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The Five Greatest Sporting Events I've Ever Seen

I recently saw a post on a friend's Facebook page listing the five best sporting events they had ever seen.  I immediately starting thinking about Denver's two Super Bowl wins and the Red Sox two World Series championships and figured I'd make a list.  I made a mental note of those games and then started to add to the list and realized my list had become quite different.  Some who know me will probably be shocked at some of my choices, but here it is.  My list of the five greatest sporting events I've ever seen.  I will however make one disclaimer before continuing.  I will not have any events that I didn't see as it happened.  If I were to that, it would be almost impossible not to have the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manilla.  So here it is.

5. September 24, 1994 - The Miracle in Michigan

The Colorado Buffaloes were ranked 7th and Michigan was ranked 4th, but Michigan does not lose at the big house.  Colorado jumped out to a 14-9 halftime lead, only to see Michigan score 17 unanswered points.  The Buffs scored with a little over 2 minute left and then got the ball back.  With a few seconds left in the game, Kordell Stewart threw a ball over 70 yards in the air and it was caught in the end zone by Michael Westrbook. 

I'll never forget that game.  I was a Buffs fan, but even my friend Kenny went ballistic when it happened.  It was one play that will be remembered, but in actuality, the entire game was great.  To this day, I don't know if there was a single play in a game that has rivaled that one.

4. July 5, 2009 Wimbledon Championship

I awoke that Sunday early, just to catch the match.  Roger Federer was going to dispose of Andy Roddick in a little over an hour and I'd be on my way.  My birthday was the next day and this was going to be a little gift to myself.  Seeing the uber-cool Federer spank the smug brat Andy Roddick.   What took place over the next four plus hours was absolutely exhilarating.  If this was a top ten list, the 1980 Bjorn Borg/John McEnroe would have been on the list, but this one is the best I've ever seen.  Federer owned men's tennis and was facing the overrated, over-hyped Roddick and I was anticipating a beat down of epic proportions.  About an hour into the match, Roddick was up a set 7-5 and was playing like a man possessed.  The second set went to Federer in a tie breaker.  7-6 (8-6).  The third set went to Federer also, but again, it was a tiebreaker 7-6 (7-5).  I figured Roddick would crumble, but he didn't, he won the fourth set and in convincing fashion, 6-3.  They went back and forth in the final set and due to a no-tiebreaker rule in the fifth set the match went a little longer.  Federer ended up winning the final set 16-14.  It was also his record breaking 15th grand slam title.  The match broke the record for the most points scored in a final with 77. 

This was the kind of sporting event that brings you to tears.  Federer is my favorite player and I despite Roddick, but at the end, I felt for this guy like I've never felt for an athlete in my life.  You knew while watching it that the loser of that match would never really be the same.  I hate when people compares sports to war, but the trauma caused by this loss surely had to last with Roddick to this day.  For Federer, it just added to his legacy as the best player to ever play the game.

3.  January 1, 1991 - Orange Bowl

The 1990 season was the wackiest season ever for the Colorado Buffaloes.  They had won a game in which they were inadvertently given an extra down.  They played one of the hardest football schedules in the sports history and they leapfrogged the team they were playing in the Orange Bowl the last day of the season.  So going into the game there was a rare (before BCS) matchup of 1 vs 2 for the National Title.  During the game some crazy things happened.  Notre Dame went scored a touchdown, but the extra point was blocked.  Ironically, before the block, there was a note that the kicker was going for his, school record, 73rd consecutive extra point.  Before the half, Colorado's sensational quarterback Darian Hagan hurt his knee.  Colorado somehow managed to take a 10-9 third quarter lead and the teams put on an amazing defensive battle.  With less than a minute left, Colorado was forced to punt.  Raghib "Rocket" Ismael returned the punt 92 yards for a TD.  I remember watching and having this feeling of great sickness come over me.  A great game was going to be lost like this.  Then I heard Bill Walsh's voice, "There's a flag on the play."  The camera moved to the referee and he signaled that there was a clip on the play and the ball was coming back.  There was a sense of relief, but I knew there was still time.  Rick Mirer then threw a pass with second left that was intercepted by Deon Figures. The game was over!  National Champs!

