4/05/2005

 

So...Does Anyone Else Need a Bridesmaid?

"Without the bitter, the sweet don't taste so good." - Al Fritz, October 27th, post Game Three of the 2004 World Series.

Yes, I just quoted myself. And, yes, that's really uncool. But here's the point:

I moved to Saint Louis in July of last summer. Immediately proceeding my move the St. Louis Cardinals ran off an amazing string of victories, ultimately arriving in the World Series.

They lost the Series, but I knew at the time that the memories which I obtained during their run would ultimately trump the heartbreak which their Series loss had brought upon me.

And they did. There would be good times to come.

Fast forward five months...My Fighting Illini are playing (in the town of St. Louis, mind you) for the National Championship.

Fate. Right?

It's fate? The team of destiny.

Final horn blows. University of North Carolina 75, The University of Illinois 70.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

To say that I'm not upset would to speak a lie. But if you don't live your life celebrating a passion for your interests, why are you even living your life?

I'll take a heartbreaker. At least it means I have a heart.

I've been following sports for my entire life with a zeal that borders on ridiculousness.

Why?

Here are the eleven games which have, in one way or another, literally, changed my life:

1)Chicago Bulls v. Utah Jazz, 1997 NBA Finals, Game 6
Everyone knows Jordan's taking the last shot...Guard Jordan...Inbounds pass to M.J....Steve Kerr's open in the corner...Michael whips the ball to Kerr...Kerr buries the shot! That's the ball game, that's the series...The Chicago Bulls have just won the 1997 NBA Championship! God, I love Steve Kerr.

2)Chicago Bulls v. Utah Jazz, June 22, 1998, 1998 NBA Finals, Game 6
A year later and it's another Game six. In Utah, time winding down with the Bulls tied and inbounding the ball...Watch the open man (you know what happened last year)...Jordan takes it up top, Byron Russel guarding...M.J. with the stutter-step into a stiff-arm...pull up...nothing but net, the Bulls have won their sixth NBA Championship. What should be remembered as Michael Jordan's final shot, I was a drunk seventeen year old watching it in my buddy Tito's basement, not knowing I would never see a man with that amount of skill grace the basketball court again (at least until LeBron recently showed up)

3)Cardinals v. Cubs, Sept 8, 1998.
Granted it's been tainted now, but you have got to admit, when Mac hit number 62...not only was it pretty electric...it got a little dusty, too.

4) Not really a game so much, but on September 2, 2001, Ward Burton won the Southern 500 racing the Caterpillar car and Bud Smith threw a no-hitter for the cardinals. Neither have been heard from since.

5)Notre Dame v. Michigan State, Sept 21, 2002
THE return to Glory game. Arnaz Battle caught the game winner from Pat Dillingham with 1:15 remaining to beat Michigan State on the road, 21-17. A few days after me grandmother had passed away, that game gave my family a brief moment to celebrate.

6)Green Bay Packers v. Oakland Raiders, December 21, 2003
Brett Favre's father, Irv, had passed in an auto accident after suffering a heart attack a few days before. The Packers were in Oakland to play the Raiders on Monday night football, and Favre understandably considered skipping the game--even though Green Bay was 8-6 at the time and was fighting to reach the playoffs.Urged on by his family, Favre played. He was spectacular, throwing for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. He finished with 399 yards in a 41-7 victory, then returned to Mississippi for the funeral. I remember watching this game at Donnelly's Pub in Peoria with my buddies. Favre's heart, mixed with his receiver's composure, made that not only the greatest game Brett has ever played, but also his defining football moment.

7)Yankees v. Red Sox, Game four of the 2004 ALCS
"The Dave Roberts Steal". Simply a great moment for Boston sports fans. Years from now, sports historians (if such a position actually exists, and if it does, I want that job) might point the Dave Roberts' pinch-running steal off Mariano Rivera, and Mueller's subsequent single to tie the game, as the single event that sparked a team, and an entire city, from a culture of defeatism and losing to one of championships and confidence.

8)Yankees v. Red Sox, Game six of the 2004 ALCS
Is it officially referred to as "The Curt Schilling Game"? or "The Bloody Sock Game"? Can we get a ruling on this? Either way, I cried.

9)Cardinals v. Astros, Game six of the 2004 NLCS
The Cards with their backs to the wall...extra frames in a tied game when in walks Jim Edmonds...with a long one to right..."And we are heading to game seven and we will SEE...YOU...TOMORROW...NIGHT!"

10)Cardinals v. Astros, Game seven of the 2004 NLCS
The "Not Today Game"...Featuring "The Catch" and followed up by Albert Pujols and Scottie Rolen touching up Roger Clemens. I still have not fully regained my hearing from that game.

11)"The Greatest Comeback Ever": The University of Illinois v. Arizona; Elite Eight, March 26, 2005
It had been a great run by the Illini, but, it looked as if they might not simply lose, but lose badly, maddeningly, embarrassingly. By 15 points or more. Or maybe even 20. A rout. A blowout. Not just a loss, but the kind of loss that would leave a lasting ache in the gut of every Illini man, woman or child—fans who had expected to rejoice and reminisce about this once-in-a-lifetime season for the rest of their lives.
Arizona 75, Illinois 60. Four minutes 4 seconds to go.
Deron Williams, a three-pointer. Luther Head for three more. Dee Brown, a jump shot.
Illini cut it to nine, 2:48 left.
A layup by Head. But the clock's still ticking, 1:18 to go, Illini still down 77-70.
A layup by Williams. A heads-up three by Head. A layup by Brown, and all of a sudden, 0:45 on the clock, Illini within three.
And seven ticks later, a three by Williams and it's 80-all and so many Illini hearts are pounding so hard that The Rosemont Horizon is going to have to buy some life insurance through Allstate.

"It is just not the greatest game I have ever played in," Jack Ingram said, "but the greatest game I have ever watched."

Thinking about that game...even as down as I am right now...I know, I'll be back..We'll all be back.

Because as you, I, and John J. Rambo know: "Nothing is over."

Because baseball just started right back up. Right on queue.

Comments:
Great post. Steve Kerr does rule. When I used to play hoops, Kerr was the guy I tried to emulate, except I can't shoot straight. I loved that game against Dallas in 2003, he came in in the 4th quarter, scored 12 points, helped the Spurs send the Mavs home.
 
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