Last weekâ€™s column got me thinking about something, namely which games that Iâ€™ve seen that have been the most exciting for me personally, to watch. If you recall, I was talking about the end of the hockey playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and how it was high drama. It got me thinking about where that game would rank amongst the most exciting games Iâ€™ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Because I am a list-maker, I almost immediately cataloged all the sporting events I could remember and, before I knew it, this column was basically written in my head. I have pared the list down to just four, and it is based on nothing more than the excitement level of the game itself. Iâ€™m not talking about my favorite moment(s) in all of sports here, although that does come up a couple times. Iâ€™m only talking about the sheer excitement that a particular game brought to me. So, without further adieu, I give you my top four all-time most exciting games.
4. 2013 Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL playoffs, game seven.
I told you, this one had a big effect on me, as it should have had on any fan of sports who was fortunate enough to watch the final 10 minutes. When a hockey team is down by three goals, with 10 minutes left, they should, for all intents and purposes, be done. The game is over, fans can go home, etcetera. But that was not the case. The Bruins scored once to cut the Leafsâ€™ lead to 4-2, and then scored two more times in the final minute and 30 seconds to send the game to overtime. It was the most improbable of all comebacks, and watching Boston come back was certainly a thrilling way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
3. North Carolina State vs. The University of Houston, 1983 NCAA basketball championship game.
The game, remembered for one of the most iconic moments of all time in college basketball, is also one of my earliest and favorite sports memories. Iâ€™m still not sure how a kid living in East Texas decided to root for North Carolina State. It surely had something to do with their coach Jim Valvano, and his off-the-charts charisma. But that was the case for the entire tournament of 1983, and I was thrilled when they reached the championship game. It was even more exciting to see them play the higher ranked Cougars to a draw through almost two halves of basketball. So, when Dereck Whittenburg took that last-second shot that hit nothing but air, and Lorenzo Charles grabbed the ball out of the nothingness to slam it home at the buzzer I, like Valvano, went kind of crazy.
2. The University of Michigan vs. Seton Hall, 1989 NCAA basketball championship game.
This one was the crowning achievement in a long run as a Michigan basketball fan for me. The Wolverines had been my favorite hoops team for a few years by the time they reached the title game in 1989, and this game did not disappoint. Back-and-forth the game went through regulation and into overtime. In the waning seconds it seemed as if my beloved Wolverines were going to lose. Then Rumeal Robinson was fouled and, as I watched from my parents front yard (through the living room window, because it just seemed safer out there), he converted two free throws, turing a one-point deficit into a national championship for Michigan.
1. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, 2004 American League Championship Series, Game 4.
This one started out on a sour note. The Red Sox were down 3-0 in the series to the Yankees, and were fresh off a 19-8 drubbing in game three so I was pretty sure they were doomed to yet another playoff defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals. That was still my feeling when the Sox came up in the bottom of the ninth inning, trailing 4-3 and facing Mariano Rivera. Of course what happened next is all now part of baseball lore. Kevin Millar walked, Dave Roberts stole second base, and scored on Bill Muellerâ€™s single to tie the game. Three innings later David Ortiz blasted a three-run home run to keep the Sox alive in the series. Three games later, Boston had done the impossible, winning four in a row on their way to their first World Series title in over 80 years. And while the World Series win against the Cardinals might well be a blur, that game four of the ALCS will remain forever in my mind.