Iím sitting at my computer this moment, and reflecting back. Not into 2007; I mean way back. I believe there was a time ďwhen it was a game.Ē I mean all sports. I mean athletes who loved playing their respective sports. They damn well had to do it for the love of their game because they certainly didnít make a ton of money from it. Weíll never see those days again, for love of the game up and down every roster in every sport. That mentality and attitude are gone forever, just like my youth. (The latter is definitely history as Iíll soon be 69, so thanks to one of my very closest friends, Cialis.)
Joe Namath, 64, received his diploma on December 13 from the University of Alabama, where he quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1964 but left school early to become one of pro football's biggest stars. It is quite commendable.
My brother, Leonard Lippel, did the same thing. After a most successful business career, he retired and then earned his college degree. The difference was that my brother didnít have the head start before his career as did Namath. Iím very proud of my brother for having accomplished this so late in his life. Few people could have or would have.
Story of the Week
GREATEST SPORTS UPSETS
What is an upset? My definition; itís when the result defies all logic and the betting odds against it. This list doesnít begin to tell it. Itís all so subjective. So letís call this my short list, my very short list. Iím not going to rate the magnitude of upset as that would be even more subjective, so Iíll list them chronologically. (Some of my poker hands, wins and losses, belong on this list, but poker isnít a sport, despite what ESPN thinks.)
Upset Hands Man Oí War His Only Loss. 1919.
Man O' War is generally considered (with Secretariat) one of the two best race horses ever. But when 100-to-1 shot Upset handed Man O' War the only loss of his career in the Sanford Memorial in 1919, he coined a sports expression for an underdog beating a vastly superior foe. Upset is responsible for ďupset.Ē
Cassius Clay KOs Sonny Liston. 1964.
No one gave Clay a chance to beat heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in their first fight in 1964 in Miami Beach. As the bell rang for the seventh round, Liston remained on his stool, resigned to defeat. Sensing that he had made history, Clay sprang to the center of the ring, and then quickly ran to the ropes, over to the area where many of the doubting sportswriters were. Clay yelled down at them repeatedly, "I'm the greatest. I shook up the world." He did!
Super Bowl 3. 1969. (There were no Super Bowl roman numerals until V)
Joe Namath guaranteed victory, and the Jets shocked the 18-point-favorite Colts 16-7, striking a blow for AFL equality and laying the groundwork for the NFL merger. Jets QB Joe Namath backed up his boast, and made sure everyone knew it as he ran off the field repeatedly raising his right hand and index finger to the sky designating victory. Heís the only winning QB in Super Bowl history who didnít toss a TD pass.
The Miracle Mets. 1969.
Only seven years after they came into existence as one of the worst teams in baseball history, the New York Mets stunned the Baltimore Orioles in the 1969 World Series. The Orioles, led by the great Robinson duet, Frank and Brooks, were loaded with offense, defense and pitching. The perennially awful Mets trailed the Cubs by 9Ĺ games on Aug. 13 before rallying to win the pennant and reach their first World Series.
The Miracle On Ice. 1980.
The upstart Americans knocked off the mighty Russians in the Olympic medal round in 1980. "Do you believe in miracles?" asked Al Michaels, and everyone did after the U.S. beat the Soviet Union, 4-3 in the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Soviets, who had won eight of the previous nine Olympic gold medals, had blown away the American college kids 10-3 in a pre-tournament exhibition just days before. Players do the playing, but what a job by coach Herb Brooks.
Villanova Stuns Georgetown. 1985.
The eighth-seeded Villanova Wildcats shot an amazing 78.6 percent, making 22 of 28 field goal attempts, including 90 percent (9-for-10) in the second half, to stun defending NCAA champion Georgetown Hoyas and Patrick Ewing 66-64 in the 1985 NCAA finals. Villanova overcame a major obstacle in that Ewing and company were the number one defense in the country and had limited opponents to just 39 percent shooting from the field for the entire season.
The Miracle Dodgers. 1988.
In itself, it doesnít belong on this list. There have been far greater upsets in sports history than this one. But that single at-bat by the physically impaired Kirk Gibson against Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the World Series qualifies it for this list. Based on Gibsonís physical condition that night (it was his only AB in the entire Series), that pinch-hit home run could have been a 100-1 shot. To quote the call of the great Jack Buck, ďI donít believe what I just saw.Ē No one did!
Buster Douglas KOs Mike Tyson. 1990.
Of any sports event I can remember, this one surprised me the most. It was the quintessential upset in my mind during my lifetime. The overweight journeyman Buster Douglas was a 42-to-1 underdog against the undefeated Mike Tyson. But when the smoke had cleared on Feb. 10, 1990 in Tokyo, Japan, the "baddest man on the planet" was lying on his back, and his heavyweight championship belt was missing. Buster Douglas had gained his short-lived fame.
Boise State Tricks Oklahoma In Fiesta Bowl. 2007.
Even though Boise entered the game undefeated, nobody really thought they'd win the Fiesta Bowl, much less jump out to an 18-point lead, blow it, then come back twice to beat the more talented Sooners in overtime, 43-42. Boise's upset even earned style points, running a "hook and ladder" to tie the game with :07 left, and a "statue of liberty" two-point conversion in OT. As if all that wasnít enough, the major upset ended with yet another trick play, a marriage proposal.
Golden State Shocks Dallas. 2007.
Golden State was the #8 seed in the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The Warriors were 42-40 in the regular season, and barely made the postseason. The Dallas Mavericks had the best record from wire to wire in the regular season at 67-15. This series is the biggest upset in NBA history. Since the NBA went best-of-7, no 8th. seed had won a playoff series until Golden State turned the trick. It was Don Nelsonís finest hour as the Warriors coach neutralized his former team.
And if you want more from an excellent writer, namely Don Borst, see my Quick Take in my 9-13-07 article.
Last Weekís Trivia
What fighter won the light heavyweight title in 1997 despite the fact that his opponent knocked him out? Yes, you read it correctly. In the first fight between Roy Jones Jr. and Montell Griffin, Jones knocked Griffin out. But then Jones was disqualified for continuing his assault on Griffin when the latter was down. Griffin was awarded the title as he was down on the canvas. Jones regained the belt five months later by knocking Griffin out in the first round of their rematch.
Trivia Question of the Week
What is the highest total score ever in a NBA game? When? What teams? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.