Delenda Est Carthago

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

21.9.06

Top Ten Day: My favorite sports moments

Today is the tenth anniversary of one of the most shocking upsets in college football history. Can you figure out what it is? If you live east of the Mississippi, probably not. And that's a shame. I'll reveal the answer in the post!

Because of the anniversary, it got me thinking of my next Top Ten post. I decided to do one on my favorite moments in sports. This is difficult, because I really like sports. I decided to limit it to events I had actually seen - that doesn't mean in person, as I rarely go to sporting events, especially ones that imprint on my memory. These are events I had watched on television (or witnessed in person, don't get me wrong, but I couldn't limit it to that), so the "Miracle on Ice" doesn't make it, because I didn't watch it (and if you did, you're a liar, because it wasn't shown live - I suppose you could have watched the tape-delayed showing, but you could have conceivably already known the results). Sorry, USA Olympic Hockey Team - you don't make the cut! Also, because I'm a homer, most of these will involve the Phillies, the Eagles, or Penn State. That's just the way it is! So, in no particular order:

1. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl. Penn State's last National Championship (because they were robbed in 1994). What a great game: 14-10 over the University of Miami Hurricanes. It's always good to see Miami get smacked around, and this might be one of the heights of Miami-getting-smacked-around-ness. The Hurricanes came in at #1 and wore army fatigues when they got off the plane, as opposed to the Lions' dark suits. Paterno had just been named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year for 1986, but no one thought his team stood a chance. Miami had Vinny Testaverde, the Heisman Trophy winner, at quarterback, Alonzo Highsmith at running back, and Michael Irvin at wide receiver. Penn State had a good defense but small defensive backs, and Irvin and his counterparts kept talking smack about how they were going to run right by them. Paterno responded by saying that the Miami receivers had never been hit by PSU's defensive backs. At a dinner for the two teams, one of the Miami players said, "Did the Japanese sit down with the Americans before they bombed Pearl Harbor?" and the entire team walked out, to which the Penn State punter - the punter! - got off the classic line, "Hey, didn't the Japanese lose that war?" The game was a slugfest from the beginning. Irvin and his crew got smacked a couple of times by Don Isom and the Penn State defense, and their arms got a lot shorter. Testaverde threw interception after interception. Late in the game Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan intercepted a pass and ran it back to the 5-yard line, from where D. J. Dozier scored the game-winning touchdown. Testaverde brought his team back with a furious drive, only to be intercepted - for the fifth time - by Pete Giftopolous on the goal line with 10 seconds left. Paterno had his second National Championship, and Jimmy Johnson and the Hurricanes learned a lesson about sportsmanship, which, for Johnson and Irvin, didn't carry over into the NFL. This game began my lifelong hatred of Michael Irvin, but it also showed what a great coach Paterno was. His team was very talented, but not as talented as the Hurricanes, and they beat them in every facet of the game. It also, interestingly enough, catapulted the Fiesta Bowl to national prominence, as these two teams were independent and didn't have prior bowl commitments, and the Fiesta Bowl stepped in. A great game, and still a wonderful thing to watch if you like hard-nosed football and Miami getting gobsmacked.

2. Game 6, 1980 World Series. I was only 9 when I watched this on television, so I don't remember too much about it, but I do remember two things: The popup that Bob Boone dropped and Pete Rose saved, and Tug McGraw's final strikeout to give the Phillies their first - and only - World Series win. Good times. What a great team the 1976-1981 Phillies were, yet they only won that one World Series. Stupid Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers, beating them in the playoffs for three straight years. Stupid players' strike in 1981, messing up their momentum. Yes, I'm bitter.

(This is the opening from Game 5, but what a neat old-school theme song!)

3. Villanova beats Georgetown 66-64 to win the 1985 NCAA Basketball Championship ... on April Fools' Day. I watched every second of this game, and loved every minute of it. Not unlike Miami, Georgetown was the bully of college basketball, and the Wildcats of 'Nova were given absolutely no chance whatsoever to beat them. And they had to play a perfect game to do it. Today, whenever a huge underdog hangs with a huge favorite, the commentators always say that the underdog has to play a perfect game ... and they rarely do. Something always happens, usually something small, and the huge favorite takes advantage and wins. Well, Villanova shot 13-of-18 from the floor in the first half ... and then promptly shot 9-of-10 in the second half. This probably couldn't happen today, because this game was played the year before the shot clock was introduced in college, so Villanova could hold the ball a long time. There was also no three-point shot, so Georgetown could never go on a fiery run and put the 'Cats away. What a beautiful display of defensive-minded basketball this is. HBO did a special on the two teams and the game not too long ago, and it's very interesting to watch. The drug problems of the 'Nova team diminishes this game not a bit. This is the last major championship of any Philadelphia team, college or pro. Very sad.

