100 Sports Pros Talk About the Best Sporting
Events They Ever Witnessed Firsthand
by Eric Mirlis
What are the Top 5 Sports Moments you have seen in person?
You've seen the book, but here are the lists from some other people, starting with
1. David Volek's goal (May 14, 1993) - Game Seven, Patrick Division Finals. I was in my
second season in the Islanders Media Relations Department and was in Pittsburgh for
this one. The Isles were heavy series underdogs against the two-time defending
Stanley Cup Champs, and that was before leading scorer Pierre Turgeon was injured
in the previous series against the Washington Capitals by a Dale Hunter cheap shot.
The win sent us to Montreal immediately after the game for Game One of the
Conference Finals around 36 hours later. To this day, the greatest night of my
2. Argentina defeats USA in Olympic basketball (August 27, 2004) - The historical
impact of this game will not be seen for quite some time. The emotional impact was felt
immediately, though. The USA was a heavy favorite in the tournament, despite losing
two exhibition games and two preliminary round games. After knocking off Spain in the
Quarter-Finals, Argentina, featuring Manu Ginobili, was waiting in the Semis, as was
history. The 89-81 loss was the first in the Olympics for USA teams featuring NBA
players. Only time will show this games' repercussions.
3. "The Dunk" (May 25, 1993) - I've never heard the Garden erupt like this. It was Game
Two of the Eastern Conference Finals, in the middle of the annual Knicks-Bulls playoff
series. When John Starks dunked over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan, MSG was
possibly the loudest it has ever been. "The Dunk" has been immortalized in pictures
and posters and remains one of the defining moments in Knick history.
4. Michael Jordan's double nickel (March 28, 1995) - A legend returns and puts on a
show. I remember working this game for MSG and, as Michael was on his way to 20
points in the first quarter (and 35 in the first half), saying into my headset, "Does anyone
have that feeling we are seeing something special tonight?" We definitely were. It was
his fifth game back after his first retirement and he was wearing number 45, but it was
the old Michael. I've worked hundreds of NBA games, but have saved just one of my stat
sheets. This one.
5. "Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!!!!" (May 27, 1994) - I'm not a Ranger fan and was
actually working for the Islanders at the time, but I can still recognize a great moment
when I see it. Double overtime, Game Seven, Eastern Conference Finals, Rangers
versus Devils, Madison Square Garden. This win sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup
Finals, where they finally won a Stanley Cup. It inspired Howie Rose's call - one of the
most famous radio calls in New York sports history. And it sent the Garden into a frenzy
rarely matched in New York.
READER SUBMITTED LISTS--
1. World Cup Final, July 12, 1998, France 3 Brazil 0
What an electric atmosphere in the Stade de France that beautiful Sunday night. We in
the stadium had no idea the drama taking place in the Brazilian locker room with a sick
Ronaldo but it wouldn’t have mattered if he were Superman that day.
Entering the Stade that night, I got the sense there were 80,000 French players on the
field against only 11 Brazilians – There was no way the French would lose that night.
So many different little vignettes from that night still remain in my memory – the group of
30 people I did the World Cup tour with, we all had tickets for the game at the start of the
day but several decided to scalp their tickets – a pair was going for the equivalent of
$9,000 US – and one unfortunate duo had their tickets pickpocketed during the walk
from the train station to the stadium.
Before the game, 300 models strutted their stuff on the field and afterwards, the party
went until July 15 – yes, a three-day party because with Bastille Day on Tuesday July 14,
pretty much nobody worked on the Monday – they just kept partying.
As for the game, Zidane’s two headers were miraculous because he pretty much hasn’t
scored any other goals this way before or since. But the goal I’ll remember is Manu
Petit, who had run hard all 90 minutes, running the length of the field to score the final
goal, the final kick of the game. Petit was probably propelled by the hearts of all 80,000
fans in the stadium that night. It’s a night I’ll never forget.
