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Monday, December 24, 2007

My Votes in Chris Berman's/ESPN's Top 10 Highlights

ESPN asks us to vote for our Top 10 highlights of all time (from a list of 100 that they provide). The pool of 100 highlights contains some memorable moments, making it tough on the reader (viewer, really) to pick just 10 highlights. But select I did, and I think that 9 of my 10 will stand the test of time (with a 10th, which I will identify) being a concession to a hometown heroic of the type that has seldom been seen in the past quarter century.

Here goes (and I will do so chronologically):

1. Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" on October 3, 1951, giving the New York Giants a playoff win against their archrival Brooklyn Dodgers and a spot in the World Series. Russ Hodges' memorable "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" are forever etched into the sports memory banks of two generations -- the one that lived through the moment, and their children, to whom the story was repeated constantly. Drama at its finest.

2. Franco Harris's "Immaculate Reception" on December 23, 1972. The running back's controversial catch gave the Steelers a playoff victory against the 800-pound gorilla Oakland Raiders and helped start the Steel Curtain on its way to Mount Olympus status as an NFL dynasty (the others: the Packers of the 60's, the 49ers of the 80's and the Patriots now. Sorry Cowboys of the early 1990's -- you were outstanding, but perhaps not in the league of those elites). The catch itself was amazing theater.

3. Carlton Fisk Wills His Long Fly Ball to be Fair and a Home Run to give the Red Sox the win in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series on October 21, 1975. This was the walk-off home run to end all walk-off home runs. Set in Fenway Park amidst one of the greatest World Series ever, what more could a fan ask for? A true benchmark of great sports moments.

4. Dr. J. goes up and under the backboard to finish a baseline move on May 11, 1980. Yes, this is my homer pick, and it wasn't as much of a statement to me as his "cradle the baby" windmill dunk over Michael Cooper in the 1983 NBA Finals, but in a certain sense (with apologies to the likes of Earl "The Pearl" Monroe"), Dr. J showed us the future of athleticism and acrobatics in the NBA, and, well, it was just one awesome move from a great player. Yes, it's an outlier here, but I actually couldn't think of a great tenth pick on my list, so I reverted to the hometown hero.

5. Dwight Clark hauls in Joe Montana's TD Pass late in the fourth quarter against Dallas to win the NFC championship game on January 10, 1982. A dynasty begins, as this was the finishing test for the coming out party of a decade-old doormat, the San Francisco 49ers, en route to becoming a dynasty and fundamentally changing the game with the West Coast Offense. The Cowboys were the institution in the NFC, a force to be reckoned with year-in and year-out, and the 49ers broke through in a harbinger of things to come. Finally, someone was standing up to the Cowboys.

6. Lorenzo Charles' dunk earns NC State NCAA men's hoops championship on April 4, 1983. I remember watching this game with great curiosity, figuring that N.C. State would have little chance against Houston's very talented Phi Slamma Jamma squad (Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Micheaux, Clyde Drexler, Rob Williams and Michael Young -- four would be first-round NBA draft picks). So did the rest of the country, but no one told that to Jim Valvano and his N.C. State Wolfpack. Houston's Guy Lewis stopped pushing the tempo, and N.C. State had the ball with the game tied and time running out. Guard Derrick Wittenberg took a long shot (there were no 3's then) and it was an airball. Out of nowhere, Charles grabbed the ball and dunked it as time expired, giving N.C. State the victory. Not only was this a great play, but we all remember Valvano's dashing around the court afterwards looking for someone to hug. This game put Valvano on the map, and before his untimely death, he charmed the nation.

7. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary versus Miami on November 23, 1984. Why was this amazing? Because it was a high-scoring game, and few gave BC any chance as time was running out. So what did this talented QB do? He worked another miracle, threw the ball as far as he could, where it landed in the outstretched arms of his favorite receiver, Gerard Phelan, and bedlam ensured. Flutie's BC Eagles were a great team to watch, and Flutie's grit showed the country (again) that the size of the fight in the dog trumped the size of the dog in the fight. A great ending for a deserving QB.

8. Christian Laettner's shot beats Kentucky to win NCAA Eastern Regional Final on March 28, 1992. I gave up tickets to that game to go on what proved to be a key date with the woman who would become my wife, and I remember walking out of the two semifinals thinking that Duke would wax Kentucky because Duke looked much better in the semifinal game. Kentucky played a great game, and it took a court-length pass from Grant Hill to Laettner, who hit a jumper as time ran out from the top of the key to give Duke the game (Duke was trailing by 1 at the time). Many refer to this as the greatest college basketball game ever played, and it was awesome.

9. Former team manager Jason McElwain scores 20 in a high school game on February 16, 2006. McElwain, who was autistic, gets put in a game near the end of the season. The coach did it as a reward to his loyalty, to his work ethic, and all McElwain does is rain down three after three. The homemade video is a real treat, especially when his teammates carry him off the court at the end of the game. This video underscores what sports are about -- effort, selflessness, teamwork and positive attitude. It's "Rocky" and "Hoosiers" all wrapped up in one.

10. Boise State's Statue of Liberty Play beats Oklahoma on January 1, 2007. This play got my vote for several reasons. First, few gave Boise State a chance to win this game, as it was a battle of a non-BCS conference team against a big bad wolf from a very tough BCS conference. Second, the play itself was a beauty, taking "old-time" football and shoving it right into the Sooners' (and the BCS Conferences and the silliness of those who are the BCS) collective grilles in front of an entire nation. Boise State made a great statement in that game -- namely, that the games are won on the field, and that on a given day, the school no one heard of can play its best and bloody the behemoths. That game proved to be a harbinger for a wild 2008 season, when the asthmatics and nerds of Division 1 (and, relatively speaking, 1-AA), beat up on the favorites every chance they got.

Those are my top 10. What are yours?

Check out the list. It's a lot of fun.


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Anonymous Buy Cialis said...

I think it's difficult to pick just ten memorable moments because the one hundred highlights are amazing, actually we could have the same opinion but others could vote for other highlights, in fact for me the fifth one is the best.

11:22 AM  

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