Friday, May 20, 2011

Top 10 Sporting Events to Take Us Beyond the Rapture

Well it appears the Rapture is indeed upon us. Maybe you call it the end of the world? Semantics, my friends. Semantics. But it seems to me, that if God is calling all the chickens home to roost, she might be in the mood to grant some wishes? I don't know, but I think God understands balance -- hellfire and damnation should be balanced out with some thoughtful presents. Dig?

So what I'm saying is, if the supreme being wants to give me a gift, he can permit me to witness, first hand, some of the great sporting moments in history. I'm almost ashamed to say that I've actually thought about this over the years, but if there were ten sports events I could attend in person, if money and the shackles of a little thing I like to call time and space were not objects, which is to say, if I could travel through time, what sports events would I want to see, live and in person? This list turns out to be kinda baseball heavy. Who knew?

1. 1933 Pittsburgh Crawfords. If I could, there's nowhere I'd rather be than at Greenlee Field (RIP), in Pittsburgh's Hill District, watching Satchel Paige pitch to Josh Gibson, with Cool Papa Bell, Jimmy Crutchfield, and Judy Johnson in the field. This team might be the greatest ever to step on a baseball diamond, so this is a no brainer for me to slot in the No. 1 spot. (Also, Scott Stimkus of Outsider Baseball, tells me he'll have a book out in the fall devoted to the Crawfords. As the book gets closer to publication, I'll provide more details.)

2. 1980 Olympics. USA v. USSR. Yeah, I got to watch this on television, and sure, I'd miss the "Do you believe in miracles?!" call, but tell me you wouldn't give your left arm to have been there?

3. 1936 Olympics. Which some people refer to as Hitler's Olympics, but I like to think of as the Jesse Owens games. Not just for the sport, but for the significance of the games. Also, just to see Jesse run.

4. 1957 Wimbledon Tennis Championships. This was the year that Althea Gibson won her first Wimbledon championship. She won again the next year, in a more exciting match, but I'd want to be there for the first -- the first time an African-American won the world's greatest tennis tournament. I am of the firm belief that Gibson is very under-appreciated.

5. Joe Louis Wins Heavyweight Boxing Title. A couple of reasons, one of which is the chance to get to see James Braddock fight. Braddock was such a great, hard-working champ, that to his dying day, Louis always referred to Braddock as "champ." But mostly, to see Joe Louis, whose importance Langston Hughes described like this:
Each time Joe Louis won a fight in those depression years, even before he became champion, thousands of colored Americans on relief or W.P.A., and poor, would throng out into the streets all across the land to march and cheer and yell and cry because of Joe's one-man triumphs. No one else in the United States has ever had such an effect on Negro emotions – or on mine. I marched and cheered and yelled and cried, too.

6. 1958 NFL Championship Game. Heck, had I been alive and in New York, this would have been possible -- the NFL Championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts held at Yankee Stadium wasn't even sold out. You believe that? To bear witness to John Unitas carrying his team, taking the game to the next level, becoming the great, Johnny U., while hitting Raymond Berry with clutch passes, then waving off the field goal unit to call a blast to the Horse to win the game? There's a reason they call it the Greatest Game Ever Played (tm).

7. 1956 World Series. Game 5. Don Larsen's Perfect Game. I'm far from a Yankees fan, but a perfect game? In the Series? Against the Brooklyn Dodgers? I'm in. So, you know, if you talk to your god, just put in a good word for me.

8. 1972 AFC Division Game. The Immaculate Reception. If you are young and you don't understand the source of the animus between the Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers, look no further than this game. This game, ironically, was another one that was not sold out. You believe that crap? Just about every Pittsburgher over the age of 55 or so will tell you that he was at the game, but if that were true, Three Rivers would have been sold out five times over. But to be one of the lucky few actually in attendance at a true turning point, an historic moment, perhaps, the most important moment in NFL history? Of course, I might feel differently were I born a Raiders fan.

9. Mario Scores Five Different Ways -- December 31, 1988. Pittsburgh Penguins 8, New Jersey Devils 6. The film quality of the goals in this clip is terrible, but my god, what would it have been like to actually be there, instead of at some lame-o New Year's Party. Hindsight is a bitch. A royal one.

10. 1960 World Series. Game 7. First off, I never had the chance to go to Forbes Field, a fact that has greatly aggrieved me over the years. Second, c'mon -- Greatest Home Run in the history of Major League Baseball? Stuff it, New Yorkers. Bobby Thompson's home run merely clinched the pennant. Maz's dinger was a walk off home run in Game 7 of the Series. It just doesn't get any better than that, people.

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