The world is scheduled to end in nine days. If that happens, there is a strong chance that the institution of sports will end as well.
We have had some good times. A few laughs, a few cries, and a few moments when we just sat in awe. But, like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese or a conjugal visit, all good things must come to an end, and sports, too, will be just a series of grand memories that we look back on and smile.
For the time we have remaining, I would like to recollect a few moments that I was fortunate enough to live through and see woven into the fabric of our history. These are some of the things that stick out the most.
The greatest sports memory I have, as a fan, happened on December 22, 2003. Brett Favre was already a hero, but, after the game he played on Monday night in Oakland following the passing of his father, he became a legend.
This was the greatest performance by a single player I have ever seen, regardless of sport. Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterbacks have had statistically better games. Favre has done so himself. But considering the circumstances, no quarterback has performed better in one game in my mind.
It wasn’t just Favre. The entire team was inspired that night. The receivers made catches you’d be hard-pressed to replicate. Anything Favre threw, they caught. Even Raiders fans, arguably the most domineering in football, respected Favre for playing under duress and marveled at the result.
Another great memory I have is of the Malice at the Palace of Auburn Hills. I was supposed to be sleeping, but the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers were playing a game, so I thought I’d finish watching. I’m glad I did. A hard foul on Detroit’s Ben Wallace by Indiana’s Ron Artest, currently known as Meta World Peace, turned into a shoving match, which turned into a bench-clearing skirmish.
One misguided fan and a thrown cup later, a nearly defused incident turned into the most infamous brawl in NBA history. Spectators and players throwing punches; referees retreating from the court; beer and popcorn and insults hurled at members of the Pacers as they exited the floor. The game was ended with less than a minute to play, and Indiana was awarded the victory.
Ron Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season, and a handful of other Pacers received suspensions. As unfortunate an incident the NBA has ever seen during a game, but it was pretty awesome to watch.
The final memory I’ll share was something that happened to me. The summer after I graduated high school, I was pitching in the second game of a Legion baseball doubleheader. It was the bottom of the 4th inning, and I threw a pitch right down the pipe, and the kid hit a chopper back up the middle. The ball bounced once in front of the pitcher’s mound, then hit me where my cup would have been, had I been wearing one.
Dazed, I took a few seconds to gather my thoughts and my manhood. As I dropped to one knee, I retrieved the ball that lay at my feet and tossed it daintily to first base. Then I sat on the ground holding myself and breathing heavily while the other team… my teammates… my father who was coaching… the umpires… and everyone in attendance laughed at my misfortune.
I went on to throw all eight innings of that game and secure the win. I may have cried on the way home; that part is hazy.
We all have great memories of sports from our playing days and our days in the stands. Some are good, some are bad, and some just hurt. But the important thing is they’re there for the recollecting. Even when we’re old and resigned to a rocking chair instead of a dugout, we’ll have things to look back on and smile.
Oh wait. Nine days, I forgot.