Friday, October 08, 2010

Moments In Sports That Left A Lasting Impact

Anybody who knows me outside of just this blog, will be painfully aware of the fact that I would not fall under the category of 'athletic' when looking at words to properly describe me. When it comes to playing sports, I am a really good writer (that also goes for being handy around the house and juggling sharp steak knives -- but lets stop focusing on what I can't do). During recess as a child, when other boys were playing intense games of baseball or touch football, I was more likely to be way out in the field going on an exciting yet dangerous treasure hunt or preparing for battle with Orcs. Even though, I was far better at playing sports in video game form than in the flesh, that did not mean that I wasn't passionate about them. By around grade 4, I started really enjoying watching professional sports, at that point baseball was my sport of choice. When I started entering into my teen years, I began to take a liking to hockey and really falling in love with basketball (I actually even played a lot of pick up games throughout my high school career - or at least, I ran around on the court others were playing on). In my 20s, Sunday started becoming the highlight of the week, because it meant football would be on my television.

I've loved watching sports for a very long time, and I think, it is the same reason why I love a good book or movie. I love the stories that a competitive sports game creates. I love the moments that are formed in sports. Any sports fan can agree with me that there is those classic sports moments that become embedded in your brain and you never forget from that day forth. Those moments that hit you in a very emotional way that can't be described. For those reading this that don't enjoy watching sport, then I am sure you have no idea what I am talking about. Instead, you may wonder how can I get emotionally invested in something as silly and futile as a sports game. I realize that sports are not life or death, even when your team is in the championship game, though it might feel that way at the moment. I realize watching sports is not going to cure cancer or solve the worlds problems, but there is definitely something emotionally uplifting and exhilarating about watching your teams or favourite players succeed. I know there is people who find it silly to get so passionate about a sports team, and I also know I am far from passionate when compared to many. But it is one of those things, that if you don't like sports then you may never get or be able to relate to, no matter how I put it. The way I see it, you end up following a certain player or a certain team, you begin getting very emotionally invested in them as you followg them on their journey. So, there success and victories becomes a big part for you, and in a very small way, you can feel their moments too.

Sports is a great at providing moments, especially when you have those teams you constantly root for. There is always those few moments that will stick with you forever. I started thinking about this a few days ago after Roy Halladay pitched his no hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.

This past decade hasn't been a good time to be a Jays fan. They've constantly reminded us that the good years are long gone and very far ahead. The big bright spot of the past few years has been Roy Halladay. Doc has been a Blue Jay staple, and was undoubtedly the foundation of that team. He was not only an amazing pitcher, but he truly seemed like a genuinely good guy. If that wasn't enough for you to like the guy, then he was also the Blue Jays only Cy Young Award winner (pitcher of the year). After watching him grow and do amazing things for the last many years, I couldn't help but become a fan of his, and hope he reached the pinnacle of his sport. Which is why when he left the Blue Jays, I did not have any hard feelings. I knew the Jays are probably a few too many years away for competing for a championship, and Halladay has made it clear he want to get himself one of those spiffy World Series rings (think High School graduation ring, but only 123 times cooler). So, when the Phillies - Reds was on the other day, and I saw that Halladay was three outs away from getting a no hitter, I quickly found myself getting invested in the game even though I care for neither team. It wasn't only a matter of history being made (the first no hitter in the post season since 1956), but also it was going to happen for a guy that I appreciated. In an ending that Hollywood couldn't have scripted better, the final batter got a piece of the ball and was running towards first base with the chance of spoiling Halladay's impressive performance. The catcher quickly scrambled up to the ball and was able to throw out the runner just seconds before he made the base. The game was won and Halladay now got his name in the record books. It was an amazing display, for a guy making his first ever appearance in the post season. I felt joy bouncing all about in my stomach, and I instantly knew I had just witnessed a iconic sports moment.

There is a several other times throughout my life where I experienced those classic sports moments. The time I am flooded with emotion, and I will forever remember the time and place. It is the moments that make the rough seasons worthwhile, and cause me to constantly turn back to sports as a form of entertainment.

