Tell the story of the single greatest sporting event you've ever seen

Thread rules:
(1) You may only mention ONE sporting event. You have to pick the absolutely greatest one you ever saw
(2) You must TELL A STORY. Don’t just say “the 1996 Stanley cup game 4” and assume we will know what you’re talking about
(3) You don’t have to have watched the sporting event in person, on TV is fine.
I’ll start. The greatest sporting event I have ever watched is… USA vs. Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Women’s (soccer) World Cup.

Background: The USA has always been one of the powerhouses of women’s soccer. We won the world cup in 1999 (when Brandi Chastaine famously ripped off her shirt). But we’re far from guaranteed to win. In 2003 we lost to eventual winners Germany in the semifinals. In 2007 we faced Brazil in the semifinals, and they destroyed us 4-0, in a very bitter game full of taunting, a preposterous red call on one of our players, and complaints about excessive celebration. That was probably the most embarrassing loss we have ever suffered. Brazil, a team that had at that point never won a major tournament, and was quite full of itself, lost to Germany in the finals.

In 2008, we met Brazil again in the gold medal game of the Beijing Olympics (in Women’s soccer, unlike Men’s soccer, the Olympics are played by the full international squads, and are nearly as prestigious as the World Cup). Brazil had just beaten two time reigning WWC champion Germany 4-1 in their semifinal, and were presumably feeling pretty good about themselves, the rising power ready to knock off the fading old guard and take their deserved place at the top of the world. (We beat them for the gold medal back in 2004). But things didn’t turn out the way Brazil wanted, and the US won 1-0 in overtime. You can be sure that very few friends were made that day.

So, the stage was set for the 2011 WWC.

USA is in Group C, and Brazil is in Group D. Both are expected to win their pods, with a potential showdown in the finals if both keep winning. But the USA embarrassingly loses to Sweden in their final group game, falling to second place in their pod, meaning that in the quarterfinals they will face their nemesis, Brazil.
July 10, 2011, Dresden Germany

Things started out great for the USA. Less than two minutes in, here we come attacking, applying a lot of pressure, and we force in an own-goal off a Brazilian defender. So we’re up 1-0.

But Brazil has arguably the greatest player in the world (Marta). 68 minutes in, she was attacking the US penalty area, got into some contact with US defender Rachel Buehler, and went down hard. I’ve watched this a bunch of times, and it’s really hard to definitely say what happened. But what the ref called was (a) a penalty kick for Brazil, and (b) a straight red card on Buehler. (You can see it here.) I still think that’s a pretty ridiculous red card. Maybe there’s some rule I’m unaware of which says that obstruction in the penalty area is not just an automatic PK (and thus, a nearly-automatic goal), but a red card. But straight red cards are pretty rare, and usually reserved for things like deliberate injury-risking cheap shots, which I’ve never been able to see in that clip at all.

So, Marta to take the PK, facing down American goalkeeper Hope Solo (probably the best in the world). She steps up, kicks it, and… SOLO SAVES IT! Joy!

But wait, the referee is blowing her whistle, and calling, well, SOMETHING. Either Hope Solo left her line early, or maybe a US player ran into the box a moment before the PK was kicked, and the result is invalidated, Marta gets to re-kick it. This is an INCREDIBLY unusual call, and whatever the US actually did, it was far from blatant. The fact that the knowledgeable announcers couldn’t even figure out what precisely had happened tells you what an oddball call it was.
But the call is the call, Marta steps up to re-take it, and calmly scores. 1-1, and the US is down to 10 players.
However, all of this hubbub and controversy seems to just energize the US, and while we were down to 10, you wouldn’t have known it from the energy we suddenly had, and we certainly held our own on both ends of the field for the rest of regulation. But, at the full 90 minutes, the score remained 1-1.

That means 30 minutes of extra time, plus potential stoppage time, and then the dreaded penalty kicks.
So overtime begins. And just two minutes in, Marta again proves why she’s the best player in the world, scoring a ridiculous one-touch goal to go up 2-1. It’s almost certain that the Brazilian player who fed her was offsides, which probably distracted the US defense, but missed offsides calls happen all the time.

