Posts Tagged ‘SUper Bowl’

Memorable Moments in Sports, for Me

Monday, February 9th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Frank Shorter, left, and Bill Rodgers, racing to the finish line in the first Orange Classic.

Frank Shorter, left, and Bill Rodgers, racing to the finish line.

The Super Bowl has been lost, baseball has yet to begin. The basketball and hockey professionals are passing the time until June, when their championships will be decided. lt has snowed three Mondays in a row. It must be February, the time of year when a lot of sports fans turn their attention to another favorite pastime — talking about sports.

Forget the dropped passes and ground balls that rolled through an infielder’s legs; this is the time of year I like to remember the good stuff, the memorable stuff, the stuff that makes someone a sports fan in the first place.

I found myself wandering into such a conversation the other day. What was the best single athletic feat ever? The greatest athletic accomplishment? Too arbitrary and prone to record-book chasing, I decided. For my February reminiscence, I’m going with the moments in sports that left an indelible mark on me — the tImes when I experienced something in person or on TV and went, “Wow!,” if just to myself.

The hope here is that you readers will share your own special moments in sports so that we can have an old-fashioned Hot Stove League discussion. Mantle-Mays-Snider? Montana-Unitas-Brady? The “Immaculate Reception?” Willis Reed’s entrance? What special moments in sports are still with you?

  • I’m starting my list of most memorable moments with an effort I have often called the best single performance by any athlete — Secretariat’s 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes in 1973. In winning the Triple Crown and dominating the best of the rest of the three-year-olds, he set a world record time for the 1 1/2 miles distance – 2 minutes 24 seconds. Awesome. Check it out on YouTube.
  • Also in the category of “can you believe it?” was a more recent display of excellence in the moment — Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit on July 9, 2011. With all the baseball world waiting for the hit that would guarantee the Yankee captain a plaque in Cooperstown, Jeter just wanted it to not be an infield grounder that he beat out. No worry. He laced a home run into the left field seats at Yankee Stadium, trotted around the bases with a big smile on his face and proceeded to go five-for-five, including hitting the game-winning single in the eighth inning. Then there were the dives and the flips, the final hit, etc. A memorable career in toto.
  • Willie Mays, another New Yorker, of earlier vintage, was also a player who rose to the moment. I have plenty of special memories of Willie, including a day at the Polo Grounds in the 1950s when the Giants’ center fielder hit three triples in a double-header (they used to play them for the price of one game). I can’t find anything on Google to confirm this, but that’s how I remember it and I’m sticking to my memory.
  • Since this is just my personal recounting of memorable sports moments, I have never seen anyone better than Mickey Mantle at dragging a bunt past the pitcher and getting to first base before the second baseman got to the ball. Every single time.
  • When it comes to pure excellence, for me the performance by 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal is in a class of its own. The tiny Romanian gymnast scored the first perfect 10 for a gymnastic event at the Olympics and added four more perfect scores that year while winning three gold medals and dazzling the world TV audience. Since the scoreboard makers didn’t think a 10 was possible, they only allowed for a 9.9. Four years later, there were updated scoreboards in Moscow.
  • The fastest I ever ran was in 1956, sprinting home six blocks from Bayonne High School, where we had been listening to the game on transistor radios, to see the final outs of the Yankees’ Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. On our black and white TV. It’s the highest Yogi ever leapt, too, I think.
  • In 1981, the Times Herald-Record newspaper sponsored the first Orange Classic, a 10K race around the City of Middletown. It invited local hero Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic gold medal winner and 1976 silver medal winner, and his chief rival, Bill Rodgers, Boston and New York CIty marathon champion, to headline the event. They did not fail to deliver. The two turned the corner on the final stretch of the race well ahead of the field, running neck and neck for more than a quarter mile as the crowd cheered. Shorter edged Rodgers out at the end. It was as perfect a finish as the crowd could hope for and, no, I’ve never thought Rodgers held back because it was Shorter’s hometown. A truly classic moment.
  • The Miracle on Ice. I admit it. I was swept up with the rest of the crowd chanting, “USA! USA!” when a team of American college all-stars defeated a team of Russian professionals, 4-3, in ice hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Winning the gold medal that year was almost an after-thought for the American team following that emotional upset. An unforgettable moment.
  • Finally, a purely personal moment that came far from any athletic venue. In 1973, while covering a sports-related conference in Binghamton, N.Y., I shook hands with Jackie Robinson and told him what a pleasure it was to meet him. It was more than that. It was memorable.

