Last weekend, my sister-in-law, who has only the most passing interest in sports imaginable, came to visit. She brought with her something from TV
Guide, which purported to be the "25 most awesome sports moments of the last 15 years". She figured that since I was a sports fan, I could guess what
they were and even get them in close to the proper order. As I've told readers for years, I do not read minds; and to come close to whatever TV Guide
might come up with for such a list would demand the ability to read the mind of the author and whomever was the final editor of the piece.
My cousin, who is also a big time sports fan, was also with me last weekend; and between the two of us, we came up with Christian Laettner's winning
shot against Kentucky and Cal Ripken's record-breaking game as two of the top things that deserved to be at or near the top of any listing of the most
awesome moments of the last 15 years.
Those were #4 and #5 respectively. And so we were challenged to come up with what was higher on the list. After a little thinking, we came up with
Michael Jordan hitting the final shot against the Utah Jazz to give the Bulls their sixth NBA championship. That was #3 on the list. And at that
point, I realized that this was TV Guide making the list and so there was going to be no logic to what was on the list and off the list.
Never - and I mean NEVER - would I have guessed that #2 on the list would have been Tiger Woods winning his first Masters. Yes, that was an
accomplishment. But how might that be different from any of his subsequent wins at Augusta National? Unless of course, this is TV Guide making the
list and having no clue what might and might not be an "awesome moment in sports".
Still we had not revealed #1 on the list and so after some real mind wandering, my cousin said half-jokingly and half-incredulously that it might be
Lance Armstrong winning his first or his last Tour de France. My reaction was that the author ought to be drawn and quartered if that was indeed #1.
So, how can I order up a drawing and quartering? The first of Lance Armstrong's victories in the Tour de France was defined to be the numero uno event
on the list of the most awesome sports moments of the last 15 years. You'll have to excuse me for a moment; I need to regain my composure...
I've said many times that Cal Ripken's record-breaking skein of games played was as much a testament to will as it was to skill. I believed then and I
continue to believe now that Michael Jordan pushed off on that final shot that he hit to win that sixth championship. I'm not sure that Christian
Laettner can make that same shot more than 30% of the time. Nonetheless, all of those events and dozens of others were far more awesome than Lance
Armstrong winning his first Tour de France multiplied by Tiger Woods winning one of his Masters Tournaments.
At that point, I knew we had no chance in this universe - or any parallel universe connected to ours via some wormhole - to conjure up the rest of the
list. So here are those entries with a short comment on each:
Kerri Strug vaulting and landing on her injured ankle in the 1996 Olympics. A nice feelgood moment with all of the sporting
significance of body odor and athlete's foot. Keri Strug is probably a wonderful young woman, and this won her team a gold medal, but "awesome"? Not
in my book...
Adam Vinateiri kicking the field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime in what has come to be known as the "Tuck Rule
Game". Certainly deserves to be on this list somewhere because of the controversy generated by the referee's call that got the game to the point where
Vinatieri had the opportunity to try this kick. In addition, that kick sort of propelled the Patriots into their dominance and their dynastic stature.
Curt Schilling pitching with his bloody sock in the ALCS. Yes, that was a big sports story because of the context of the game in
which he did that. But more has been made of that small bloodstain on the sock than any other bloodstain since the Shroud of Turin...
Phil Mickelson winning his first Masters. I think the TV Guide people have a thing with the Masters. Is the editor or publisher a
member of August National and a "runnin' buddy" with Hootie Johnson? Folks, there are other golf tournaments on TV in case you haven't noticed.
Serena Williams completing the "Serena Slam". When Serena won the Australian Open and held the four major championships at the same
time, that was a big moment for women's tennis; in fact, it probably launched it ahead of men's tennis at the time and that lead has yet to be erased.
This should be on the list somewhere.
Jack Morris pitches a ten inning shutout in game seven to give the Twins a World Series victory. I forgot that this was in 1991
so I never had this on my list of "possible awesome moments". But since it fell within the 15-year window of this stupid listing, it surely belongs at
a level higher than this.
Afleet Alex wins this year's Preakness after almost falling to his knees at the top of the stretch. That was an amazing recovery
and an even more amazing stretch run after the recovery. But it does not begin to compare with some of the really awesome moments of horse racing
history and so I have a problem putting it anywhere on such a list.
