Recently I’ve been reading a book by Eric Mirlis called “I Was There,” a collection of accounts by sportscasters of the best sporting events they’ve been in attendance for. Inspired by that and following up on last week’s column about the best jobs in sportscasting, I thought I’d write my own chapter of the book.
The Blackout Game, AL Central Tie-Breaker, White Sox vs. Twins, U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, Illinois, September 30, 2008
The White Sox had to win the final game of the regular season to force this tiebreaker with the Twins. I was a freshman in high school, and unbeknownst to me my Dad had been able to get tickets. He picked me up from school and we went straight to the game. I started going to Sox games when I was about 6, we had season tickets when I was 9, but this game rises far above the rest not only for its importance but the atmosphere. Every fan dressed in their all black, the stadium absolutely packed (a rare occasion in the tenure of US Cellular Field). John Danks allowed only 2 hits in 8 innings of shutout pitching. The only offense of the night was a towering Jim Thome solo home run as the Sox won the game 1-0. The blackout theme continued into the playoffs but those games couldn’t match the first, and I’m not sure any baseball game I go to ever will.
Notre Dame Football vs. Stanford, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana, October 13, 2012
There were plenty of close calls on Notre Dame’s way to a 12-0 season in 2012, but none closer than what played out over the finals plays at Notre Dame Stadium against Stanford. I was a freshman at ND and needless to say it was a great fall to be a student there. The game went to overtime and Notre Dame scored on their first drive. On the following possession, Stanford had 3rd and goal on the 2 yard line, needing to score to tie the game. The Notre Dame defense, led by Manti Te’o, stuffed Stanford. Then, in an unprecedented event due to the normal attitude of security at Notre Dame Stadium, the entire student-body rushed the field. Before I knew it I found myself in the pouring rain running on the field at Notre Dame Stadium and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Notre Dame Basketball vs Louisville, Purcell Pavilion, South Bend, Indiana February 10, 2013
To Notre Dame basketball fans this will always be known as the Jerian Grant game. Notre Dame trailed by 8 with under and minute to go; then Jerian went off, scoring ND’s last 12 points and forcing overtime. Louisville missed 6 buzzer beaters, one at the end of regulation and each overtime, all coming shortly after baskets made by ND with under a minute to play. The student section was way over capacity (they let more people in after the overtimes had started) and it was start to finish the craziest game of any kind I’ve ever been to.
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1, Blackhawks vs Bruins, United Center, Chicago, Illinois, June 6, 2013
Bar none, this game ranks as the loudest sporting event I’ve ever been to. From the National Anthem to the cacophony that was the mixture of goal horn, ‘Chelsea Dagger,’ and cheering when Andrew Shaw scored at midnight in triple overtime to win the the game for the ‘Hawks, the noise in the United Center that night was unbelievable. I doubt I’ll ever see a better game of any sport played in Chicago.
The “Final” Notre Dame vs Michigan game, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana, September 6, 2014
While we now know that the Notre Dame vs. Michigan rivalry will resume in the fall of 2018, at the time it was unknown when the next game in the series may take place. Earlier in the week Brady Hoke, Michigan’s coach at the time, said how he thought ND was backing out of the rivalry because they were afraid of Michigan. That theory was quickly dismissed as the Irish rolled to a 31-0 blowout (37-0 to some ND fans, as a pick 6 as time expired was called when a penalty was called for a block (read: enormous hit) on Michigan QB Devin Gardner as the interception was being run back). It was just a ton of fun to be a part of, and at Notre Dame fun at the expense of Michigan Football is the best kind.
SkyBet League Two Playoff Final, AFC Wimbledon vs. Plymoth Argyle, Wembley Stadium, London, May 20, 2016
If you go to London, you have to go to a soccer game. That’s a rule I’ve stuck to on my 3 most recent visits to the UK. First, if you’re not familiar with the story of AFC Wimbledon:
In short, they were once a Premier League team but folded in the 90s when new ownership relocated the team (which is NOT a thing in non-American sports). They re-formed in the early 2000s but started in the 9th level of English football. They have since worked their way up and this game was a playoff game to move from the 4th to the 3rd tier, which would mark a huge accomplishment for the club. The game was held at Wembley Stadium and each team is given half of the stadium for their fans. Plymouth filled nearly their entire half, while the Wimbledon supporters, of which I was one that day, had the entire upper deck empty on their side. What they lacked in numbers they more than made up for in love of their club. Wimbledon won 2-0, capped off by a penalty kick scored by Adebayo Akinfenwa, a man who looks less like a soccer player and more like a bowling ball with feet who also happens to have an awesome name. I have never seen fans happier after their team won a game. What AFC Wimbledon means to its fans is impossible to describe in the context of American sports, and I was lucky to be a part of it for a day.