It’s the first Table Topic Tuesday of 2014. Ready for the question?
This is a hard one for me because I’ve never been an athlete (unless you count cheerleading and I don’t. Sorry, pom squad sisters).
I do love sports, though–the names of mascots, the grown ups singing silly cheers (low, deep and serious as drunk Gregorian chants), the way you have to watch with your whole body because your nerve endings will short-circuit if you’re still.
I’m a rookie fan, so I don’t have a deep knowledge of historical sporting events. I’d love to see a tied series broken or a record broken or a curse broken in person. But, what I’d really like to see is the launch of a legend.
Once, a piece I worked on flopped. Belly flopped. And I was bummed. My Creative Director asked me: Know who had the most hits in baseball, all time? Pete Rose. Know who had the most outs? Pete Rose. The more you’re up to bat, the more chances you have to fail. The more chances you have to be amazing. You just have to start.
What was Pete Rose’s first at-bat like? Did he ever shiver in his cleats? How was Michael Jordan’s first shot? Muhammad Ali’s first punch? That’s what I want to go back and see–the promise of greatness.
Now my friends–sports superstars–will weigh in the smart way.
In my opinion, no sport takes greater strength, perseverance and downright badassness than professional cycling. As a runner, I feel I’m obligated to tout my own sport, but it’s just not true. A Tour de France event is 19 days of cycling through France. Two thousand fourteen’s course goes like this: 9 flat stages, 5 hill stages, 6 mountain stages with 5 altitude finishes, 1 time trial, and 2 rest days. The stages range from 54km to 237km. In one day. Roll that around for a second. These athletes are in a saddle for hours and hours each day. I can barely sit in a chair that long, let alone pedal a bike 40km/hr for hours on end. And then they get up the next morning and do it all again. Unfortunately, doping scandals have been around since the 80s-90s, but even so, I don’t doubt for a second that these are some of the fittest men on Earth. All that said (sorry), I would love to see all the Tour de France races, starting with the first in 1903. I would die to see Lance destroy his competition on an uphill. I want to feel the peloton whizz by like a high-speed train. I want to see the pain and triumph on a stage winner’s face as they cross yet another finish line. And I really want to see the last stage as the tour winner hoists the traditional bouquet above his head and gives each lady delicate les bises on each cheek. What a surreal moment.
The first Olympic Games. Would love to see the difference from then to now.
This was tough. Sports have been my life since I had a basketball in my crib that was roughly the size of my head. I’ve attended World Series games, NBA playoff games, great college match-ups… I once trip an NBA official while sweeping the floor in my short time as a ball boy.
But, with all that, there is a never-ending list of historical sporting events that I would love to be able to get my Marty McFly on and go to. Any Pistol Pete game at LSU. Jordan’s flu game. Super Bowl 3. Game 1 of the ’88 World Series. The Miracle on Ice. Even game 6 last year’s NBA Finals when Jesus saved the Heat.There’s one clear answer.The gold medal ice-hockey game of the 1994 Junior Goodwill Games: Iceland vs. the United States.Led by coach Gordon Bombay and All-World Center Adam Banks, Team USA was a heavy underdog going into the match-up against the bigger, stronger, faster Team Iceland, led by captain Gunnar Stahl, the tournament’s points leader.
Though the team came in with much fanfare, which featured a large corporate sponsorship from Hendrix Hockey, one of the nation’s leading sportswear companies, the wheels had fallen off after a loss in the round robin round to the very same Iceland team. Banks had gone down with a wrist injury, there were reports of revolt within the locker room, resulting in Bombay being 2 and a half periods late for their semi-final match-up. Eye witnesses report him roller blading on Venice Beach shortly after the drop of the puck.This seemed to be a come to Jesus moment for the team though. They came into the gold medal game with a aggression not seen since their opening game against the overmatched Trinidad and Tobago. Iceland took an early lead, but the resilient Team USA battled back, using seldom used tactics like the alley-oop and a lasso. For every hit laid on them by Iceland, the US hit back harder. Banks returned to spark the offense, with captain Charlie Conway, a long-time Bombay disciple, giving up his roster spot. Why would he do that? So newcomer Russ Tyler could stay on the roster. This would pay major dividends.They trail going into the third and final period. Then… it happened. As the Americans skated onto the ice for the last 20 minutes of hockey, the red, white and blue they donned earlier was still in the locker room. Across their chests was the logo of the Ducks, the name of the team Bombay had coached two years prior in Minnesota, which featured many of this team. This changed sent a surge of electricity through the arena a a rush of adrenaline through this underdog squad. Down a goal late in the game and Tyler being double-teamed whenever he stepped on the ice, Bombay called on the seldom used hockey time-out and devised his greatest play ever. With the clock ticking, Team USA The Ducks making no push and Iceland Coach Wolf ‘The Dentist’ Stansson trying to get eyes on Tyler… Bombay screamed, “Now, Guy!” Center Guy Germaine skated to center ice, followed by Greg Goldberg, the goalie, which is odd. As he passed it back to Goldberg, the former deli-cashier shed his mask to reveal THAT IT WASN’T GOLDBERG BUT TYLER IN GOLDBERG’S JERSEY! He’s handed a stick and unleashes his unstoppable knucklepuck to tie the game and send it into a shootout.Back and forth they go. Goal. Save by Golderberg. Back and forth.With the shootout tied at 3 going into the last round, it’s time for Adam ‘Cakeeater’ Banks to go. And he does not disappoint. In one could only have been a move to throw the Iceland goalie off, Banks puts his versatility on display and handles the puck left-handed for the first time in his career. 4-3 Ducks.Before Stahl takes the final shot for Iceland, Bombay, in another legendary coaching move, pulls Goldberg to insert seldom used Julie ‘The Cat’ Gaffney in goal, who, earlier in the tournament, had become the first female to take her place between the pipes in Junior Goodwill Games history. Stahl went to his patented triple-deke, stopped short and went high, glove side. As the crowd held their collective breath… the puck bounced up out of the confident glove of Gaffney. USA DUCKS WIN! DUCKS WIN!No sporting event has ever topped that. It’s hard to believe that one ever will.