And now, Brazil is up 2-1, and all of a sudden everything goes REALLY slow. Wow the Brazilian players are getting injured and having to sit down on the field a lot. Geez, that’s sure eating up a lot of time. The US, still down a man, keeps attacking, and now the German crowd, presumably neutral, is clearly on their side. Whenever the US gets near the Brazilian goal the crowd starts to road and chant. But time ticks, ticks, ticks away. The first 15 minutes overtime period ends. The second one draws to a close. 4 minutes of extra time are added. Oh, look, another Brazilian player is cynically lying down on the field horribly “injured”, the poor dear, and then suddenly she’s OK once she’s carted off the field, having eaten several more minutes off the clock. Two minutes into extra time of overtime, it’s now or never, the US gains possession deep in their territory, feed it up to Megan Rapinhoe down the left sideline, who crosses it deep towards the middle, and… ABBY WAMBACH SCORES!!! A beautiful header past the goalie, and it’s 2-2.

So we go to penalty kicks.

First up to the line for the USA is Shannon Boxx, SAVED!
But no, the ref, who forced the retake of the PK back in regulation, says that the Brazilian keeper was off her line, and Boxx gets to retake it.

For the USA, Shannon Boxx, SHE SCORES! 1-0
For Brazil, Cristiane, SHE SCORES! 1-1

For the USA, Carli Lloyd, SHE SCORES! 2-1
For Brazil, Marta, SHE SCORES! 2-2

For the USA, Abby Wambach, SHE SCORES! 3-2
For Brazil, Daiane, SAVED! 3-2

For the USA, Megan Rapinoe, SHE SCORES! 4-2
For Brazil, Francielle. If she misses this, the USA wins… SHE SCORES! 4-3

For the USA, Ali Krieger, for the win… SHE SCORES! USA win, 2-2 in regulation, 5-3 in PKs.
Aftermath: The USA end up losing on PKs in the final to team-of-destiny Japan (this was shortly after Fukushima). The next year is the 2012 Olympics, with the possibility of yet another USA vs Brazil match looming, but Brazil lose to Japan (who are now clearly a serious player) in the quarterfinals, USA beat Canada in the semifinals in an absolute classic 4-3 overtime thriller, and then get their revenge, beating Japan in the finals. Brazil has still never won a major tournament.

Game highlights can be seen here.
My enduring memory of that game is reading threads of a bunch of different mainly-US-oriented online forums and seeing so many people say words to the effect of “I can’t believe I’m this excited about a a women’s soccer game”. It was so gripping, so exciting, and so cathartic, and the greatest sporting event I’ve ever watched.
Anyone else?

The SDMB discussion of the above game starts at around post #40 of this thread.

Well, I would have to say that the most exciting in-person sporting event I’ve witnessed was the game in which I almost saw Michael Jordan go from Michael ‘I hit the game winning shot in the NCAA Title Game’ Jordan to MICHAEL FREAKING JORDAN. Nov. 30, 1982 in Chapel Hill, NC.

Everyone thinks that the shot in New Orleans made MJ famous. and while it was a foreshadowing of things to come, Jordan was still just a freshman and James Worthy was the star of Dean Smith’s first NCAA winner. Jordan was, in fact, the third banana on that 82 Tar Heels team, behind Sam Perkins and Worthy. And in 1983, the Tar Heels were suffering from an NCAA hangover at the beginning of the year. In fact, the 1981-82 North Carolina High school Player of the Year was NOT Air Jordan. it was Jordan’s 6’ 4" shooting guard roommate Buzz Peterson of Asheville, who some were still tihinking in the Fall of '82 would be the best player for the Tar Heels.

UNC fell in the Tip Off Classic to St. Johns in overtime and a week later travelled to St. Louis were they dropped their second game in a row to Missouri. And I, as a freshman at UNC and a lifelong Tar Heel fan was not happy. Add in the fact that exams were about to start, and the mood in my dorm suite was less than happy.

Anyway, I had two tickets to the game. As it was the home opener for the Tar Heels and my first chance to go see the Heels in Carmichael Auditorium, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a Chem. 11 final distract me. So, I asked my roommates. I asked my suitemates. I did everything but run out to the Old Well and ask a bunch of strangers if they wanted to go.

‘Nope, got to study.’ ‘Nah, we suck, and we’re playing Tulane - boring.’

