Sunday, May 31, 2009

Top 5 sports moments of my lifetime

It's been awhile since I've given any sort of a real update, so I thought I'd post the other sports-related top 5 I mentioned awhile back. This time, I'm going through my top five favorite sports moments of all time, in any sport. I was born in 1984 and didn't really start following sports until the early '90s, so all the moments I'm listing have occurred in the time frame from about 1991. Here's the list.

5. Boise State vs. Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl, January 1, 2007:

When anyone asks me what's the best football game I've ever seen (only on TV, for this one), I tell them this WAC-Big 12 matchup without even thinking about it. Not only was this a great game, but it had a great storyline to it. The Davids from Idaho vs. the Goliaths from Oklahoma. An undefeated season on the line, as well as a chance to prove their program belongs. Boise State ran out to a huge lead, but Oklahoma kept chipping away and away until they finally tied it late in the fourth quarter. Boise State got the ball back with a chance to win with just over a minute left, but Jared Zabranski threw a crippling pick-six on the first play of the drive to give Oklahoma a 35-28 lead. It seemed like the clock was striking midnight on Boise State's Cinderella season, especially when they faced a 4th and 18 at midfield with seconds to play. That's when Boise State scored a touchdown on one of the wildest plays I've ever seen, a beautifully drawn-up hook and lateral that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

On the first play of overtime, Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson ran for a 25-yard touchdown to put Oklahoma up 42-35, and on Boise State's ensuing possession, they once again faced 4th down, this time a 4th and 2 from the 6. This time, Chris Petersen drew up a halfback pass that connected for a touchdown to make the score 42-41. Boise State opted to go for the two point conversion and the win. Cue the video (includes highlight of hook and lateral):

4. St. Louis Cardinals win NL Pennant, 2004:

2004 was a magical sports year for me. The Cardinals got hot in May and never looked back, and Auburn went undefeated, winning the SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl along the way. After St. Louis won 105 games and the NL Central, they moved on to the playoffs. Since Tony La Russa took over as Cardinals manager in 1996, only once had they made the playoffs and I felt good about their performance, in 2001. In 1996, St. Louis led Atlanta three games to one in the NLCS, only to choke the series away. In 2000, the Cardinals fell in 5 games to the Wild Card-winning Mets in the NLCS. In 2001, the Cardinals fought hard in a losing cause, in five games to eventual World Series champs Arizona. In 2002, they lost in 5 games to the Giants. The 2004 NLCS had a similar feel, after Houston had won games 3 through 5 to take a 3-2 series lead. In extra innings, Jim Edmonds blasted a walk-off two-run homerun to send the series to game 7, but the pitching matchup did not favor the Cardinals. Houston sent Roger Clemens to the hill to face off against Jeff Suppan. I was happy the Cardinals didn't roll over and die in game 6, but I didn't feel too confident about game 7. After the top of the third, Houston led 2-0, and that felt like 25-0 with Clemens pitching. However, in the bottom of the third, St. Louis scraped a run across to cut the lead to 2-1, where it stayed until the 6th. On consecutive pitches in that inning, Albert Pujols tied it on a double and Scott Rolen gave St. Louis a 2-run lead on a homerun! Cardinals fans could feel it. After putting up another run in the 8th, Jason Isringhausen worked a 1-2-3 ninth to give St. Louis its first pennant in 17 years. I probably annoyed my entire apartment complex to death with my screaming. Unfortunately, I can't find any youtube video of this series (other than a Jeff Kent walkoff homerun in game 5, grr) but I'll post some photos of Jim Edmonds doing his thing:

3. Duke vs. Kentucky, Elite Eight 1992:

If you don't instantly know what I'm talking about, you either have lived in a cave for 20 years or were born in the 1990s. Even though I was 7 (almost 8) years old, I still have such a vivid memory of this shot. I was in a beach house in Gulf Shores, Alabama with my family for Spring Break. My Mom was pulling for Kentucky, while my Dad was pulling for Duke. I was pulling for Kentucky, probably for SEC reasons, and my 4-year-old little brother was "pulling for" Kentucky, probably because I was. Overtime. Duke down by one. Grant Hill inbounding the ball. 2.1 seconds left....

I love how after Laettner hits the shot, Jim Nantz just yells "YES!" and shuts up, letting the moment speak for itself.

2. Auburn football 2004:

I can't really pick a particular moment from this season; the whole year was awesome (except for the BCS picking show...grr). I've already mentioned two games from this season in my Top 5 Auburn games attended post, so if you want to read more about the season, check out that post. Anyways, this Auburn team was the most dominant team I've ever followed, and possibly the best I've ever seen. It's a shame we didn't get to see how they would have fared against USC or Oklahoma. For the record, I think we would have beaten OU by double digits. I'm not sure we would have beaten USC, but we would have played them much better than Choklahoma (see what I did there?). The way Auburn's "hard-fighting soldiers" came out and spanked every team it faced after LSU was amazing. The fact that this happened less than a year after AU administrators tried to oust Tommy Tuberville made the season that much more of a storybook season. We need a montage:

1. St. Louis wins 2006 World Series:

The early-to-mid 2000s Cardinals teams were incredible. They made the playoffs every year except one from 2000 to 2006, winning the division five times in seven years. However, despite all their regular season success, they had always met postseason failure. As mentioned earlier, the 2000-2002 teams all met early exits. The 2004 team won the pennant, but was swept in the World Series by Boston. The 2005 team was nearly as good as the 2004 team (maybe better), but lost the NLCS to Houston in 6 games. Once the team started to fall apart in large stretches in 2006, it looked like the Cardinals had missed their chance to win a title in the prime of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen. The Cardinals almost blew a 7 game lead with 12 games to play. By the time they limped into the playoffs, they had gone 83-78, and only one ESPN analyst predicted they would even win the NLDS, much less go all the way. But St. Louis beat San Diego in 4 games to win the NLDS, then defeated the heavily-favored New York Mets in an epic 7 game series to go to the World Series. Once there, nobody gave St. Louis a chance. Bob Nightengale of USA Today picked Detroit in Three. Rookie Anthony Reyes, who had gotten shelled in Game 4 of the NLCS, took the bump in Game 1 against Justin Verlander. Even Cardinals fans were wondering how many games it would take Detroit to beat St. Louis.

Then something funny happened.

Reyes pitched a beautiful 8-inning game in game 1 to give St. Louis a 1-0 series lead. Detroit won game 2 behind Kenny Rogers' -- ahem -- dirty hand to tie the series up. Chris Carpenter pitched one of the best games I've ever seen in game 3 to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead. The Cardinals came from behind to win game 4 behind the bat of David Eckstein and take a 3-1 lead. Jeff Weaver dominated Detroit for eight innings and Adam Wainwright closed out the 9th to give St. Louis a World Series championship in five games. I erupted with joy and yelling. Best sports moment of my life.

Honorable Mention:
Mark McGwire hits his 62nd HR
Josh Hamilton goes off on the 2008 HR derby
George Mason makes the Final Four
Raiders go to Super Bowl in 2002 season

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