ESPN semi-celebrated its anniversary today by replaying a number of sports moments, selecting Julius Erving's swooping, under the basket-past three Lakers-reverse spin off the glass-finger roll as a particularly memorable incident . Also shown repeatedly were Bobby Orr's "flying" goal to win the Stanley Cup for Boston, Franco Harris' 'Immaculate Reception' and Willie Mays over-the-shoulder catch and throw in the Polo Grounds.
ESPN was one of the first places I sent a resume after graduating in 1979, and I recall thinking there couldn't possibly be a better job than sorting through the best parts of every sporting day to present the kind of hungry-for-it- all fan I represented with footage that would make people oooh! and aaah! I was probably one of 100,000 guys (and yes, ladies) who did so, and while I've had my moments as a sports writer, I doubt anyone will recall my verbiage as clearly as The Boomers "he could...go...all...the way!"
The heads bowed, Black Power salutes of US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand of Mexico City, October 16,1968. Smith won in a then-world record time of 19.83, Carlos was third in 20.10. Give huge credit to Australian Peter Norman, who also wore a Olympic Project for Human Rights badge because he was in sympathy with their ideals. Honestly, I don't know if there are two guys who shoved a reality at the world any more definitively, and that has to count somewhere, so I'll put it at the beginning of the list instead of as a final reminder of what sports can mean to us beyond a spray of champagne or shiny trinket.
Jimmy Valvano running through a wildly celebrating crowd after Sidney Lowe's long jumper with time running out became a buzzer-beating putback and NCState upset the Houston Cougars and Phi Slamma Jamma team featuring Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olijuawan. Jimmy V. always said he was looking for Derek Wittenberg to hug, because he knew he wasn't sweaty.
Danika Patrick, a tiny but obviously *pissed* figure with a large helmet, stalking down pit row in search of the driver who wrecked her chance to win an Indy car race. She's still never won an IRL event, she wasn't even the first female racer, and hey, LOTS of drivers have wanted a moment with a certain ***hole who took them out, but watching some of her crew trying to head her off from whatever havoc she had in mind was amazing.
Raphael Palmiero sitting in front of a Senate committee, pointing his finger and stating without equivocation, "I have NEVER taken steroids!" The next season he was tested and that turned out to be a lie, and you couldn't help having an opinion about 'roids after that. Palmiero, a nice line drive-in the gaps hitter early in his career, became an almost legendary 'two rows deep' home run hitter, but with 600+ dingers, his chances of making Cooperstown are still only slightly better than mine, and I never even played Little League.
Dwight Clarke's fingertip grab of a Joe Montana pass, the TD that launched the 49ers on the path to being the Team of the Eighties and Montana's reputation as an unflappably clutch QB. On the same line, Bart Starr's quarterback sneak in that Ice Bowl game against Dallas will always rank high in the memory of several generations of fans.
The 'Miracle on Ice' of USA hockey at Lake Placid with exultant youngsters expressing the purest kind of athletic joy, Jim Craig looking for his Dad while draped in a flag and Al Michaels "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" I saw the piece done on the equally dramatic victory of the US team at Squaw Valley in 1960 during these most recent Games, and I feel for those guys on the '60 team. At the height of the Cold War, and given zero chance of beating the mighty Russians with what was essentially a thrown together team, they certainly deserve more significant recognition, but as an iconic moment, its tough to beat Lake Placid, a celebration shared by millions.
Bill Buckner having that grounder go through his legs. My brother Steve got married that day, and I was just going in to turn off the TV nobody was watching, had my finger on the off knob. It's more than a little ironic he told the Sox to forget it when they invited him to Boston after they finally won a Series, but he knew that having the championship drought end would only bring up the fact it *SHOULD* have ended 20 years earlier.
Lastly, Greg LeMonde on the victory stand at the Tour de France. Okay, maybe its just me, but until that moment, the Tour was literally a European sport. Lance Armstrong made people pay attention by winning and winning and winning, but for all those who watched Greg take the big bow, after being a domestique for Hinnault the year before and nearly getting screwed before winning, it was as big as anything.