Sigh. So, I go and one ticket is left unused. Now Tulane that year had a fine player by the name of John Williams. ‘Hotrod’ Williams, to be exact. Not to be confused with a late 80s player from LSU John ‘Hot Plate’ Williams. ‘Hotrod’ Williams went on to star for a long time with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA. He played with Mark Price, Craig Ehlo, and Brad Daugherty and was a starter in the infamous Game 5 in which Jordan drilled the winning jumper at the buzzer over Ehlo and then pumped his fist in the face of 18,000 Cavs fans. But, I digress.

The level of tension was incredibly high. I mean, we were 0-2, and Dean Smith teams just Did Not Start A Season 0-3. Unthinkable. And the game starts, and Tulane is taking us to the woodshed. Williams is abusing Sam Perkins and a freshman Brad Daugherty down low. Jimmy Braddock, the replacement for graduated senior Jimmy Black, continues to look out of his depth at point guard. The Green Wave spend most of regulation leading. Every time the Heels make a run, Williams has an answer. And when Sam Perkins fouls out with about 2 minutes left, the crowd at Carmichael is staring the unthinkable in the face. 0-3.

But, as any knowledgeable fan of college basketball in the 70s or 80s will tell you - never count out Dean Smith. Smith was notorious in hoarding his time outs to use in the end game. And the Heels would spend part of every practice rehearsing end game scenarios. Down 2 - 45 secs left, opponent inbounding after made free throw. Up 4, 1 minute, their ball. In fact just eight years earlier, at Carmichael Auditorium, the heavily favored Tar Heels were trailing archrival Duke by 8 points with 17 seconds left. And in the days before the 3 point shot that was as good as over. The Tar Heels won in overtime. So, all true UNC fans knew that the game was never over.

Anyway, Michael Jordan. Despite Williams running amok on the interior, Michael Jordan is singlehandedly keeping the Tar Heels in the game. Jumpers. Steals. Dunks on the break. He’s showing that he, not Williams, is the best player on the Court. Anyway, the Green Wave start to miss a few free throws. And Jordan is making them pay. But will the Heels run out of time?

Now, a little bit about Carmichael Auditorium. It seated 10,000 and the seats were right on the court. Dick Vitale slobbers all over the Cameron Crazies, but Carmichael was the original snake pit. In the 60’s Smith would turn up the heat when the visiting teams came to play. And right behind the benches was a wall that lead directly to the swimming pool in Woolen Gym. Hot, humid, sticky Woolen Gym. With two sets of doors that led directly to Carmichael. The top rows of Carmichael were crammed into the roof. And I was in the very last row. Even worse, the television camera platform was right over my head. I could not stand up without concussing myself. And that was really hard, as the Heels were rallying.

Anyway, the Heels cut the lead to two, and Jordan deflects a pass out of bounds at midcourt with three seconds left. All 10,000 of us are screaming with disbelief that he was so close to a steal. That we had trailed all the way. That we were about to be 0-3. 3 seconds from doom.

Coach Smith used his last time out to set up his famous Scramble pressure defense. The Tulane player got the ball from the ref. He passes in bounds directly to…Michael Jordan. Jordan has the ball at midcourt… he takes two dribbles to about 30 feet from the basket…he shoots the ball…and everybody in front of me stands up. All I can see if the back of 500 heads between me and the Court. &^%^%^^%^$!!!

But, I see every set of arms go straight up. I hear 10,000 fans scream with incoherent joy. Jordan has tied the game on a miracle shot I never saw go through the hoop.

You would think that after that unreal two minutes that Tulane would be done for. Goose cooked. Spirits crushed. Nope. That damn John Williams was making mincemeat of Brad Daugherty and Warren Martin and Timo Makkanen. And whoever else we ran out there. But everytime Tulane scored Jordan had an answer. The first five minute overtime ended in a tie.

late in the second OT, John Williams fouled out with Tulane leading, but the Tar Heels tied it up again. Finally in the third OT, the Heels managed to pull out a 70-68 triple overtime thriller. And I am convinced that was the night Michael Jordan showed to the basketball world that he was MICHAEL JORDAN.

I got excited just reading that.

er, it’s Chastain.


Indeed - one of the fine moments in the sport (starts at 0:45).

I can just watch that over and over and over and over again.

The 2006 Champions League final Milan vs Liverpool in Istanbul.

The set-up:

AC Milan and Liverpool are two of the most famous and most successful football teams in the World. Going into the final AC Milan had won the European Cup/Champions League 6 times and Liverpool 4 times. Only Real Madrid had won the competition more than either team. AC Milan had won more Scudettos (Italian league titles) than any other team and Liverpool at the time had won more English League titles than any other team.