4. The NFC Championship game, January 1981. It's not just because the Eagles won and went to their first Super Bowl (about which we must not speak). It's because they played at home and defeated the Dallas Cowboys, a team Philly always wanted to be rivals with but were never good enough for the Cowboys to notice. And not only did they beat the Cowboys, they smacked them. Wilbert Montgomery ran 42 yards for a touchdown very early in the game, and the game was never in doubt. Montgomery piled up 196 yards rushing, which was a Championship Game record for years (I can't remember who broke it). The final score was 20-7, but it was much more a dominant performance than that indicates. It was a high point for the franchise, and the highest point for quite a while. Sad that a Super Bowl victory isn't one of my favorite moments.

5. Boston College 47, Miami 45. 23 November 1984.

I don't know why I watched this game, but I did. I didn't really care either way about it, but it was probably just the fact that it was the day after Thanksgiving and there was not much else going on. What a freaking game, though. It went back and forth, and I kept rooting for Doug Flutie and the BC Eagles, because I hated the U. Yes, I hated the U even before they played PSU in the Fiesta Bowl! And that Hail Mary that sealed the Heisman for Flutie was a fantastic play. It's one of those games that I can't believe I actually witnessed, because it's a game I had no interest in it. But I'm glad I did.

6. San Diego 41, Miami 38 in overtime, January 1982, AFC Divisional Playoff. Speaking of games I'm not sure why I watched, but I'm glad I did. For some reason, I wasn't doing anything better on a weekend in January 1982 (I was ten, so you would think I would have been out in the winter wonderland getting into all kinds of trouble), so I watched this game, and what a game it was. The Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 lead, and Don Strock came in for the Dolphins and almost brought them all the way back. This is the game with the only hook-and-ladder play I've ever seen work for a touchdown, right before the end of the half that made the score 24-17. The Dolphins actually took the lead in the second half, but they couldn't hold it. Kellen Winslow (the first one, not his selfish bastard spawn who plays for Cleveland now) caught 13 passes for 166 yards and blocked a field goal. He blocked a freakin' field goal! Finally, the Chargers kicked a field goal and won. Then they went to Cincinnati the next week and played in -175 degree temperature and lost. Poor Dan Fouts - that was the last time he got close to the Super Bowl.

7. June 20, 1983. Philadelphia Stars 12, Oakland Invaders 6. This is the only USFL game I ever went to, and although it was a lousy game, it's one of my favorite moments because it was such a fun experience. It rained all night, and the game was so dull that the people in the stands, dancing in the rain as they got drunker and drunker, became the entertainment for me and my dad. We had a ball - it was one of the few times that my dad and I did something together, and I remember it well. The Stars were the dominant team of the USFL, and they broke Philly's heart when they moved to Baltimore before the 1985 season. Of course, soon after that it wouldn't matter much. Jim More coached this team, and they had some great players. It's a shame.

8. Penn State 24, Notre Dame 21, 1990.

Everyone in State College was watching this game on television, and when Penn State upset the #1 ranked Irish with a late field goal, we all went out on the street and partied (the game was in South Bend). While we were jumping around and celebrating, someone near where I was (it wasn't me, I swear!) got the idea to storm the stadium and tear down the goalposts. We gathered people like one of those cartoon snowballs that gets bigger and bigger and ran up to the stadium (which was a good two or three miles away) only to find it locked. Yeah, we weren't that bright. I went home, but some people actually got into the stadium and tore down the goalposts, paraded them down the main drag in town, and deposited them on Paterno's lawn. This led to the smackdown of the following year, 34-13 at home, when we all rushed the field again (and began chanting it early in the fourth quarter when we knew the Lions would win). The university was ready for us, and had the cops there to stop us from tearing the goalposts down. It was the only time I have been maced in my life (or tear-gassed, whichever they used). It ain't pleasant. Still, it's a great sports moment.