2. Game 6, Stanley Cup Finals, June 11, 1994 Canucks beat Rangers 4-1
I know the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup this year but the electricity in the Pacific
Coliseum that night was hard to beat. The Canucks, dead to rights after being 3-1 down
in the series, tied it up and took the series back to New York for Game 7 but what I’ll
remember from that Saturday night game was how intense that first period was.
No goals were scored but the hitting, the crisp passes, the good scoring chances
turned away by Mike Richter and Kirk McLean – perhaps the finest period of hockey I’ve
Fast forward to the third period and the Canucks up 3-1 with a couple minutes to play.
Geoff Courtnall looks like he scores the insurance goal – from my seat, I knew he had
scored, hitting the back bar, but play continued and the Rangers scored a minute later.
Video replay confirmed Courtnall’s goal, disallowing the Ranger tally, and the party
It’s sad that after the 1994 season, the strike basically killed hockey. I’ve never really
come back as a fan and in many ways, I look at this game as the greatest hockey game
I will probably ever see because I’ll never be as passionate a hockey fan as I was on
June 11, 1994.
3. Feb 6, 2005 - Super Bowl XXXIX, Jacksonville Florida, New England 24 Philadelphia
In the world of the salary cap, a dynasty in the NFL is almost impossible. But the New
England Patriots, with their third Super Bowl in four years come as close as possible
with this victory in forgettable Jacksonville.
The many Eagles fans who came south - many didn’t have tickets. I was fortunate
enough to win the Super Bowl Lottery, sitting in the uppermost corner of AllTel Stadium,
looking at the many Eagles fans who had paid a king’s ransom to see their team.
I remember talking to a guy sitting in the last row of this upper corner. I asked him why
he was there by himself and he said he and his brother were from Minnesota and had
won a radio contest, complete with flight and tickets to the game. When they got to
Jacksonville, they were offered $3,000 for each ticket. He wanted to go the game, his
brother took the money.
I, too, started out with a pair of tickets but I ‘scalped’ mine in the most unique of
fashions; all I wanted in exchange for my ticket was a ticket for Super Bowl XL in Detroit.
A ticket broker I knew took me up on that offer and 12 months later, in cold, cold Detroit, I
was at another Super Bowl.
As for the game, Tom Brady did what he does best: win without much fanfare. The guy
leads his team to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years and wins all three by a cumulative margin of
9 points. Nobody remembers how much you win by; they only remember if you win or
lose and Tom Brady is the ultimate of winners.
4. Nov. 23, 2006 - U.S. Thanksgiving, Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City 19, Denver 10
The first NFL Thanksgiving night game in who-knows-how-long and me and two
buddies came from Canada to be there in person.
In order to get tickets, I had to join the Kansas City Chiefs fan club and part of the perks
of that include one fan club member being chosen Commander in Chief for each home
Lo and behold, I was chosen Commander in Chief for this game. Not only did we
participate in a great tailgate party beforehand – unlimited food and drink, including a
Thanksgiving turkey dinner – I was introduced to the crowd at the 50-yard-line and got to
walk around the field before the game. There was Tony Gonzalez ten feet from me,
Deion Sanders and the rest of the NFL Network crew right in front of me and behind the
goalposts, there we were, catching field goals coming off the nets.
Add in a couple of shots with some oh-so-lovely Chiefs’ cheerleaders and it was a
pretty memorable night.
After the game, we went to the Sunday night game in Indianapolis and then flew back to
Seattle for the Monday night game. Doing three night NFL games in 5 nights wasn’t
easy and I may never do it again!
5. June 7, 2002 Sapporo, Japan. England 1, Argentina 0
Was it Aerosmith that said ‘Life’s a journey, not a destination.’?
Well, getting to Sapporo for this game was a journey and a half.
The story begins in 1998, maybe even 1986, so bear with me.
