John Isner-Nicolas Mahut, Not Landon Donovan, Should Be June 23's Lasting Memory

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John Isner-Nicolas Mahut, Not Landon Donovan, Should Be June 23's Lasting Memory
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

I've been pushing for soccer to become America's fifth sport since my team won Northern Virginia's youth league bottom division championship in fifth grade (46th place overall, baby!).

So Landon Donovan's heroics yesterday morning would easily be in the top five sports games of my life that I've viewed, and certainly the greatest soccer game as far as American interest is concerned.

If the USA had gotten shafted out of the Cup on two straight games of bogus calls, the sport would officially have become unpatriotic.

Yet as much as Landycakes' goal mattered to the now-large number of Americans who enjoy the World Cup, I think that another sporting event that occurred at the same time was even more monumental for the sports landscape: the John Isner-Nicolas Mahut double marathon-combined-with-a-triathlon tennis match. 

Final line: 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-7, 70-68.

Some interesting records that were set: Isner now holds the record for aces in a match with 112. Mahut will be second with 103. It was also the longest tennis match of all time, over 11 hours, and the longest set of all time, over eight hours.

The world has seen this USA story before—the improbable country turning around its prowess in a sport that every country plays. Recently, ESPN profiled Colombia's fast rise to prominence, and even Scotland has had its glory days in football. It just means more to us because it is the US of A, and finally it feels good to be the underdogs and succeed.

While significance-wise, an early round match in Wimbledon doesn't match up to a do-or-die elimination game in the world's best tournament, it's the uniqueness of such an event that makes it more memorable.

I'll likely reminisce about the Donovan goal and tell my kids about it someday, but the tennis match is more astounding than anything. It's not a miracle; it's proof that literally anything can happen in sport. It's not a black swan; it's a swan made purely of gold that can speak English.

My kids will ask me if the record books they're accessing on their iPad version 6.0 is misprinting, and I'll try to explain the ridiculous spectacle of the match. As far as history, it's the most staggering record that will ever be set in the modern era.

I compare the number of aces and the set itself to those old baseball pitching statistics that have no chance of ever being broken: 441 strikeouts in a season (set in 1884 by Old Hoss Radbourn), or 59 wins in a season (also in Radbourn's career year).

No one is ever going to be that in the zone again. No two men will trade serve that many consecutive games. No tennis match (or likely any other non-cricket sporting event, for that matter) will ever span three days just to get in.

If the two events really are linked together in history, which I believe they will be, I think that historically Isner-Mahut will stand time's test better.

Two relative unknowns captivating England during the middle of the World Cup. A 6'9" American against a much less athletic (although arguably more fit) Frenchman. And somehow their game score almost matched Game Seven of the NBA Finals. 

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