We can never be certain of our courage until we have faced danger.
- La Rochefoucauld, French Classical Writer (1613-1680)
I’ll keep my writing to a minimum on this one because I’m far more interested to hear your shares.
Here’s my list:
# 3 – 1987. Magic’s Junior Sky Hook at the Garden. I was at band practice and imploring my bandmates to check it out but while they chose to continue jamming upstairs (sorry Marc, but you’ll never live it down!) so I went downstairs to watch the final quarter of Game Four of the NBA Finals unfold. To see Magic hit that shot and finally punk the Celtics in a pivotal Finals game in their own house, what a thing of beauty! Even though I was already 18 at the time, I’d been somewhat of a casual Lakers fan up until then. That was the game and that was the shot that made me a diehard for life. What a beautiful dagger to the heart that shot was.
# 2 – 1988. Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run. The Dodgers not given a chance by anyone, as much the underdogs as any World Series team had ever been, Gibson hobbling up to the plate on two bad legs, and while it was only Game One (the only at bat Gibson had in the entire series) that one swing pretty much took all the air out of the balloon of those “invincible” Oakland A’s. I still get chills just picturing Vin Scully’s call as I type this.
# 1 – 1977. The Raiders stomp the Vikings in Super Bowl XI. I was eight and it was the first NFL game I ever really got into. I wouldn’t even have tuned in if my neighbor Alex hadn’t called me up and asked me if I was watching the Super Bowl. (“Super what?”) He got me so pumped up on how the Raiders were the meanest, baddest team in all of football, he told me they were a bunch of convicts and murderers who got released from prison to play, and play they did.
They just pounded the Vikings, mercilessly! Definitely my greatest memory as a sports fan. (I can still remember for four or five years after that game, CBS’ NFL Today started all their broadcasts with a collection of highlights that included a tight shot of Willie Brown and the intensity in his face as he ran an interception back up the sideline for a touchdown. Man, that clip would get this Raider fan pumped every time I saw it!)
# 3 – 2003. “Chucky” Gruden gets over on his old boss as the Raiders get blown out in Super Bowl XXXVII. With new coach Callahan running the same offense that Gruden was running when he was the Raiders coach the year before, The Bucs were calling out the Raiders plays before the Raiders could run them. Final result: Al Davis finds out that karma’s a bitch.
# 2 – 1977. Reggie Jackson crushes three home runs on three swings against the Dodgers in the World Series. I was eight and I think it was the first time I ever cried without skinning my knee. Enough said.
# 1 – 2001. Even though it was a divisional playoff game and not the Super Bowl, this one stung much worse than 2003. The refs ripped that game from the Raiders’ jaws of victory just as surely as Woodson hit Brady and Brady fumbled the ball.
With what was probably the best of the Raiders’ teams during the Gruden / Gannon era, this game ended up as the game that started the Patriots’ dynasty of Super Bowl teams. Who knows how different things might be for both teams if the call on the field hadn’t been overturned by some obsure footnote in the rule book. (The tuck rule was abolished on March 20, 2013, by a 29-1 vote of current teams. The Patriots abstained.)
Maybe the worst part of the game was, after the team on the field and every fan was celebrating a win and a trip to the AFC Championship, having to endure watching the slow, inevitable aftermath of the call as a dispirited Raiders team gave up a game tying field goal near the end of the 4th and then a game winner in OT. Brutal.
Share your memories, you can make it short and sweet if you like, but I want to see your list of your top three best and worst memories as a sports fan.