Unforgettable Sports Moments

1) Michael Jordan is the reason I started getting into basketball, as I am sure he was for many boys my age. He will go down as one of the greatest players of all time, and most likely, the greatest that ever played. Since I was a Jordan fan, then by default I started becoming a big Chicago Bulls fan. The torment of the late 80s and early 90s for Bulls fans was that despite the fact they had who they believe to be the leagues very best (Jordan had two league MVPs at this point to prove it), they had no league championship, or had ever even made it to the finals. There were many experts that started doubting if Jordan has what it took to bring his team together and lead them to the world championship. The late 80s they had began a epic rivalry with the 'bad boys' of basketball (named that due to the overly aggressive style of play), the Detroit Pistons. They had met the Pistons three times in a row in the post season (1988.1989, and 1990), two of which were the conference championship, but each time, the Pistons proved to be the better team. I remember the heartache of the Bulls taking the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals to seven games, but unable to beat the 'bad boys.' It was a rivalry, but one the Bulls seemed unable to win.

Then the 1990-1991 season arrived, the Bulls ended the season with the best record in the league. They proceeded to tear through the play offs by destroying every team they encountered. Then they entered into the Eastern Conference Finals, where they once again met up with their rivals, the Detroit Pistons -- the team that knocked them out of the play offs for three years straight. Even though the Bulls had a monumental year and were considered the best in the league (and the Pistons were becoming battle worn and tired from their years of aggressive play), many of the supposed sports experts were thinking the Pistons had the psychological edge and would be able to stop the red hot Bulls again. I remember being completely engrossed in the Bulls that season, and wanting them to finally beat the team that had become their albatross around their neck. The Pistons had become such rivals that beating them was almost more important then the Bulls winning the league championship (but of course, they needed to beat Detroit before even getting into the finals). I don't think I'll ever forget the sense of satisfaction and redemption I felt when my team, the Chicago Bulls, finally redeemed themselves after three years of heartache by not only getting into the league championship for the first time, but sweeping the Detroit Pistons 4-0. The dragon had been slayed, and I felt nothing would stop the Bulls. And actually, I was correct since the Bulls then went on to win the league championship that year, and then repeat for the next two years after. But for me, my sports moment was not winning the championship (despite that being awesome), but it was finally beating the Pistons (and doing it so decisively)

2) Any Blue Jays fan will just need me to say 1993 World Series Game 6. Joe Carter. The Blue Jays had already won the World Championship before, and that was a great moment, but nothing will compare to that bottom of the ninth homer to win the championship. You couldn't have asked for a better hero to cause the Jays to win their second championship. Carter is another really amazing athlete that also happens to be an exemplary human being. I remember, this moment so well because my dad had already head off to bed (despite the fact he already did this for Game 4 and the Blue Jays had made an even more impressive comeback then). He had counted the Jays out since they were behind a few runs, and was already prepared to see them have to play a game seven. There I was, all by lonesome in the dark house, and holding out hope the Jays would win the championship by making yet another amazing comeback in a series that was full of them. When Joe Carter hit that legendary home run, I leapt out of the couch and started doing the world's greatest happy dance. I also proceeded to mock my dad the next morning for missing one of the most iconic moments ever.

3) I am not sure why Mark Messier was my favourite hockey player as a kid. Maybe it was because I was from Brantford, where Wayne Gretzky was the hometown boy and hero, thus I had a need to be different. So, I chose one of Gretzky's best friends to root for instead. I found myself to be the lone New York Rangers fan among all my friends, and for most years that was pretty humbling (especially since they had not appeared in a Stanley Cup since 1979 and had not won one for 54 years). In 1994, it was finally the year that I could see my team win the championship. I remember sitting up in the rec room by myself and tightly clutching a blanket as the Rangers competed with the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. The game was intense and extremely close, and I remember it going right to the very last second. In the end, the Rangers pulled off a 3-2 victory, giving them their first Stanley Cup in decades. What I remember most, was seeing Mark Messier become like a six year old boy by jumping up and down with more emotion than almost any player I've seen before. It was a great moment to see my favourite player so overjoyed, and made me jump up and down in the rec room (until my mom told me it was shaking the chandelier in the living room). Seeing them finally win the championship was an amazing moment, but seeing how passionate and proud my hockey favourite was, will be the moment that will stick with me forever. It is a reminder that championships and victories still mean a lot to the players too.

4) I'm Canadian, so you had to expect a Men's Hockey Gold Medal final to make this little list. While the most recent one was legendary and probably even the more heart stopping moment (you can't beat winning it in overtime), the gold medal in 2002 was probably just a little bit sweeter. Before that point, despite Canada being a supposed hockey powerhouse, they had never won an Olympic gold medal in my lifetime (1952 in Oslo was their last). On that fateful day, me and my friends sat down to watch one of the most intense game of our lives, because not only was it the possibility of seeing the men's hockey team finally win an Olympic gold medal, but it would be against their number one rivals, the United States (well, some would argue Russia, but I'm trying to build the tension up here).

