I've got to be honest, I'm getting a little sick of Michael Jordan winning titles.
And Bird vs Magic.
And the Thrilla in Manila.
These moments in sports history all happened years ago, but through the magic of ESPN Classic they have been brought back for modern eyes to view. Each of them was mind blowing the first time I saw them replayed. They were still pretty cool the second time. Then the novelty started to fade.
In general, ESPN Classic does a great job of making the seminal moments in sports available to a mass audience. However, they have a disturbing tendency to play the same things over and over. Its neat that when a high-profile matchup is occurring in real life they will play a classic game between those same two teams. Its less neat that because of this we've seen the "Wide Right" Miami-Florida State game from 1991 about a million times.
My other complaint is the channels focus on great players and great moments rather than great games. I want to see oddities and extraordinary happenings in these classic games, not just random close games between a couple of teams filled with memorable star players (The '82 NBA Finals, I'm looking at you)
So without further ado, here is a list of ten games that I have never seen ESPN Classic play that I would eagerly TiVo if I ever saw them on. I saw a couple of them live, and I am aware that a couple others weren't even televised, but any of these would be a welcome addition to a too-small lineup of ESPN Classic games.
10. NBA: Philadelphia Warriors vs New York Knicks 1962
Wilt's 100. Since no footage of this game still exists, this is the holy grail of old games. I have a suspicion that this game might get a little boring - Wilt shot 32 free throws in the game - but it must nonetheless be amazing to watch one man so dominate a game.
9. MLB: Chicago Cubs vs Florida Marlins 2003 NLCS Game 1
No, this isn't THAT game, this is game 1 of the series. Played in front of the most raucous crowd I have ever seen at a sporting event, this game lived up to its billing. The Marlins won the game in extra innings but the real highlight was Sammy Sosa's game tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. That might have been the greatest moment of my life if not for...well...lets just move on.
8. College Football: Illinois vs Michigan 1924
Played on the same day as the Notre Dame game that launched the phrase "The Four Horsemen" this was the real game to watch. (A Notre Dame moment overrated? Impossible!) In the very first game ever played at U of I's Memorial Stadium Red Grange put on a show for the ages. Grange scored touchdowns of 95, 67, 56, 44, 11, and 20 yards and totalled 402 yards of total offense between running, passing, and kick returning. "The Galloping Ghost" was born.
7. Hockey: USA vs USSR Exhibition Game 1980
We've all seen the Miracle on Ice so many times, not to mention received so much anti-communist propaganda in general, that it's easy to imagine the 1980 Soviet Hockey team as an overhyped, arrogant bunch who were begging to be taken down. That could not be further from the truth, as this 10-3 drubbing of the same American squad that would later gain that famous victory proves. Providing some context as to just how great that Russian team was makes the Miracle on Ice seem that much more special by comparison.
6. Soccer: Aston Villa vs Leicester City 1976
I'm sure this is some extremely dull, poorly played soccer, but that's not why its on the list. This game ended in a 2-2 draw. Allegedly, Villa defender Chris Nicholl scored all four goals, two in Leicester's net, two in his own. Quite frankly, I don't believe this happened, and I will refuse to believe it is true until I see it with my own eyes.
5. Golf: British Open Final Round 1999
Jean Freaking Van de Velde. We've forgotten a lot about that infamous final hole. We forget that the course was so tough that the eventual 3-way playoff featured four golfers at +6 for the tournament. We forget that Van de Velde actually had to make a tough up-and-down from a nasty lie in the sand to even make it into the playoff. We usually forget who ended up winning the thing (Local boy Paul Lawrie). But the image of that goofy Frenchman taking his shoes and socks off and wading into the creek at 18 to see if he could attempt to play his ball out, looking like he was either going to laugh or cry? THAT is unforgettable.
4. Boxing: Muhammad Ali vs Chuck Wepner 1975
Ali was champion of the world and wanted to fight a tomato can just make a buck or two. Wepner was a journeyman from Bayonne, New Jersey who's greatest skill was taking a punch and did so so often he had the nickname "The Bayonne Bleeder." However, the fight did not go according to plan. Wepner took everything Ali could throw at him and even knocked the champ down at one point. Ali kept his title on points after Wepner somehow lasted the full 15 rounds. Sylvester Stallone thought the story might make a good movie, but as far as I know nothing much ever came of it...
3. College Football: TCU vs Houston 1990
I have no idea who won this game, and neither team was a national title contender. I don't know where it was played, how many fans came to see it, or whether it was even on TV. All I know is that when you look at the all-time records for most total offense in a single college football game David Klingler's 625 yards and Matt Vogler's 696 yards from this game are numbers 4 and 2 on the list.
2. Baseball: Pittsburgh Pirates vs New York Yankees 1960 World Series Game 7
I am convinced if this game had happened 40 years later it would be the most legendary moment in sports history. Let me walk you through this and see if this is a game you'd be interested in watching:
Its Game 7 of the World Series between the Yankees dynasty and the upstart Pirates in Forbes Field.
The Pirates jump out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings, but the Yankees come roaring back in the sixth with a Yogi Berra homer helping them take the lead 5-4.
In the top of the eighth the Yankees add on two more to take a 7-4 lead with just six outs to play.
However, the Pirates explode for five runs in the bottom of the inning, keyed by a 2-out RBI single by Roberto Clemente. They lead 9-7.
In the top of the ninth the Bucs can close out the series but RBI's by Mickey Mantle and Berra tie the game.
Then, to lead off the bottom of the ninth, light-hitting Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski steps up to the plate...
1. College Basketball: LSU vs Alabama 1970
Pete Maravich scoring 69 points (his career high, college or pro) in forty minutes without a shot clock or a 3-point line. Not as an unstoppable big man dwarfing his opponents, and not against some tiny school either. Just the greatest college basketball player of all time at his absolute zenith. How do you even wrap your head around something like that? Well, I want to, and that is why it tops this list.