Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Greatest Sports Matches of 2010
It has been a spectacular year for sports, honestly, it really has. Soccer was amazing, MLB was memorable, and even the NBA had a decent ending to their usually mediocre season. While the year is not over yet, I can nearly guarantee that we won’t find a game in December that can top the biggest sporting moments we’ve experienced in 2010. These are not ranked in any order, since it’s a mixture of sports and I prefer one sport/league/association over another. Here, we, go!
1) The One-Goaler
Game: United States vs. Algeria
FIFA World Cup 2010
This was the World Cup that would alter Americans’ view of the sport. The sport was already slowly rising in popularity with the MLS (must I reiterate, slowly) and with a new batch of young stars with a hunger to win the world of soccer would experience a sort of rejuvenation in the United States. ESPN’s coverage of this entire event was the channel at its 90s-quality best, before retired players and coaches sucked all the fun and intelligence of the coverage of ESPN televised events.
After a crazy opener against England, and a game that should have been won by the Americans, the US team needed a win here or they would have to go home. Their opponent was the quietly stubborn Algeria. What happened in this game was a full-on offensive attack from the United States that started from the 10-minute marker all the way to the end of the game. Playing in a desperation style, the United States played with more ferociousness than most soccer teams in the entire tournament. Despite the US owning the soccer ball most of the time, Algeria’s defense was relentless and would not give up. And then, when the United States looked like they were going home without even qualifying…….
The goal that sent the United States into the quarterfinals.
It was a tense game with more close calls than St. Maarten on a busy afternoon. And it would also propel the popularity of United States soccer into new heights, with the help of ESPN, the high-speed internet society, word-of-mouth, and a newfound respect of the sport.
2) The Second Hand of God
Game: Uruguay vs. Ghana
FIFA World Cup 2010 Knockout Stage
Uruguay was cruising through the World Cup with ease. Ghana became the representative of the continent of Africa by being the lone remaining African squad in competition, having just beaten the United States in another close match. What happened next was some of the best soccer I’ve ever seen, and the sports match that was among the closest to giving me and the commentators a heart attack.
The game was tied after 90 minutes so it went into an extra period. There was already a flurry of attacks from both sides as it was a heavily offensive matchup. The game could have gone either way. Despite all the shots on goal, it took 45 minutes before the first goal, and after the tie, nobody scored again. And then came that final stinkin' minute in extra time before the potential penalty kicks.
Ghana went on a final rampage, which included three shots right at the goalie. While the first two were amazingly saved, the third shot was about to go in. The ball was over everyone's head. For that split second, everyone knew it. The players, the fans, the commentators, everyone. At the last moment, Luis Suarez did the ultimate sacrifice---he put his hand on the ball intentionally and illegally blocked it. Everyone saw it, including the refs of course. A crying Suarez was kicked out of the game while Ghana was setting up for the penalty kick and the goal that would finally send an African nation to the semifinals.
In the oddest turn of events, the sure-fire winning goal never happened. All of Africa was crushed. Uruguay had a second breath of life. We still had the penalty kicks. But with that epic miss, everyone knew who was going to win.
This game had it all, dozens of close shots, plenty of controversy, amazing plays, amazing saves, and best of all, enough insanity and chaos to create an eventual motion picture. It will be one of the most talked about soccer games for years to come, and that is thanks to the second Hand of God---or whatever you want to call that handball play that rocked the world.
3) Ray Finkle II and III
Game: Boise State vs. Nevada
Boise State was making a strong push towards the championship after an impressive last year and defeating Virginia State in the opener. Of course the argument is, Boise State's schedule isn't as tough as most other schools like the SEC.....supposedly. However, with Alabama and Florida not being as impressive as they were last year, and with fewer and fewer schools going through the year undefeated, Boise State was extremely close of having a chance to fight in the big game. All they needed was two more wins, and one of the top 2 teams to lose.
Then came Nevada.
The rivalry between the two schools had already been intense before. But with Nevada hosting the opportunity to end Boise State's chances of doing something that no school west of Texas (excluding California..but they might as well be another country anyway) could ever do, they were more than ready. Boise State wasn't playing their best ball, but still kept pace against a spunky Nevada squad. They were exchanging leads multiple times throughout the close match. On the latter ends of the 4th quarter Nevada had tied the game with very little time left. And then with no hope in their soul, the Broncos throw a hail mary.
The result is one of the greatest college football plays in the last 20 years, and this is without a doubt, no exaggeration. The throw, the leap, the catch, and the instant calling of the timeout the moment he realized Boise had one more chance in them. And just like in the Ghana/Uruguay game, Boise State had the game. All they needed was a small field goal. Just one. 20 yarder.
But at least there's overtime.
Oops again. Boise State had yet another chance to put away the game and continue their hopes for a championship bid. But after another missed field goal, Boise State lost all momentum, and you can see they felt defeated after their kicker let them down again. With that second miss, we all knew Nevada was going to win, we all knew Nevada was going to make their field goal.
I always screamed that there should be a playoff in college football, so we can have these potentially epic matches like Boise State vs. Alabama, like Utah vs. Florida, etc. I strongly believe that the smaller schools all deserve some sort of chance to prove their worth and head towards the championship. But with Boise State's loss, for at least a couple of years we will not see another small school make such a strong push for the big show. And yes, TCU was ranked high, but they weren't that much of a threat.
4) Shootout at the Big Easy
Game: NFC Championship Game
Vikings vs. Saints
On one corner you have a football team that helped lift the spirits of a city utterly destroyed by a hurricane and poor planning in preparation for the storm. On the other hand you have an aging legend just begging for a final Super Bowl run before retirement---even though he should have done it years upon years ago. The Vikings suddenly became a force to be reckoned after signing Brett Farve and suddenly dominating its rather-easy schedule and surprisingly being one game away from the big show. But New Orleans was playing at home in front of an extremely hungry game. This match was going to be good.
Nearly 58 million people tuned in to this game, which reached instant classic status because it was a nail-biter from the first second to the very last (9 fumbles for crying out loud---6 by the Vikings). The momentum had shifted so many times, it became like a gruesome tennis volley with no end in sight. The Saints scored first, but then the Vikings scored twice. By halftime, the game was a tie. Third quarter, the game was tied.
Of course, then we enter the fourth quarter. The game was tied up, but the Vikings still had enough time for a run. Surely enough, Brett Farve was looking like his 90s self as he marched down the field with the Vikings. They were within field goal range but decided to try one more play. And of course, Brett Farve reacts incorrectly under playoff pressure. Here it is.
What could have been a game-winning field goal turned into an interception, even though Farve had the chance to take a knee or rush out of bounds to stop the clock. Many possibilities were present, but his gunslinging skills once again cost him a potential win. It was the most heartbreaking moment in Vikings history since this disaster. Or this one. Or this one.
So now in overtime the Saints won the coin toss, and held their destiny. After a close fourth down, they were in field goal range, and football history was in place. The field goal would lift them into the Super Bowl.
"It is good--ood--ooodddd!!!!"
The 40-yarder was good, giving us more evidence that the football Gods just don't like the Vikings..and that it was destiny bringing the Saints into the Super Bowl. Of course, just to add insult, we have the momentum suicidal Colts not deliver their best performance, allowing for the Saints to win it all. However, the Saints biggest test in their championship run was this phenomenal game, and Brett Farve's closest chance of getting another ring ended here with another mistake, another interception.
To Be Continued.....
P.S. Yes, that was Johnny Bravo