We packed ourselves in the hovel known as Slum House and proceeded to be glued to the television for the next several hours. I am not sure if I'd ever seen my friends so passionate over a game before. We jumped up and screamed at every shot and every major move. I could really sense the emotion pouring all over the room (along with all the other stuff that was all over that room -- it was Slum House after all). Like I said, this game in retrospect wasn't as exciting or even as close as the most recent gold medal final where it took overtime to win it. But at the time, this game was the most important because Canada finally won, after 50 years, a gold medal in what is supposed to be our sport.

I remember once the regulation time ended, and it was now clear Canada had won the gold medal over the United States with a score 5-2. I remember a friend of mine was so thrilled by the victory he flung himself from the couch and did a rather heroic face plant (okay, face plants can't be heroic, but I am trying to keep the man's dignity here). Every single guy in that room was ecstatic about Canada finally winning that men's hockey gold medal. We then did the only thing that a respectable and humble Canadian hockey fan would do. We proceeded to go downstairs to our neighbours' house, who happened to be an American, and forced him to kiss our Canadian flag. His wife proved her loyalties, by demanding that her husband follow our request (she's a good Canadian girl). After we emotionally damaged him, we then decided to spread the love of the flag for all. We walked down the downtown of Cambridge, lifting the Canadian flag high for all to see. I remember several cars driving by and honking at us. It was a great moment and I still get chills about it. I am sure some will say that it is only a game, and it is silly to be that passionate. But that just means you don't really understand the power of sports, and what moments like this can mean for some people. I know there are more important moments. I know there are times in my life that were far better. But I will always cherish celebrating that win with some of my best friends, and walking down the streets with the Canadian flag in our hands.

5) I don't know what it is about me always cheering for sports teams that rarely make it to championship finals (well, except for the Bulls who won 6 league championships in the 90s, thank you very much). It was tough being a Chicago Bears fan in Ontario. They rarely ever got their games shown on television, and when they did, they usually lost. They did win the Super Bowl in 1986, but I was too busy cheering on He-Man back then to notice. When I started following the Bears, seeing them actually make the play offs was a rare thing. Which is why January 21st, 2007 was a classic sports moment for me. Not only were the Bears in the play offs, but they had won the NFC championship against the New Orleans Saints 39 -14. I was finally going to be able to see my favourite team in the Super Bowl. It was yet another moment that I was overwhelmed with emotion and excitement. I'd taken years of friend laughing at me for being loyal to Bears, and years of networks rarely showing them play on TV. Now, I was going to get to see them play in the biggest and most watch sports event of the year. Now, the results of that game is insignificant, because what matters is they got there. Of course, if they are able to accomplish that feat again this year, then I'll be sure to let you know the score of that game (if they win).

There are countless great sports moments, and many others that I still remember and cherish. These are the ones that really stuck out to me and I still have vivid memories of today. They were major moments when my sports heroes and favourite teams finally got their shining moment. These are the times that remind me why I've invested so many hours watching countless sports.

So, what are some of your favourite and most memorable sports moments?

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:22 pm

    Scott Martin via Facebook:

    My favourite moments in sports are...

    1 - Ray Bourque holding up the cup. Sure it was not in Boston, but that didn't matter to myself or other Bruins fans. I actually cried... sap.

    2 - Donavon Bailey in the 1996 Olympics. Seriously, I doubt I will ever forget watching him smash 10 seconds.

    3 - GSP vs Penn 2. Even though St Pierre was already recognized as an amazing fighter, this fight really put him on a level that hardly any other fighter is on. He not only beat Penn, but caused Penn to quit between rounds. With showing that he is so far ahead of the competition, the only marquee matchup left at the moment (other than the hoped for fight against Sheilds) is the often rumoured battle with Anderson Silva.

    4 - Lewis vs Tyson. This was larger than life. I swear I saw it at Juniors in Cambridge with Dickey. Apparently it was the highest grossing pay-per-view of all time. Say what you will about Tyson, but just getting a chance to see those two in the ring at the same time was amazing... like seeing Stalone and Arnie in the same film.

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  2. #2. How could I ever forget to mention the unforgettable moment of Donavon shattering the world record at that time. I remember hooting and hollering so much, that my mom came rushing down to make sure I wasn't on fire.

    #4. I remember going to the bar to meet up with you guys after work, but my timing was off, and I arrived moments after the fight concluded. I got to see the post match interview though.

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  3. Anonymous9:50 am

    Silken Laumann winning the silver medal at the Olympics in rowing after being in a horrific accident earlier in the year. I need to think of some more.

    Emily

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