This is a list of the ultimate, the best, the greatest...the 20 most incredible moments of my life as a Philadelphia sports fan.
These are the moments that make me smile every single time I think of them. These are the moments I'll never forget as long as I live.
I can tell you the date, who I was with, and where I was for all of these moments. They're that special.
My only regret is that I had to leave some highlights off this list. Chase Utley's walk-off single to complete a four-game sweep of the Mets in August 2007. Jimmy Rollins' 20th triple in the season finale of 2007. Chris Coste's walk-off bases-loaded 13th-inning single to beat the Mets and give the Phillies sole possession of first place in August 2008.
Lito Sheppard's season-saving interception against Carolina on Monday Night Football in 2006. 4th and 26.
The massacre against the eventual division champion Green Bay Packers in 2004. Hollis Thomas's hit on Michael Vick in the 2004 NFC championship game. Every single highlight from every beatdown on the Cowboys since 2000.
The 20 moments below are the moments that essentially have shaped me into the Philly fan that I am today.
Honorable Mention. Jan. 18, 2009: DeSean Jackson go-ahead touchdown in NFC championship game.
This is a play that had the potential to rank as high as second on my list.
Completing a comeback from 18 points down, Donovan McNabb hit rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a 62-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a one-point lead with 11 minutes remaining in the NFC championship game.
Jackson's catch, which included three different bobbles, and a complete body turn, had the potential to rank as the single most memorable play in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The "Highlight Film" Moments
20. Jan. 16, 2005: Freddie Mitchell catches LJ Smith's fumble in postseason.
There are some moments when you just know things are going your way. This was one of them.
When LJ Smith caught a McNabb pass and headed towards the end zone, he was flipped head over heels by a Vikings defender. The ball flew through the air, where it landed in the arms of wide receiver Freddie Mitchell for an Eagles touchdown.
I have been told that the crowd at the stadium was 100 percent silent while the ball flew through the air. I have also been told that the noise by the crowd after Freddie scored was one of the loudest in the history of the Linc.
It was over. We knew it. The Vikings knew it. It was time to start preparing for the Falcons, because this game was in the bag.
19. Nov. 15, 2004: McNabb's 14.1 second scramble.
This has the potential to go down as the signature play of Donovan McNabb's career.
In a game that I like to call the "Monday Night Massacre," the Eagles showed the rest of the football world just how dominant they really are, piling on 49 points vs. the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium.
The signature play of the game (and the season) came late in the second quarter, with the Eagles already leading 28-14.
McNabb took the snap and dropped back. The protection broke down, and McNabb spun around to avoid a defensive tackle. He rolled to his right, dodging a diving tackler.
Following a furious sideways sprint with a defender hot on his heels, McNabb stutter stepped, stopped, and rolled back to his left.
On a full sprint, McNabb fired a deep ball to a streaking Freddie Mitchell. Without breaking stride, Mitchell caught the pass for a 50-yard gain.
McNabb's pass, given the fact that his body was turned almost sideways upon delivery, is probably the most impressive of his 10-year career.
18. Jan. 13, 2007: Sheldon Brown hits Reggie Bush.
The hardest hit in NFL history. Don't argue. It's a fact.
Bush was so shaken up by this hit that he literally crawled on his hands and knees for a few seconds after the play. Watching "The Crawl" was almost as good as "The Hit."
This was the first play of the game. This was supposed to set the stage for the Eagles to reach the NFC championship game.
Unfortunately, the magic of Jeff Garcia and Company came to a disappointing end.
17. May 11, 2006: Aaron Rowand catch.
Before the Phillies became an elite team, it was moments like these that we lived for as Phillies fans.
In the first inning, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs for Xavier Nady, who smashed a deep drive to center field. Rowand sprinted back and made a spectacular leaping catch, before smashing facefirst into the center field fence.
Rowand suffered a broken nose and severe lacerations to his face, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The Phillies ended up winning the game 2-0. Nady's drive would have likely scored three runs for the Mets.
16. Oct. 23, 2005: Matt Ware returns blocked field goal for touchdown.
This remains the single highlight from the worst year I can remember as an Eagles fan (thankfully I don't remember 1998 too well).
With 2:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, Matt Ware returned a blocked field goal 65 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Nobody even remembers that future Pro Bowl safety Quintin Mikell was the real hero of the play, blocking Kaeding's 40-yard field goal attempt.
Forgotten about this game is the performance of LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for 7 yards on 17 carries. That's right. Seven yards.
His first four carries netted -10 yards. LT also failed to score a touchdown, ending a record-tying streak of 18 consecutive games with a touchdown.
The Eagles improved to 4-2 after their miraculous win...if only the season could have ended then.
The "Goosebumps" Moments
15. Dec. 25, 2006: Christmas Day goal line stop of Marion Barber.
This was when I knew the Eagles were going to win the division. We all did. It was over, after this single play.
