Following the wild final 72 seconds of Michigan vs. Notre Dame on Saturday night, Brent Musburger told us, “Folks, you have just seen an instant classic.”
But pretend it wasn’t Michigan and Notre Dame on the jerseys. These were two unranked teams who couldn’t cover receivers or tackle ball-carriers and turned the ball over a combined eight times. Game “hero” Denard Robinson completed less than half of his passes. Notre Dame just self-destructed once more than the Wolverines.
If you want to talk classic, let’s change the scene to Flushing Meadows, where Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer dueled in a five-set titanic struggle of a semifinal at the US Open. The game’s best right now against arguably its best ever. Their quality of play matched their reputation. It wasn’t made exciting because one made enough unforced errors to keep the other alive.
No, it was Djokovic saving a match point with an incredible return winner, then saving another and completing a two-set down comeback. Unlike Michigan’s big comeback, Djokovic’s wasn’t a result of the opponent’s self-destruction. Federer exhibited the level of tennis that makes him a legend. In contrast to the big finish at the Big House, excitement was precipitated by greatness, not mediocrity, being amplified.
Sure, Denard Robinson found Jeremy Gallon for what became a 66-yard completion and run after the catch. But there wasn’t a Notre Dame defender near him. Then, on the subsequent game-winning touchdown, the Irish corner committed pass interference but was unable to prevent Roy Roundtree from catching the ball in doing so.
Michigan and Notre Dame have the name recognition, the prestige of storied histories. The atmosphere in the first night game at the Big House looked just electric—one hundred thousand fans in maize sticking around well after the final play.
It’s just unfortunate that the day’s most epic action was buried 20 minutes into SportsCenter. Take a step back and you’ll realize that for all the wild antics of Wolverines/Irish, it was a second-week game between teams who have a lot more problems than pluses right now.
Djokovic and Federer, the world No. 1 and 3, respectively, delivered epic theatre in a semifinal of a Grand Slam. When we’re taking classics, that’s one that will stand the test of time.