***

That’s it. Just a few moments that have nourished my love of sports over the years. I’d really like to hear some of yours. C’mon, folks, it’s February. The Knicks are dismal, it’s snowing and the Stanley Cup final is months away. Reminisce with me.

 rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

How to Avoid Winning a Super Bowl

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Marshawn Lynch ... doing what he does best.

Marshawn Lynch … doing what he does best.

When you played pickup football as a kid — in the street, the school yard or the park — some things were understood even if you didn’t know some of the players on your team before the game started. A major thing was that the best player — usually easy to know — had final say on the plays, even if he wasn’t playing quarterback.

So, for example, if Billy, the best player on the team, is playing halfback, and it’s almost the end of the game and your team is losing and needs a touchdown to win and you happen to be on the other team’s one-yard line and Joey, your quarterback, says he’s going to throw a jump pass over the middle to that tall, skinny kid — Lenny, or something — who was just hanging out and got to play only because you needed one more guy, Billy says, “Give me the ball!”

Which your quarterback obediently does. Billy barrels over three players on the other team for a touchdown and you win the game. Yay! That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

Even in the Super Bowl.

Only it didn’t this time and the Seattle Seahawks lost a game they should have won because their coach, Pete Carroll, got cute at a time when all he needed to do was let his best player win the game for him. The Seahawks were losing to Tom Brady and company, but had moved to the New England Patriots’ one-yard line with 20 seconds left in the game, thanks in large part to a circus catch in which the ball bounced off the receiver’s hands and legs before he caught it.

What now? Simple. Give the ball to your best player and let him win you a championship. Billy, watching the game at home, sets down his chicken wing and screams, “Give the ball to Marshawn!” Joey, at a Super Bowl party, says, “I think he should give the ball to Lynch.”

Surely, Seattle, a team built on toughness and a strong running game, would give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, the star running back who speaks with his legs. Lynch never loses yardage. He runs over, around and past opponents with ease. Give him the ball, everyone but Patriots fans tells their TV sets.

Instead, Carroll tells his quarterback, Russell WIlson, a supposedly savvy kid and also a pretty good runner, to throw the ball over the middle to that tall, skinny kid, Whatsizname? Oh, to be in the huddle when that play was called. Oh, to see the eyes of the other 10 players go wide with amazement. Oh, to hear Marshawn Lynch says, “Give me the damn ball!” And, oh, to see him barrel over three Patriots, into the end zone. Touchdown! Seattle goes wild. Brady looks sad.

That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

Oh, would that it had.

Lynch, who spent the week of hype before the game telling reporters he wasn’t going to talk to them, apparently carried his silence into the game. Wilson called the play his coach says he wanted for reasons no football fan will ever fathom. But instead of his own skinny receiver, Wilson threw the ball to some short, skinny kid on the other team. Not even their best player.

Game over. Seahawks lose the Super Bowl.

Billy can’t believe it. Neither can Brady. His coach, Bill Belichick, says that’s just how he planned it.

Now, I’m no fortune teller, but I’m thinking the next time the game is on the line and their coach gets too cute again, Lynch looks up in the huddle and says, “Bullshit, Russell. Give me the damn ball.” And Wilson, if he’s half as smart as they say he is, will.

“Shudda done it in the Super Bowl, you morons!” Billy yells at the TV.

rjgaydos@gmail.com