The Eagles entered their Christmas Day battle with the Dallas Cowboys on a three-game winning streak, at the helm of their quarterback, Jeff Garcia.
The Eagles were leading 7-0, with 13 minutes left in the second quarter, when Quintin Mikell stuffed Marion Barber for a three-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the one.
43 minutes remained in the game. It didn't matter. We knew it was over.
14. January 6, 2007: Tony Romo's fumble in the playoffs.
This was by far my greatest moment as a Cowboys hater.
The Cowboys trailed the Seahawks by one point with 1:19 remaining in the game. The Cowboys lined up for a 19-yard field goal attempt (essentially an extra point) to win the game.
Then something incredible happened.
Tony Romo fumbled the snap. He dropped the ball. When he picked it up and ran with it, he was caught from behind and tackled by Jordan Babineaux at the one-yard line.
Seattle ended up winning the game 21-20 and the Cowboys lost their fifth consecutive playoff game.
13. Jan. 23, 2005: Brian Dawkins' speech.
I believe Brian Dawkins is the most motivational player in NFL history. Nobody can get more from his teammates than Dawkins.
That being said, I will never forget his reaction to the Eagles winning the NFC championship game. I still get chills every time I hear any of Dawkins' memorable lines from this speech:
"I give all the credit to Michael Vick, we gave him the most respect. But nobody respected us as a defense! Give me some respect right now!"
"I'll tell you what. I wanted to set a tone. We wanted to set a tone as a defense. It's not just me, it's the defense, it's my line, it's Burgess, it's Kearse, all them boys, Trot, we came and we brought it, every doggone play!"
May the Weapon X video live on forever.
12. Sept. 27, 2008: Jimmy Rollins division-clinching double play.
I had no doubt that the Phillies were going to win the division. Even if they lost this game, they had Sunday. Then things got a little scary with a two-run lead entering the ninth inning.
Brad Lidge hadn't blown a save all season. 40-for-40. And against the Nationals? This should have been three up and three down.
The inning went like this: Swinging strikeout. Single to right. Walk. RBI single to right center. Single to center.
With the bases loaded and one out, the Phillies led 4-3. The Phillies' division title, as well as Brad Lidge's perfect season, were on the line against the Nationals' best hitter, Ryan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman smacked a hard ground ball up the middle and my heart stopped.
Enter Jimmy Rollins.
The reigning National League MVP made a sliding stop of Zim's ground ball. He tossed to Utley, who fired a bullet to Howard to complete the double play and ensure that the Philadelphia Phillies were division champions for the second consecutive season.
The "I Can't Believe This is Actually Happening" Moments
11. Oct. 29, 2008: Utley's throw at home plate in Game 5.
This might be the most underrated play of all time, any sport, any time, ever.
I would argue that this play was better than Derek Jeter's flip toss to home plate in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS.
In the top of the seventh inning of Game 5 of the World Series, the Rays and Phillies were tied 3-3. With two outs, Jason Bartlett of the Rays stood on second base. Akinori Iwamura bounced a ground ball up the middle.
I'll never forget Utley fielding the grounder, faking a throw to first base, pivoting, and firing a strike to home. The ball arrived just a second before Barlett. Ruiz caught the bouncer and dove to his left, tagging Bartlett for the final out of the inning, and preventing a potentially Series-altering play.
When Chase Utley is elected to the Hall of Fame in 17 or 18 years, this will be the signature play that defined his career.
10. Oct. 25, 2008: Carlos Ruiz game winning World Series single.
Here's your situation: Game 3 of the World Series, tied one game apiece. Bottom of the ninth inning. Bases loaded. No outs. Catcher Carlos Ruiz at the plate.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pulls one of the most intelligent moves I have ever seen, incorporating an infield composed of an extra infielder.
Ruiz hit a little dribbler down the third base line. A dinky little 45-foot hit. And this dinky little 45-foot hit was far enough for Eric Bruntlett to score the winning run and give Philly a lead in the World Series that they would never relinquish.
9. October 19, 2003: Brian Westbrook's game winning punt return.
I have watched this single play more times than any sports clip throughout history.
They call this the "Miracle in the the Meadowlands: Part 2."
With 1:30 remaining in the game, the Eagles trailed the Giants 10-7. Brian Westbrook fielded Jeff Feagles' punt on one bounce, dodged a tackler, and raced down the left sideline, untouched, for an 84-yard touchdown.
I'll never forget Merrill Reese's call: "He gets it away. It's a wobbler. Bounces across the 20. Westbrook takes it. Looks for running room. Up to the 25, the 30. To the 35, 40. 45, Midfield. 45, 40. 35, 30. Brian Westbrook! He's going, he's gone! Touchdown! Brian Westbrook 84 yards! I don't believe it! Brian Westbrook has just exploded. This place is in a state of shock!"
