Tim Donaghy, Mike Vick, Barry Bonds, the Mitchell Report, Sean Taylor—not a lot to be proud or enthusiastic about right there.
But as this dramatic, turbulent, and often all-too-sobering year comes to a close, I chose to focus on the one moment that gave me chills—the one moment that reminded me how sweet and rewarding following sports can be.
October 1st, 2007: San Diego at Colorado for the National League wild card berth.
From a pure drama standpoint, play-in games can't be topped. After six months of preparation, performance, and perseverance, nothing is more climactic than knowing that one game will decide a team's fate.
And how 'bout one extra-inning game, featuring five lead changes, multiple late-inning heroics, and all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman coughing up three runs in the bottom of the 13th to lose it.
That's how these National League West foes set the tone for October baseball, with over 48,000 Rockies fans on hand to bear witness.
And perhaps that, more than anything, is what made this game so special: It featured the most out-of-nowhere Cinderella in recent baseball history—the Rockies.
Baseball fans in Denver have had little to root for during the Rockies' 13 year existence. But on this night, you could almost feel the passion and excitement of the Colorado faithful pulsing through the TV.
They didn’t know any better. They were simply rooting for their upstart bunch, whom no one had given much of a chance.
And so as 48,404 watched Matt Holliday come racing home on a sacrifice fly to win it, you couldn’t help but scream something.
I was watching the game with four colleagues at work. The following phrases were uttered on that final play:
“Do it Mattyyy!”
“Beat It! Beat it!”
Like children watching live baseball for the first time, we rooted only for the game.
While Holliday appeared to have missed the plate, anyone who focuses on that aspect of this epic game is missing the plate himself, so to speak.
Not only did the play-in duel further validate the Wild Card element of baseball’s playoff format—it brought us a moment that elicited exhilarating chills and raw emotion.
It brought us, in other words, a pure sports moment.
Looking back on 2007, the NL play-in game was one of the few moments I found myself watching sports as a child again. There were no steroids or officiating scandals, no dogfighting or legal analysis or tainted records—all that mattered was the game itself.
It was just baseball—just two teams battling down to the last out in the 163rd game of the season; just 48,000 fans experiencing true drama for the first time...and going ballistic on a warm night in Denver.
Call me simplistic, call me a sentimentalist, even call me childish.
Just don’t call me blind, because I saw Colorado and San Diego deliver one of the only defining sports moments of 2007.