However it wasn’t billed as a meeting of equals. AC Milan were clear favourites and even the most ardent Liverpool fan would’ve had doubts in their mind as to whether their team could beat them in the final of the Champions League, the most prestigious club football tournament in the World.

The reasons for those doubts were clear. Liverpool hadn’t won the EC/CL since 1984 and hadn’t won the English League since 1990. The last time they had appeared in a EC/CL final was in 1985 which was the scene of the infamous Heysel diaster where 39 Juventus fans were killed and 600 injured which led to English teams being banned from Europe until 1990. In 1989 they were involved in yet another disaster when 96 Liverpool fans had died and 766 injured at Hillsborough during the FA Cup semi-final. After their last English Championship in 1990 they had rarely looked like contenders in the Premiership.

With their successes of the 70s and 80s becoming distant memories, they had just scraped qualification for the Champions league by finishing in 4th place in the Premiership in the 03-04 season and so had to play in the qualifying round. They had just finished 5th in the 04-05 season meaning at they hadn’t qualified for next year’s Champions League. Before the start of the season they had lost their best player, Michael Owen, to Real Madrid, but had spent big bringing in Fernando Morientes, Djibril Cisse and Xabi Alonso. However Cisse suffered a horror-show broken leg early in the season which saw him out for the great majority of his 1st season and Morientes flopped only scoring 3 goals in the league. Overall they had a good, but not outstanding team and relied a little too much on their young captain: Liverpool-born Steven Gerrard, who was playing for the team he supported as a boy.

On route to the final Liverpool had wobbled and had only just beaten Austrian nobodies Grazer AK in the qualifying round and then finished 2nd to Monaco in the group stages. But in the later stages they had wins, albeit close wins against good teams beating 2002 Champions Bayer Leverkusen, then Juventus in the quarters and fellow Premierhsip team Chelsea in the semis.

AC Milan on the other hand had appeared in 5 EC/CL Champions League finals since Liverpool had last appeared in one in 1985, winning 3 of them with their last victory coming in 2003. They had qualified for the 04-05 tournament by winning the Italian League in 2004, though had finished 2nd to Juventus in the 04-05 season.

The Milan team was star-studded and featured all-time great Paolo Maldini, who even at age 36 was still one of the best players in the World and also Nesta, Kaka and Shevchenko, also considered amongst the best. And that is to name but a few, nearly all of Milan’s starters on the night could’ve walked into the Liverpool team.

AC Milan had rocketed to the final, winning a group that included Barcelona, before beating Man Utd home and away, destroying city-rivals Inter Milan 5-0 on aggregate in the quarters, before having a slight bump in the road when they went by PSV Eindhoven only on away goals in the semis.

All-in all, AC Milan were the clear favourites.

I had gone to the local pub to watch the game, though not a Liverpool supporter I wanted Liverpool to win it as, unlike many English fans, I’m quite passionate to see any English team (or for that matter Scottish team) do well in Europe. I hadn’t had an awful much to cheer about in the CL though as since the 80s only one English team had got to the final (when Man Utd won it in 1999). I was hopeful, but also fairly skeptical of Liverpool’s chances.

The game:

As you would expect for a Champions League final the occasion was a huge one. The packed out stadium Ataturk Stadium is famous for it’s atmosphere and didn’t disappoint. Milan came out strong straight away and and in the 1st minute of the game Paolo Maldini scored a masterful volley for Milan, as if justify all the praise that had been heaped on him before the game. Liverpool didn’t fold and fought hard and had a few chances to get a goal back; they suffered another set-back in the 23rd minute though when the talented, but mercurial Australian Harry Kewell had to be substituted due to injury. But AC Milan were clearly the superior side and could’ve extended their lead if not for a couple of excellent saves by Liverpool keeper Dudek and a couple of certain goals flagged offside. However in the 39th minute Liverpool cracked again when Argentinian star and Chelsea-misfit Hernan Crespo scored after a devastating Milan counter attack and what small hope seemed to remain for Liverpool was extinguished a few minutes later when Crespo put a beautiful chip over the head of Dudek shortly before the half-time whistle.