The Eagles won the game, improving their record to 3-3. They won eight games in a row, eventually clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
8. Jan. 11, 2004: Dawkins interception off Favre in overtime.
This is the play that I cherish the most from the most exciting Eagles playoff game I have ever seen. This play was even more valuable than fourth-and-26.
In overtime, Brett Favre threw what I will tell anyone is the single worst pass I have ever seen by an NFL quarterback. It was intercepted by Brian Dawkins and returned 35 yards.
The Eagles, who trailed 14-0 at halftime, went on to win the game 20-17 on an Akers field goal.
I consider this to be the signature play of Brian Dawkins' future Hall of Fame career.
7. Oct. 13, 2008: Matt Stairs home run.
This one was just so...unexpected.
The Phillies led the Dodgers two games to one in the NLCS, but trailed 5-3 entering the eighth inning. Shane Victorino smacked a two-run line drive homer into the right field bullpen. Carlos Ruiz singled, prompting the Dodgers to bring in flamethrower Jonathan Broxton.
Stepping to the plate was 40-year-old, out of shape, little used, backup outfielder Matt Stairs. I'll never forget the disbelief I felt when Stairs absolutely crushed a 3-1 fastball into the right field stands. I was so stunned that I just sat there not moving, before screaming my lungs out.
This single hit essentially ended the NLCS. There was no doubt in my mind that the Phillies were going to the World Series.
6. Oct. 8, 2006: Lito Sheppard game winning interception touchdown against Dallas.
Not counting games with playoff implications, this was my greatest moment as an Eagles fan.
This was arguably the most hyped regular season game of the season: the return of T.O. to Philadelphia.
It lived up to expectations. I'll never forget a bucketload of plays from this game: Baskett's 87-yard touchdown catch, T.O.'s alligator arms against Michael Lewis, Dawkins' diving interception right in front of T.O., and the seven sacks of Drew Bledsoe, including two on the final drive.
With 32 seconds remaining in the game, the Eagles led 31-24. The Cowboys had second and goal on the six-yard line, and, for the moment, my heart had stopped beating.
Until Lito Sheppard stepped in front of Drew Bledsoe's errant pass and returned it 102 yards for a touchdown, sending the city of Philadelphia into a state of absolute pandemonium.
5. Sept. 30, 2007: Glavine gets shelled/Brett Myers strikes out Wily Mo Pena to win division.
You're not going to understand what this was like unless you're a fan of a team that doesn't make the playoffs every single year.
You may not fully understand this unless you were like me, and you had never seen your favorite team in the playoffs, not one time.
But what Brett Myers and the rest of the Phillies showed their fans was that, yes, the playoffs are a possibility.
The Phillies and Mets entered the final game of the season tied for first place in the division. Jimmy Rollins had already proclaimed the Phillies the "team to beat in the East," despite the Mets' success from the year before.
The Mets faced the Marlins at 1:05; the Phillies faced the Nationals at 1:35.
By 1:35, the Mets game was essentially over. 303-game winner Tom Glavine, in arguably the most important regular season game of his career, allowed seven runs, while retiring one batter. He hit pitcher Dontrelle Willis with the bases loaded and made a throwing error. Essentially, his outing summed up the final 17 games of the season for the Mets.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Jamie Moyer pitched 5 1/3 effective innings, Ryan Howard homered, and Jimmy Rollins collected his 20th triple to join the elusive 20-20-20-20 club.
But the greatest moment came in the ninth inning. With two outs, Brett Myers struck out Wily Mo Pena on a curveball to clinch the Phillies' first division title in 14 years.
Harry Kalas's call: "Curveball, struck him out! The Phillies are National League East champions! Look at the scene on the field! Look at the scene in the stands! This is incredible! The Phillies are National League East champions and will go to the postseason for the first time since 1993!"
4. October 2008: Shane Victorino grand slam off CC Sabathia/the whole second inning.
I can't even describe the elation I felt during the second inning of Game 2 of the NLDS.
The Phillies were supposed to lose this game. CC Sabathia was on the mound. We didn't stand a chance. Everybody knew it.
With a 1-1 score in the second inning, Brett Myers batted with a man on third and two outs. Two pitches in, Myers was down 0-2. He then proceeded to complete the most clutch at-bat by a Philadelphia pitcher in the history of the franchise, forcing seven more pitches until he walked.
Sabathia walked Jimmy Rollins on four consecutive pitches, before, with a 1-2 count, Shane Victorino connected on a hanging cutter for a game-winning grand slam.
The roar of the crowd, starting from the fifth pitch of Myers' at-bat and culminating with the Flyin' Hawaiian's grand slam, was the loudest I have ever heard a Philadelphia crowd in my entire life.
