Pizza, Wings, and a Slice of History: Observations from Sports Heaven
I was in the Boston Garden back on April 20, 1986 when a blooming superstar by the name of Michael Jordan dropped a playoff record 63 points on Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
I was there at the Igloo (Melon Arena) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania May 20, 2000 when Philadelphia Flyers forward Keith Primeau eventually scored the game-winning goal in the FIFTH overtime period of the NHL’s Eastern conference playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I was also there at the Philadelphia Spectrum, March 28, 1992 for the quote, unquote “greatest college basketball game ever played,” Duke University forward Christian Laettner burying the 104-103 buzzer beater against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament’s East Regional Final.
Yes, as a sports journalist I have had the privilege of covering those three events and many more, the perks I suppose of working in this particular field.
As exciting and memorable as those three events were, they have now been replaced atop my list of most memorable sports moments by an event I didn’t even physically attend.
As a matter of fact, I was a guest along with my 15- and 10-year-old sons at a private residence in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Also in attendance were two other young men the same age as my sons and three other adult males, one wearing a Philadelphia Flyers jersey with his last name on the back.
We had gathered on that rainy night not quite sure what to expect from the game we were about to watch—the seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Flyers and Boston Bruins.
History led us to believe the odds were slim to none that the Flyers would actually win the game. After all, they were playing on Boston’s home ice after battling back from a three games to none deficit in the series.
Only three teams in the history of major professional sports had ever battled back to win a best of seven series after falling behind three games to none: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders, and the 2004 Boston Red Sox.
So again, what were the Flyers' odds of winning? Exactly!
Now, I mentioned that we were guests at a private residence, but folks, this was unlike any residence I had ever seen. The host called it the clubhouse, a two-story building unattached from the main mansion. The second floor had a full bathroom and live-in apartment. The first floor, a dream come true for every red-blooded American male sports fan.
This was 1,000 square feet of pure sports heaven, the main focus of which was a red brick and motor wall with a 63-inch flat screen television smack dab in the middle, surrounded by four 30-inch flat screen televisions. Hello!!!!!
There were also two small flat screen TVs in the fully functional kitchen, which consisted of a full size stainless steel refrigerator stocked with G2 Gator Aide. There was also a cappuccino machine, dish washer, sink, and microwave.
Oh, I forgot to mention there was also a flat screen TV over the full length men’s urinal in the locker room. That’s right, locker room complete with lockers, shower, and rubberized floor, just in case you wanted to lace up your skates.
So if you’ve lost count, that’s eight flat screens, powered by six direct TV tuners, and three digital cable boxes. Toss in X-box, Sirius Radio, surround sound, a full service sports ticker display board, and a partridge in a pear tree.
As for the remaining décor: sports memorabilia galore.
There were autographed helmets, footballs, basketballs, sneakers, photos, Super Bowl seat cushions, and numerous signed jerseys, those of Larry Bird, Dr. J, Magic Johnson, Yao Ming, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Michael Jordan just to name a few.
By the way, our host was also a University of North Carolina alumni and Buffalo Bills fan, so needless to say there was plenty of corresponding memorabilia.
Oh my goodness, I almost forgot why we were even in the middle of this sports oasis. Flyers-Bruins, Game Seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals, loser goes home.
I have to be totally honest with you, after Philadelphia fell behind 3-0, I whispered to my boys that it was probably going to be an early night. Heck, at that point, the only thing really keeping everyone’s interest were the wings, pizzas, and flat screen TV No. 5.
No. 5 was giving us the Phillies-Milwaukee Brewers game in which both teams were sporting their respective 1970s throw-back uniforms. You know, those powder blue Phillies road retros with the Maroon lettering. Meanwhile, Milwaukee with "BREWERS” in royal blue block letters on the front of the jerseys and a yellow “M” logo on the cap.
Then all of a sudden the entire ambiance of the night began to change, starting with Flyers rookie James Van Riemsdyk (JVR) netting his first ever play-off goal to cut Boston’s lead to 3-1.
Not that it means anything to you, but JVR is a fellow University of New Hampshire alumni.
So, Van Riemsdyk’s goal illuminated a little light at the end of the Ted Williams Tunnel, so I told my boys, let’s stay until the end of the second period and see what happens. Well, what happened was a chain of unbelievable events.
Just as Flyers forward Scott Hartnell scored to make it a 3-2 Boston advantage, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was busy jacking a two-run homer in Milwaukee to give Philadelphia a 2-0 lead over the Brewers.
Needless to say we were all getting a bit pumped up in the clubhouse, especially after Danny Briere scored his seventh goal of the play-offs to tie the game at three—chest bumps, fist bumps, and high fives all around.
Not only had the Flyers come back to tie Game Seven at three, but in doing so stuck the Bruins with another record of dubious distinction. Boston is the first team in NHL playoff history to squander a 3-0 lead in Game Seven, but for the B’s the worst was yet to come.
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