In football (soccer) it is very, very rare to see any team coming back from a 3 goal disadvantage and against a team as strong as AC Milan, World famous for their defence and on an occasion as big as a CL final there simply was no precedent. At that point I didn’t just feel Liverpool had lost it, I knew they had lost it. I wasn’t alone and during the halftime break nobody thought Liverpool could win it, but of course I wouldn’t be writing about a game as one of the greatest sporting events ever if it was over by halftime.

When I said nobody thought Liverpool could win it, that message it seems hadn’t made it through to the Liverpool dressing room and at half-time Liverpool made a tactical substitution to bring Dietmar Hamann on. This was very brave, almost foolish, as they had already used up 1 of their 3 allowed substitutions replacing Harry Kewell when he was injured. If by some miracle they got back into the game they would be hampered by the fact they could only change one more player when tiredness inevitably set-in. That wasn’t to mention worse Hamann hadn’t started the game because he was suffering from a broken toe! However it proved to be a decisive decision.

Straight from the 2nd half whistle Liverpool came out like a completely new team and threatened the AC Milan goal on a few occasions. Leading this rejuvenated Liverpool team was their captain Steven Gerrard, who had been quiet in the 1st half, but would put in a legendary individual performance and show great leadership in the 2nd half. What catalyzed this change was that he had Hamman behind him now in the midfield which allowed him to get forward and play a more attacking role. Milan were now on the back-foot, however Liverpool were opting to play with a only 3 defenders which was a big risk and Milan still had chances to makes it 4-0. In the 54th minute though Steven Gerrard scored an expert header from 10 yards which left the Milan keeper Dida floundering. Then just two minutes later a long range shot by Smicer left Dida unsighted between a crowd of players and suddenly Liverpool were only a goal behind, suddenly there was a chance! 3 minutes after the astounding happened and Gerrard went down right in front of the Milan goal under a clumsy challenge and Liverpool were awarded a penalty and gold-plated chance to make it 3-3. Xabi Alonso stepped up to take the penalty which Dida promptly saved, but he didn’t push it far enough away and Alonso rushed in and scored the rebound. Liverpool had gone from 3-0 to 3-3 in the space of 6 minutes against the most impressive defence in the World!

The game wasn’t over yet though with still 30 minutes of regulation time yet to play and the possibility of extra time and penalties. Milan pushed to go back ahead and were only just denied by the Liverpool defence and goalkeeper on a number of occasions. Liverpool too had a few chances to make the game and amazing 4-3 reversal, but as the whistle blew for the end of normal time it was still 3-3.

In the 1st half of extra time Liverpool came out strong again and pushed to score, but tiredness was getting the better of them and the earlier decision to use the 2nd substitution at halftime looked like it could yet still cost them as Smicer went down with cramp and Liverpool had used all their subs. Milan had the better chances of extra time, but couldn’t break Liverpool and the night which had already seen its share of drama went to penalties.

Gerrard had been amazing in the 2nd half and the one who had taken the game by the scruff of the neck and snatched a golden chance from the jaws of defeat, but now the man who could help Liverpool the most was their keeper Dudek who had saved Liverpool on a few occasions himself.

Serginho of Milan took the 1st penalty, but almost certainly aware of the history, Dudek used the same tactic of ‘spaghetti legs’ successfully employed by Bruce Grobbelaar for Liverpool in the 1984 when they had last won it to distract him. Serginho put his shot over. 0-0.

Next up stepped Dietmar Hamann for Liverpool, and despite his broken toe, he showed why Germans are known for their penalties. 0-1

Pirlo took the next penalty for Milan, but Dudek looked supremely confident now after the 1st penalty and correctly judged Pirlo’s penalty saving it. 0-1

Next up came Cisse for Liverpool who had come on late in the 2nd half as Liverpool’s last substitute. Despite spending nearly the whole season recovering from a horrific broken leg (which he had astounded everyone by returning 9 months earlier than expected), he took his penalty confidently and scored. 0-2

However the next few penalties were not to go Liverpool’s way AC Milan substitue Tomasson was next up and scored his penalty. 1-2

Riise, who had had a good game for Liverpool was next up, but Dida of Milan decided to show he was no slouch on penalties himself and saved. 1-2.