Aside from being a CU fan, this game was special, because of the players that were in it.  I don't remember the exact count, but of the 48 starters (kickers and punters too) there was some staggering number of future NFL players.  I believe the number was 22.  It might be the only sporting event I've ever videotaped and re-watched beginning to end.  It was that good a game.

2. October 17, 2004 - The Comeback

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox gave me a world series championship.   I was at game six of the ALCS, otherwise known as the Bloody Sock game.  Each moment was special and I've seen tons of great baseball games, but the greatest ever was a few days before the Sock game.  It was game four and most had figured the Red Sox were done.  Trailing 3-0 in the series, with two games in Fenway and then the final two in NY, nobody thought it could happen.  It did and this game started it. 

Derek Lowe matched up against the Yankees El Duque.  The Yankees had scored in the first inning in all three previous games, but failed to do so in this one.  They did however take a 2-0 lead in the third when Alex Rodriguez smashed a home run over the monster.  In the fifth, the Sox scored three runs with two outs, capped off by a 2-run single to center by Big Papi.  The Yankees answered in the sixth with two runs and took a one run lead into the eighth.  With the 4-3 lead, the Yankees brought in the incomparable Mariano Rivera for a rare, two inning save. Stick a fork in the Sox, they are done most thought.   He blew through the Sox in the eighth, but gave up a lead off walk to Kevin Millar, who was quickly replaced by pinch runner Brian Roberts.  After multiple checks, Roberts went on the pitch and stole second.  Rivera was rattled and gave up a single later in the at-bat to Bill Meuller which resulted in a blown save and a tie score.  Both teams threatened to score in the 11th, but neither was able to.  In the bottom of the 12th, Manny Ramirez singled and Ortiz followed with a 2-run walk off home run.  I can not remember every being happier watching a baseball game.

1. February 22, 1980 - The Miracle on Ice

There is no other sporting event that had the global impact that this one did.  For anyone my age, this game was so much bigger than just a game.  The Cold War was at it's height and our views of Russia was very hostile.  They were in every way, the enemy.  A lot of people don't realize that this same Russian team beat a U.S. all-start team 6-0 just a few months before this game.  A lot of people forget that the Iran Hostage Crisis was going on and even before this game, there was never a feeling of patriotism throughout this country like this before.  A lot of people don't realize that this game was not shown live.  The game had ended one hour before it was aired at 8pm on a Friday night. A lot of people also forget that this was not the championship game and the Americans needed a come from behind win against Finland to secure the gold.  A loss, could have meant a fourth place finish and no medals.  A lot of people don't realize many things about this game and it's importance.  This was a little over 30 years ago and what made it so special is nobody knew the outcome, despite it being taped.  In today's world, it could never happen like this.

I remember finishing dinner and going upstairs with my parents.  None of us were hockey fans, but this was bigger than hockey.  The Russians scored first, but the American were able to fight back and tie.  With a little over two minutes left in the first, the Russians took the lead, but the Americans got a very lucky rebound and scored with one second left in the first period.  Many viewers are unaware than the irate Russian coach benched his starting goalie, Vladislav Tretiak.  Many consider Tretiak to be the greatest goalie to ever play the game.  The Russians came out and scored early in the second period and the score stayed 3-2 until about 11 minutes left in the game when the Americans tied the game on a power play goal.  A little over a minute later, Mike Euruzione scored the go ahead goal.  The next ten minutes the Americans fought  off the Russians attempts and with second left in the game, commentator Al Michaels, who had only done one other hockey game in his life, uttered the most famous line in sports history, "Do you believe in Miracles? 

I've enjoyed my teams successes and suffered with their failures.  I know things about the players and they families.  I know their numbers and their stats.  What made this so special was it didn't matter who these kids were.  They were nobodies before this game started and they are now household names.  We live in a cynical world and nobody is more cynical than I, but when I look back on that day, I remember goalie Jim Craig, wrapped in Old Glory and at that moment, I was never more proud of my country.  One silly hockey game, played by amatuers, brought an entire country together, if only for a moment.  That was the true miracle and on that winter evening, I believed.

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