9. The 1995 Rose Bowl, Penn State 38, Oregon 20. The Lions played their worst game of the season and still blew out the Ducks, but it wasn't enough to overtake Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers were voted the National Champions even though the two teams should have shared the honor. Stupid voters! Still, this capped Paterno's last unbeaten season (he's had four in which he didn't win a National Championship, by the way) with one of the best offensive teams in college football history. They leveled teams: they beat Minnesota 56-3, Iowa 61-21, Rutgers 55-27, Temple 48-21, Ohio State 63-14, Northwestern 45-17, and Michigan State 59-31. Their two greatest games were against Michigan, whom they beat 31-24 on the road, and against Illinois, against whom they drove down the field late in the game to defeat 35-31, also on the road. Many Penn State fans are still bitter about the lack of a National Championship (including this one). It all came down to a 35-29 win over Indiana, where the Hoosiers scored two meaningless touchdowns in the last two minutes against Paterno's scrubs. But the Rose Bowl was a glorious moment in a glorious season. It's a fine memory.

10. Finally, today is the tenth anniversary of Arizona State's 19-0 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were the two-time defending National Champions (even though, as noted, one of them should have been shared) and riding a long, long winning streak. Krys and I went to a Mexican restaurant with my friend Mike and were eating dinner while the game was on. We watched, riveted, as the Sun Devils dominated the Cornhuskers. I have hated Nebraska longer than I've hated Miami (and that's saying something!), so this was completely unexpected. Jake Plummer was cool under pressure, ASU got three (!) safeties, and they completely shut down the Huskers' vaunted running attack. We enjoyed our dinner a lot, let me tell you. This is one of the most stunning games in college football history, but it gets no love from the East Coast media elite. Stupid East Coast media elite! ASU used it to springboard to a PAC-10 title and within a minute of the National Championship. A great game, and a fond memory (even though I wasn't an ASU fan).

There are a lot of sports memories that didn't make the cut: the Sixers 1983 playoff run; the 1983 Sugar Bowl that gave Penn State their first National Championship; the Eagles 2005 NFC Championship Game victory; Games 4 and 5 of the 1993 World Series (the Phillies blew Game 4 and lost 15-14, but it was still a memorable game, and Curt Shilling pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5 to save them for one more day and Joe Carter's heroics); too many Penn State bowl victories to count. What are some of your favorite sports memories? Remember, you had to have witnessed them personally!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I totally agree with your first 5. Maybe I'll blog about it next month. The list doesn't come easily. But I know what #1 is.

22/9/06 3:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Black said...

I'm afraid that from this side of the pond your 10 favourites mean little to me.

But one of my favourites is the 1991 World Athletics Championships Mens 4 x 400m.

As Roger Black wrote:

''At the 1991 world championships, the 4x400-metre relay team was myself, Kriss Akabusi, John Regis and Derek Redmond. The odd thing about relay teams is that they spend all year trying to beat each other as individuals, then come together as a team. I guess it's the same in business, that there are times to be an individual and times to be a team player. Anyway, I was the fastest guy on that team, and the fastest guy always goes last in a relay, partly for tactical reasons and partly because he gets a chance for glory. But Akabusi and I shared a room and we sat up for hours before that race, discussing the order laid down by the management with me running last. And we worked out we were not going to win. ''So we changed it. We decided that I would run the first leg to give us a lead and put pressure on the other teams. We told the management, who were not particularly impressed, but...


Nobody expected the GB team to beat the American favourites, who had the new 400m champ Antonio Pettigrew on their team.

Black got GB off to a good start, but as the final leg began Kriss Akabusi, British soldier and hurdling specialist was behind Pettigrew.

How he caught up with him, held off a challenge and come home first still sticks in my mind.... we won by 0.04 secs

(Sorry Guys for picking something where the US is beaten)

22/9/06 2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice list, but:

> This is the game with the only hook-and-ladder play
> I've ever seen work for a touchdown

I guess you need to update this . . . at least, I certainly _hope_ you watched the Boise State Broncos pull it off to stay alive against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

ok
dpm

3/1/07 3:41 PM  

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