Brazilian superstar Kaka showed the confidence of a player who was regarded as one of the best in the World when he stepped up and scored past Dudek. 2-2

Scorer of Liverpool’s 2nd goal Smicer took their 4th penalty and found the net again. 2-3

Suddenly everything rested on Milan’s 5th penalty. If they didn’t score Liverpool had won. However taking the 5th penalty was Andrei Shevchenko who was the 2004 Baloon D’Or winner (MVP in the World), a prolific scorer and who had scored the penalty kick that had won AC Milan the Champions League in 2003. Shevchenko choose to put his penalty straight down the middle of the goal and Dudek dived obliging to to the right. However Dudek managed to use his left hand to block the ball even as he dived, saving the penalty and winning Liverpool’s 1st CL/EC for 20 years in what was the most remarkable come back ever in a major final!


The win was one of the most dramatic games I, or for that matter anyone, had seen. The game proved to be the making of the then young Gerrard, who was already a rising star and who would shortly go on to become regarded as one of the best players in the World. However Dudek the hero in the penalties went out injured next season and failed to win his place back from the talented youngster (as he was then) Pepe Reina and would rarely play for Liverpool again.

Liverpool winning it actually caused a bit of a headache for UEFA and the FA as they had not qualified for next season’s Champions League and would be the 1st team ever not to launch a defence of their title. UEFA got round this by giving them a place in the qualifying rounds, but instituted new rules so that the winner always qualified for the next years tournament.

Despite their success in 2005, it didn’t renew the fortunes of Liverpool and their position now isn’t much different. They did get to the CL final again in 2007 where met none other than AC Milan who this time beat them, though they scared Milan in the final minutes when they almost threatened another historic comeback from 2-0 down. The game finished 2-1.

Liverpool did manage to hold onto Gerrard despite plenty of offers from other clubs over the years and he is the last remaining player from that team at the club. This year they actually have a decent shot at winning the Premiership, but currently lie 4th at just past the halfway stage.

AC Milan as I said won the Champions League again in 2007, but ever since they have been one of the main losers in the decline of the Italian league and are no longer viewed as one of the World’s absolute best teams (even if everyone is aware of their history).

It’s 1999. I had just moved to San Francisco with my fiance. I was feeling completely displaced, but excited about my new situation. My fiance had already started her job, but I wasn’t starting the job I’d lined up for myself for a few months, so I had the city to myself for the summer.

I spent most of the summer getting up every morning, seeing the little woman off to work and heading out to explore the city. And I loved it. I absolutely fell in love with San Francisco. Having come from Portland, Maine, I was suffering through a bit of culture shock, but I was bathing in it. I reveled in San Francisco.

I had watched the X-Games on the TeeVee in the past, but this summer the X-Games were coming to San Francisco. Never before had I ever had the opportunity to attend an event like this. In Portland, you might make your way to a minor league baseball or hockey game, but nothing of the sort of magnitude that the X-Games represented. No, it hadn’t fully exploded into the public consciousness yet, but those early games were the bed-rock for where “action sports” would wind up.

It was a Tuesday. July 27th. As my fiance was getting ready for work that day, she asked me what I had planned that day.

“I don’t know. The X-Games are in town, but I don’t know if I really want to go by myself. I wish you could come with me.”
“Me too … but you should go! You love the X-Games, and isn’t Tony Hawk skating? You love Tony Hawk.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll probably go.”

I still wasn’t sure if I would get my shit together and get down to Pier 30 to check out the festivities. But I told myself I would kick myself forever if I blew it off. It was a beautiful day, I would be crazy not to go … so I went.

It was so strange to be there all by myself. I wandered around just people-watching as much as competition-watching. After living in the socio-cultural black hole that is Maine for 30 years, I was confronted with every stripe of humanity I could think of, and some I couldn’t. I felt like Toby Tyler at the circus. You couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face with a sand blaster. I watched the moto-cross riders practicing their freestyle runs … crazy motherfuckers hurling their machines twenty, thirty feet in the air like nothing. I watched some of the street skating, marveling at how there magicians flipped, spun and controlled their boards as if through some sort of supernatural means. How can a human being do that?

But the skate vert is what I went there for. I was so excited just to see Tony Hawk, Andy McDonald, Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek, et al, just … being there, standing still, fiddling with there boards, let alone watching them pull off flips, varials, hand-plants, fakies, finger-flips … all fifteen feet above the lip of twenty/thirty foot half pipes.