My friend Bernie Kiesewetter was going to his eighth consecutive World Cup and I was
doing my second. We had met in France, both of us on a shipwreck of a tour where the
organizer had oversold and couldn’t come up with all the tickets for games.
I somehow got one of the 13 tickets – there were 30 of us on the tour – for the England-
Argentina game in St. Etienne and I got to see Michael Owen’s breathtaking goal, David
Beckham’s stupid ejection and the usual England elimination by penalty kicks.
Bernie didn’t make it to that game, but the last time he has seen England-Argentina
was in Mexico, in 1986 - the famous hand-of-God game.
When we ordered our tickets for the World Cup in Japan and Korea, I had tickets for
England’s first five games and Bernie had tickets for Argentina’s first 3. Lo and behold,
the teams get drawn in the same group and we’re heading up to Sapporo together even
though we’ll be sitting in entirely different areas.
From Tokyo, it’s a 12-hour odyssey to Sapporo: four hours on the bullet train, four hours
on slower train through a 50-mile underground rail tunnel connecting Honshu and
Hokkaido, and then a final slower-than-slow four-hour train ride to Sapporo.
We weren’t the only crazies making this trip, as a conservative estimate of 10,000
English fans were doing the same thing.
The group of English fans we did meet and talk to were from Canada as well, Victoria to
be exact and it was Steve Nash and his high-school buddies. Nash, a huge soccer fan,
loves Tottenham Hotspur and the English national team.
We get to Sapporo and it’s like England East. By the time we get to the game, the
stadium is swathed in red.
Beckham avenges his red card by scoring the only goal, via penalty kick, Argentina
doesn’t make it past the first round and all that’s left is another 12-hour train ride back
PS: Honourable mentions include: Ryder Cup 2004, the Friday when Mickelson and
Woods lose both of their matches; Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa - my first Super Bowl;
Jan. 22, 2006 Seahawks beat Panthers in NFC Championship game; June 22, 1998
Colombia - Tunisia in Montpellier, France - my first World Cup finals game; and May 29,
2004 Calgary Flames 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 0 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals –
the game was great but the scene on the Red Mile - “Tops off for Kiprusoff” and www.
flamesgirls.com - It’s not just about the hockey!
5. Ken Griffey Jr. hits #500, June 21st, 2004: This was amazing because everybody
knew that the Reds coming to St. Louis for a 3-game stretch would most likely include
Griffey's 500th home run. The Cardinals fans were rooting for it, everybody wanted to
see him do it. Every pitch of every at-bat, thousands of flashbulbs could be seen going
off. When he finally did it, he got a standing ovation and the fan who caught the ball
gave it to him after the game. It was exciting to be present for something so special to a
4. Mark McGwire hits #60, September 5th, 1998: the summer of 1998 was an fantastic
season to follow baseball. For once, all the focus was on a non-East Coast rivalry.
When McGwire cracked off #60, the roar of the crowd and the 5-minute ovation had me
almost in tears.
3. Notre Dame/USC game, October 16th, 2005: granted, this game did not end the way
I wanted it to, but it was one of the best football games I've ever seen. The back-and-
forth lead changes and the multitude of scoring made it incredibly exciting. At the end of
the game, when we thought we had held USC out of the endzone, it was elation like I've
never seen. I have pictures of the scoreboard that says ND has won and there is no
time left on the clock. Then the absolute soul-crushing turnaround when they put time
back on the clock and USC scored was brutal. It being a USC/ND game means most
people were probably rooting for a meteor to crush us all, but since I was there I'm glad
that did not happen.
2. Germany v Italy, World Cup Semi-Final, July 4th, 2006: this experience is too crazy to
explain fully here. I left my dorm in London at 3:30 am on the 4th of July, traveled by
myself to Dusseldorf and then Dortmund, Germany, made friends with two nice
Germans who adopted me for the day and ended up getting a ticket to arguably the best
game of the 2006 World Cup. I was standing in a sea of Germany fans, singing along
with their songs and cheers that I didn't understand a word of. I would've preferred a
Germany win, but the game was incredibly exciting. It was knotted 0-0 until the last few
minutes of OT. The game didn't even start until 9 pm. I caught a train back to
Dusseldorf around 3 am, got my 6 am flight back to London and rolled into school just
in time for my 10 am class. What an amazing 30 hours.