Dale Earnhardt wins the Daytona 500 for the first time after nineteen unsuccessful attempts. I guess there are NASCAR fans who
think that this is an earth-shattering moment; I don't. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.
Patrick Roy stopping a specific shot on goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993. Yeah, right!
Dan Jansen winning an Olympic gold medal in speed skating at the Winter Olympics in 1994. Well, at least it's on the list
behind the save by Patrick Roy in the middle of a game in the midst of a Stanley Cup Final Series. That's about the best thing I can say about the
placement of this non-event.
Brianna Scurry's goaltending that set up the US Women's Soccer Team to win the World Cup against China with the penalty kick
that caused Brandi Chastain to rip off her jersey and flash her sports bra. I don't know if this was an "awesome game", but that moment of victory
with Chastain partially undressed and mobbed by her teammates is certainly one that is etched into the mind of many sports fans.
Michael Phelps at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. There was certainly lots of hype surrounding this young man and what he might
accomplish at the games. But it was anti-climatic at best and hopelessly overblown to most folks.
Illinois erases a 15-point deficit in the final 4 minutes of an NCAA basketball tournament game to move on to the Final Four.
That was the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history and it was a spectacular comeback. It belongs on this list and it belongs ahead of at least a
half-dozen of the silly entries on this list ahead of it.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee winning her final gold medal in the 1996 Olympics with a final long jump on her injured leg. Why this one
is at #19 while Kerri Strug's vault is at #6 will have to remain a mystery for the ages. Those two events are mirror images of one another. If one is
#6, the other should be #6 (a). I'd have neither in the Top 100, but that's just me...
Mark Messier leads the NY Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in over 50 years. This is on the list because it is the NY Rangers;
if it had been Mark Messier leading the Columbus Bluejackets to the Stanley Cup championship for the first time ever, this event would not have
cracked TV Guide's Top 1000.
Brad Friedel's goalkeeping allows the US soccer team to defeat Mexico in the 2002 World Cup. I watched the game; I remember
the game; I enjoyed the game. Was it awesome? Pardon me whilst I yawn...
Paul Hamm wins a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics after landing on his butt after a vault attempt. Let's see, he won a gold
medal even though he had an earlier screw-up of monumental proportion. Imagine how tense the competition might have been if he hadn't screwed up that
vault. Only something like TV Guide could think this was an awesome moment.
The Music City Miracle. Actually, I was sure this would be in the Top 10 early in out deliberations about what was on this
list. After hearing what made the list, I was actually surprised that the author/editor actually remembered that his had actually happened.
Robert Horry's winning three-pointer against the Pistons in Game 5 of this year's NBA Finals. I have no problem with
putting that on the list; Horry has done lots of these things in NBA playoff scenarios and so you need to pick one and put it on the list. The
author/editor chose to pick the most recent one. Whatever.
Charlotte Smith hits a three point shot at the buzzer to win the women's NCAA basketball championship for UNC in 1994. Why
do I think that this was shoehorned onto the list just to get a women's basketball entry there? Outside the UNC athletic department and the Charlotte
Smith nuclear family, I suspect this is not remembered by a whole lot of folks...
Missing from the list are the Buffalo Bills missing out on a Super Bowl victory because a final second field goal sailed "wide right". That miss
produced the closest score in Super Bowl history - and a record that can only be tied so long as the scoring system for NFL football stays the same.
As an awesome moment, that has to rank up there with a save in one Stanley Cup Final Series game, no?
Missing from the list is Mark McGuire hitting his 70th home run - or the one that broke Roger Maris' record which had stood for more than 35 years -
and/or Barry Bonds breaking that record with 73 home runs soon after that. That's less awesome than Paul Hamm landing on his butt in the Olympics?
Missing from the list is - - well you could go on and on. The problem here is that it seems clear that lots of different sports all had to find a way
onto the list and so lots of other sporting moments got no mention. And I still believe that we only missed out on the consensus #1 awesome moment in
sports in the last 15 years because of the casting of a show. Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction caused a huge hullabaloo, but how awesome might it
have been had that been Roseanne Barr on stage?