I stood in line for a half-hour to score a good seat in the bleachers, with 5,000 other fans, every one of us filled with the thrill of seeing our heroes pull of shit that we couldn’t have dreamed of doing in a million years. Though I have to say, the hackey-sack players, juggling that little thingie with their feet without dropping it for five minutes straight was incredibly impressive.

I was in those stands for hours, by myself, but not by myself, because every single person who I talked to, bumped into, said hello to, or even just excused myself to while getting to my seat felt like my friend. It was a heady atmosphere. And then we all settled in for the Best Trick competition.

There had been rumblings in the skate-boarding world about Tony Hawk working on his 900. No 900 (two and a half revolutions in the air) had ever been landed in competition before. Every single person in the stands was expecting it to not only be attempted, but landed.

It felt like the entire X-Games - every soul at Pier 30 that day - congregated to watch the coronation of King Tony, and I was no exception. You couldn’t have dragged me out of those bleachers with a team of horses. I was like a kid in a candy store. Each one of those skaters were absolutely masterful. To the point that even when they were loitering on the top of the lip, waiting for their turn to drop in, they would whip off some little trick – like Andy McDonald doing a casual one foot manual, spinning endlessly just for fun, with all the effort of me drinking a cup of coffee. I was enraptured by the whole event.

Then came Tony.

The way the competition worked (as far as I recall) was that it was jam. There was time limit involved, in which each skater took turns dropping in to give their trick their best shots; and the tricks were impressive - spins, varials, grabs, no-footers, grinds, the gamut. Tony Himself pulled of a 720 varial with the ease of the preternaturally gifted just to seal his gold medal, but he wasn’t finished. There wasn’t a soul within a mile radius who didn’t know that he was going to attempt the 900.

The clock was winding down. I can’t remember how many skaters were involved in the competition as I was focused on Tony, but there were the big names there – the aforementioned Burnquist, McDonald, Lasek, and some others. Tony went for it. He dropped in and shot up over the opposite lip to set up his speed. Down he came and back up again, nose-grabbing and setting up for the big trick.

There he goes! Nooooo! He didn’t land it. Come on, Tony, you can do it!

On his next try he went for it again. Go, go, go, go! Ahhhhh, no, he didn’t land it. The other skaters were cheering him on (against their own best interests) as much as the crowd was. Do it, Tony, do it!

The clock wound down and he hadn’t landed it, but that didn’t matter. There was no way anyone was going anywhere until Tony did what he wanted to do, or died trying.

Eight attempts. ESPN went long, live, to cover it. The crowd was behind him. The announcers were behind him. The other skaters were behind him, banging their boards on the lip of the half-pipe in skater solidarity. You can do it!
Time stood still on his last attempt. I don’t think there was anyone in the crowd who doubted him. I couldn’t describe either person to my left or right, but at that moment, they were my best friends on the planet. We were hooting and hollering, clutching each other’s shoulders and good-naturedly slugging each other in the shoulders ever time he missed. But we were rapt … as was the entire ESPN-watching world at the moment.

He drops in once more. The last three attempts he had come so close, landing his board, but not being able to control it once he met the earth again. But there he went … dropping in, up one side, setting up his speed, dozens of feet over the lip as easily as if he were skipping down the sidewalk. Up the opposite side, one more nose-grab before he went for it.

There he goes … everyone counted his revolutions as well as he could as pirouetted through the air … one, two, and a half, can he land it … YES! YES! YES!

Oh my god, the entire crown wend ape-fucking-shit- ananas as though each and every one of us was on his board with him. He had just made history, and we were all apart of it.
It was the best day of his life. I don’t know if he’s a Christian, but he swore to God to it, so it must have been true.

I high-fived, and hugged complete strangers for five solid minutes, my throat sore from screaming as we all reveled in the amazing feat we had just witnessed. Nobody left for at least 45 minutes after the competition ended. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen live with my own eyes, and remains so to this day.

That was my second month in San Francisco, and it was an amazing day. I remember babbling to my fiance for hours when I got home, like a ten-year-old, and she wouldn’t stop smiling at my enthusiasm.

I loved that day.

I was at Dale Earnhardt’s last win. I didn’t like him. My driver had lead the most laps. It was when they had some crazy rules package to where they were running 4 wide through the entire field all day. I never say down in my seat once during the whole race. It was notable for being the race where he was in 18th with 3 laps to go and then managed to win. He was dead a few months later.

Aaaaand I didn’t read the rules about it being an elaborate story…