caught the ball basically with one hand...and had he not, the Patriots would have mostly likely won.
But please, judge for yourself.
Number 3: The Miracle On Ice
It was the height of the Cold War. Heavily favored Soviets versus Americans...ON ICE? The writers of Rocky III couldn't have scripted this one any better. Hell, eagles dive-bombing statues of Stalin in Red Square with red, white, and blue fireworks that were 100% made in the USA couldn't have been better. Ok, granted this one happened a bit before I was really into sports (I was two, I think). But COME ON...who doesn't put this in your top five?
I'll tell you who...communists.
Number 2: "I'll make it."
There is a true a story behind the major motion picture Hoosiers, although as with all things, Hollywood took just a ***few*** liberties with actual history. Well, whatever. The quaint little David-vs-Goliath tale starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper, and Maris Valainis hit theaters in 1986. And if there's one thing that Hoosiers taught us, it's that you always want Jimmy Chitwood taking the last shot. Why?
Because he'll make it.
Number 1: The Impossible
This one admittedly wouldn't make a lot of people's top five, must less be numero uno. But this is MY website and MY personal top five. If you'd like to debate, just get up in my mentions @timmask. Seriously there's a personal story behind this one and the reason it tops my list. In 1988 I was full-on eaten up with baseball fever. I played baseball, I watched baseball, I collected baseball cards. My favorite team was the Los Angles Dodgers. I had the hat, the jersey, the satin jacket, even the blue-striped socks. My parents let me paint the walls of my room "Dodger Blue." For my birthday that year, my grandparents had taken me to a Cardinals-Dodgers game in St. Louis, where I actually got Dodger ace Orel Hershiser to sign my birthday card (which was pretty cool since this was the year he broke the consecutive scoreless innings pitched record).
Anyway, the Dodgers made it to the World Series that year. They hadn't won a title since 1981 (when I was NOT a baseball fan). Kirk Gibson was their "big stick" that year, but by the time the fall classic rolled around, he was hobbled. Like, seriously hobbled. He had one bad leg, and a second leg that wasn't that much better. He basically had a total of half a leg. Down 4-3, with one man on, two out in the bottom of the 9th, facing a home loss in game one, Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda (LOVE that guy) rolled the dice and put a crippled Gibson in to pinch hit. Against the best relief pitcher in the majors. Gibson quickly went down 0 - 2 in the count. What happened next? Well in Dodgerville they say...we witnessed the impossible that day.
I hope everyone has a great 2017 - 2018 sports season. And please try and remember, it's only a game.