1. Iowa/LSU Capital One Bowl, January 1st, 2005: for an Iowa fan, there is nothing like
this. The Hawkeye fanbase still refers to this as The Catch. Iowa led the entire game,
then with 8 1/2 minutes left JaMarcus Russell comes in off the bench and throws two
touchdowns, giving LSU a one-point lead with 46 seconds to go. Iowa QB Tate threw
two passes but then Iowa received a penalty and the clock started while they were in the
huddle. Tate dropped back and fired a 56 yd TD pass to Warren Holloway, a senior
who had never had a TD as a Hawkeye until that moment. Absolute pandemonium
Later, I heard Gary Dolphin, a longtime Iowa commentator, give what become my
favorite call of a play in all of sports: "Now they gotta call time out! They wind the clock! 9
seconds to play and Drew Tate doesn't know that! The game's gonna end on this play!
He fires downfield -- it's caught -- AND INTO THE ENDZONE! TOUCHDOWN IOWA!
TOUCHDOWN IOWA! NO TIME ON THE CLOCK! I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!
TOUCHDOWN IOWA! OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!"
Since I am a Phillies phan, I guess you would assume that it was the ’80 World Series.
And I was most certainly in the house for that.
But the most amazing game that I have attended in my lifetime was not on that joyful day
in October or 1980. No, it was a Black Friday in October of 1977.
Third game of a five game NL championship series between the Phillies and Dodgers.
Series tied 1-1 with the remaining three games to be played in Philadelphia .
The Dodgers score first, two in the second inning, one of which is on a play where
Steve Garvey still, to this day, has not touched home plate. Thank you, Harry
The bottom of the second is one of the more bizarre innings in post-season history,
with Burt Hooten walking four straight players, three of which send home three runs, all
with two outs. HOOOOT!!! HOOOOT!!! shout the phaithful!!
The Dodgers tie the score, but the Phillies rally to score two in the bottom of the eighth,
and enter the ninth with a two run lead. Two quick outs and the Phillies are one out
away from a close-out game with Steve Carlton on the mound. Dancing in the aisles of
Loserville!!! Finally, a World Series in sight for the phans!
Vic Davalillo bunts past the pitcher for a single. No biggy. Light hitting Manny Mota is up
and he lofts a deep fly ball to left. Can o’ corn.
But wait! What is Greg Luzinski doing, making lazy confused circles in left field? Where
is Jerry Martin, his defensive replacement ALL SEASON whenever the Phillies go into
the ninth with a lead? NOOOO! Luzinski flubs the catch, flubs the throw to the infield
and, in a flash of Dodger blue, the tying run is 90 feet from home plate.
Now, a ground ball by Davey Lopes to the golden glove of third baseman, Mike Schmidt.
WHAT? A bounce off the infield seam, then a bounce off Schmidt’s shin caroms into the
bare hand of Larry Bowa, who throws Lopes out by half a stride at first. GAME OVER!!
Not so fast. Bruce Froemming signals safe, and his vote is the only one that counts.
OK. Breathe deep. Relax. It is only tied and we are at home. Gene Garber throws over to
Hebner at first and appears to catch Lopes leaning the wrong way, but the throw gets
away and Lopes scampers to second base. A following single and the Dodgers take
the lead. The demoralized Phillies go down meekly in the bottom of the ninth and the
rest is predictable history.
The subway ride back to center city is like a trip to a funeral; you would never guess that
so many people could be that quiet. And I don’t even want to get into the deluge that the
demoralized team is forced to play in the next night by Chub Feeney and Bowie Kuhn.
The airport was closed but the National League played on.