July 13, 2011

The Five Most Dramatic Sports Moments Ever

     Inspired by Abby Wambach's awesome game-tying 122nd-minute goal in the World Cup quarterfinals, Rob Parker and Skip Bayless of ESPN's First Take each did a list of the 5 most dramatic sports moments ever.  And having grown up during the 70's and 80's, Rob and Skip included mostly moments from the 70's and 80's.  That bothered me, because I've only been following sports since 2001 or so, and I felt offended that they didn't pick any of "my" events.  So after thinking about the best things to happen in sports in the 2000's, I decided to lump in all the other decades and create my own Top 5 Dramatic Moments in Sports, from the perspective of a 90's child.  Here it goes:

5.  Tiger Woods Winning the 2008 U.S. Open

     I considered a lot of different things for this spot:  App State over Michigan, Roger Bannister's 4-minute mile, Kirk Gibson's injured home run.  But as much as I tried to include more history in my list, I couldn't pass up this golf tournament.  Tiger Woods, with a stress fracture in his leg, made some amazing shots in the third round, made a birdie putt to force a playoff, made a birdie putt to force sudden death after that playoff, and went on to win the championship.  It was tense and exciting the whole way, and the best part about it was that you couldn't watch without picking a side.  Either you rooted for Tiger to exhibit his greatness by winning despite his injury, or you rooted for Rocco Mediate, a 45-year-old who had to go through qualifying rounds just to get in the tournament.  And even though I was against Tiger the whole time, I think his victory here was fantastic.

4.  Jason Lezak's Gold-Medal Comeback

     In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps had entered in 8 events in an attempt to win a record-breaking 8 gold medals.  In the second of those events, the 4x100 freestyle relay, the U.S. team fell behind France in the third leg.  Swimming the final leg for France was Alain Bernard, then the world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle, who had proclaimed before the race that the French team would smash the Americans.  Swimming the final leg for the U.S. was Jason Lezak, a 32-year-old who had yet to win his only individual Olympic medal (a tie for bronze, no less).  Going into the final 50 meters, Lezak trailed Bernard by 0.82 seconds.  You can probably guess what happened next:

     Lezak swam by far the fastest 100 meter relay split ever, and Phelps eventually got his 8 gold medals.

3.  NC State's 1983 National Championship Win

     I'm shocked that neither Rob nor Skip picked this one, because I wasn't even alive when it happened and I love it.  Houston was supposed to win the game easily, but NC State hung around and needed a late basket to win.  After twenty seconds or so of random passing, Dereck Whittenburg appears to attempt a deep three-pointer and misses way short, when suddenly Lorenzo Charles comes out of nowhere and dunks it in for the win.  The play isn't as awesome once you've seen it before, but watching the reaction of coach Jim Valvano and the players will always be priceless.

2.  Kevin Dyson Comes Up One Yard Short

     A lot of things can happen at the 10 yard line with six seconds left.  You can throw an incomplete pass.  You can throw an interception.  You can complete a pass in the end zone for the score.  Yet the Tennessee Titans made a far more interesting choice in Super Bowl XXXIV:  Throw a slant route short of the end zone and hope the receiver makes it in after the catch.  Linebacker Mike Jones makes a heads-up play and tackles Titans wideout Kevin Dyson, Dyson makes an exaggerated reach for the goal line, and Kurt Warner goes from second-stringer to NFL superstar/champion after one of the most decisive final plays in Super Bowl history.
     (Play starts at 6:10 in the video)

1.  Giants Game-Winning Drive in Super Bowl XLII

     This game was great because it had so much background.  On one side you had the 18-0 Patriots, fresh off of Spygate.  On the other side you had the Giants, a 5-seed that went 11-5 in the regular season, then got to the Super Bowl after three road wins, led by league laughingstock Eli Manning.  A team that played all their starters against New England in Week 17 despite having clinched a playoff spot.
     Most games with this much hype never live up to it.  All that Super Bowl XLII could offer was a crazy second-to-last drive that featured a dropped interception, a near-sack on third and five, an insane helmet-aided catch, and eventually a touchdown that all but sealed the game.

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