How many fans would give their pitcher a standing ovation for fouling off a pitch?
Only in Philadelphia.
3. Dec. 28, 2008: The "Sunday of Miracles."
I like to make up names for events in history. I call this day the "Sunday of Miracles."
There will never again be a regular season that ends in such incredible fashion for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then they needed to beat the Cowboys. In my article before the game, I calculated the Eagles' playoff chances at "three percent. Maybe two percent."
I'll never forget all of my Eagles friends all week telling me that they thought we still had a chance; the feeling of despair I felt when I saw the Bucs had built a ten-point lead on the Raiders in the fourth quarter; the feeling of elation when I saw that the Texans had downed the Bears; and finally, the absolute chaos that erupted when Jeff Garcia was unable to lead the Bucs to victory after Michael Bush's two touchdown runs.
What followed next were the greatest three hours of my life as a Philadelphia Eagles fan.
Eagles fans everywhere will recall the image of our hero, #20 Brian Dawkins, dancing out of the tunnel for the pregame warmups. He knew. The fans knew. We still had a chance. And we knew we were in for a show.
Not only did the Eagles win, they did so in such dominating fashion that it was almost like a dream. Given the extremity of the rivalry and the situations surrounding the game, it might have been one of the ten biggest blowouts in the history of the National Football League.
I have watched the highlights for this game many, many times in the past three months. It never gets old and it never will. With everything on the line for both teams, it was just breathtaking watching the Cowboys' season literally fall apart before a national audience.
In an 9:18 span:
- Correll Buckhalter scored on a four-yard touchdown pass;
- Sheldon Brown intercepted Tony Romo and returned the ball 23 yards;
- Pacman Jones committed a 15-yard late-hit penalty that essentially summed up his career in the NFL;
- Terence Newman committed pass interference in the end zone;
- Brent Celek proved his worth as a future playmaker with a one-yard touchdown catch;
- Omar Gaither recovered Pacman Jones's fumble on the ensuing kickoff;
- David Akers nailed a 50-yard field goal on the last play of the first half;
- Brian Dawkins stripped the ball from Tony Romo, which Chris Clemons returned for a 73-yard touchdown;
- Brian Dawkins stripped the ball from Marion Barber, which Joselio Hanson returned for a 96-yard touchdown; and
- Chris Clemons stripped the ball from Tony Romo, which Trevor Laws recovered.
The image of Tony Romo lying facedown on the ground, arms covering his head, is one of the most priceless images in Philadelphia Eagles' history. 44-3 with 6:04 left in the third quarter. 24 points in the second quarter, and 17 in the third quarter.
How many points could the Eagles have scored if they had tried for the last third of the game? 55 points? 60 points? 65 points?!
The game reached the point where, when David Akers missed a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys' announcer commented, "And the Eagles, for the first time today, don't succeed at something that they try to do."
The Eagles handed the Cowboys their ninth consecutive loss in the season finale. They beat up on Tony Romo and Company for the third consecutive December, sending the preseason Super Bowl favorites home for an early vacation.
I have never been prouder to call myself an Eagles fan that I was on this particular day. For one day, the Philadelphia Eagles (and their fans) were on top of the world.
2. Jan. 23, 2005: Chad Lewis's second touchdown in NFC championship game.
This one was extra special because it made up for three consecutive years of heartbreak, the final two making up two of the three worst days of my life as a Philadelphia fan.
When Chad Lewis scored on a two-yard touchdown with 3:21 remaining, it was over. A 17 point lead with 3 minutes left? Game over.
Philly erupted into the single biggest celebration the city had seen in 24 years. With "Rocky" blaring from the speakers, the ecstatic crowd reached a volume that could be heard miles away.
This was the ultimate "if at first you fail, try, try again" moment.
As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, it never get any better than this.
The "Dreams Can Come True" Moment
1. Oct. 29, 2008: Brad Lidge strikes out Eric Hinske.
This was the greatest moment of my life as a Philadelphia sports fan. This was when I learned what it felt like to be on top of the world. This was the moment when I learned that, yes, dreams can come true.
I'll never forget this feeling as long as I live. Words can't describe this moment, so I'm not even going to try.
At 9:59 p.m., Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske of the Tampa Bay Rays on the "slider from hell," and the entire city went into its biggest state of euphoria since 1980.
I have the entire fifth game of the World Series on my iPod and I have watched the ninth inning many, many times. It's absolutely incredible.
It makes me feel like I'm back on the sidewalk, standing outside Chickie and Pete's, with 300 other people, experiencing our own, "Do you believe in miracles?!" moment.
This was one of those moments I can't wait to tell my kids about. This is one that I'll never get tired of reliving over and over again.
This was my single greatest moment as a Philadelphia sports fan.
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