Mahut vs. Isner: The Most Epic Event In Sports History

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Mahut vs. Isner: The Most Epic Event In Sports History
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Sports At Its Finest

It was Monday morning, January 23rd, 2006.

The previous day, I had watched the AFC and NFC Championship games.  Pittsburgh defeats Denver, Seattle defeats Carolina.  With the Super Bowl XL matchup set, I get on the Internet to check out the stats and analysis of the games.  What I found that morning nearly had me falling out of my chair.

Eighty-one points.  That's the total Kobe Bryant had put up against the Toronto Raptors while I was watching the Seahawks dismantle the Panthers.  It was a life-altering sports moment for me, as I realized that I missed out on watching the greatest individual athletic performance in my lifetime. 

Fast forward to June 23, 2010.  The big sporting event today is USA vs. Algeria in the World Cup.  USA is 0-0-2 in the Cup so far, and a win will move them on to the next round.  In one of the more dramatic moments that I have witnessed in sports, Landon Donovan's 91st minute goal sends our country into football heaven. 

As is my routine, I get on the Internet to check out stats and analysis from the game.  To my complete shock, I see that a match at Wimbledon is in the fifth set, tied at 48.  John Isner and Nicolas Mahut.  Playing in a set that started this morning.  As has happened only once before, I nearly fell out of my chair.

Luckily for me, the game was still in progress.  So I dropped everything and got over to ESPN 3 to see for myself if this was really true, or if it was some cruel joke.  It was real.

Not many events are capable of pushing the Super Bowl or a massive World Cup win to page two.  Kobe Bryant's 81 point masterpiece is one.  Mahut vs. Isner is another.  These types of moments happen rarely in sports.  That is what makes it so epic.

Something can not be preordained as epic.  Epic is a descriptive word that, in the context of sports, is earned during the event.  Super Bowl XLII was not epic just because it was a Super Bowl.  It earned the right to be described that way the moment David Tyree caught a football up against his head.

Game 7s are rarely epic.  They are unquestionably exciting events, as they are a winner-take-all situation.  But they aren't epic just because they are a Game 7.  The 1960 World Series Game 7 became epic when Bill Mazeroski clubbed the championship winner, but it wasn't epic in the first inning.

When a sporting event reaches the point that it can accurately be described by either the word "epic" or "classic," then that event becomes one that reaches into the surreal.  It becomes something that truly has to be seen to be believed.  If I told you that the Los Angeles Lakers trailed by 15 points entering the fourth quarter of the 2000 Western Conference Finals Game 7, you would look at me like I said Hugh Hefner is gay. 

Nicolas Mahut and John Isner have provided us with a match that can be described as epic and classic.  The stakes may not be very high, being as it is a first round match between two non-contenders, but that has become irrelevant as this fifth set has reached into that surreal level.  And it isn't over yet.

This match started on June 22.  It will end (we think) on June 24.  That's three days, folks.  Four sets in one day, the last one in two.  Tied at 59-59 entering what should be the final day of this amazing match, we must realize the gift we have been provided by this latest delay for darkness.  I encourage every sports fan, tennis fan or not, to watch this spectacle.  Whether it ends within 10 minutes tomorrow or not, it is something that you will want to say you witnessed.

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