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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

The moment you've eagerly been awaiting the past five days is finally here.

Part II of the Top 10 Sporting Events I Wish I Saw Live is below.

(Part I sadly earned no hate comments or e-mails. I guess this means my thousands of readers agreed. Yeah, that must be it.)

Onto the list!

5) Golf - 2008 US Open: Tiger Woods defeats Rocco Mediate in 19-hole playoff

Since this list has to do with enjoying the moment live, it admittedly takes a hit due to the gallery nature of golf. The odds are if I had been following Tiger's group, it would've been very difficult for me to see a thing, even if I was fortunate enough to enjoy the emotions of everyone around. On the flip side, it gains points for the revelation that would come out later: Tiger played with an injured ACL. It certainly isn't new for Woods to capture the hearts of sports fans as he seemingly has the ability to make every clutch shot as it is needed, including do-or-die putts on the 18th hole Sunday and Monday to extend the tournament and deny Mediate a victory. While the setup for Monday's 18-hole playoff could've been bad - a two-man stroke-play showdown has the possibility of turning into a win by 1,000 paper cuts - it was amazing here. The biggest lead was Woods by three strokes after 10 holes, and yet Mediate came back to even things before Woods clinched it on the 19th hole.

4) Swimming - 2008 Olympics: US wins 4x100m freestyle relay by .08 and Phelps wins 100m fly by .01 second

My desire to not overemphasize recent events in this list may have actually hurt this one's spot in the rankings. Watching these videos over again in the last few days still evokes the emotions - disbelief and amazement. At the time, these races were even more spectacular since each outcome (and therefore Michael Phelps' historic quest for eight golds) was in doubt. Jason Lezak's miraculous comeback in the final leg of the relay, chasing down France's Alain Bernard, was one of the most impressive anchor accomplishments I'd ever seen. It was even better for France's smalk talk before the race - "The Americans? We're going to smash them. That's what we came for." Gotta love your country making the French eat their words. Follow that up with Phelps' touch to save the quest in the 100m fly, and these Olympics were simply amazing. He seemed to have lost after taking an extra stroke, but it paid off as he beat Milorad Cavic to the wall.

3) Basketball - 1998 NBA Finals Game 6: Michael Jordan hits championship-winning jump shot to lift Bulls

This will be engrained in my mind as the way Jordan should have ended his career. It was storybook perfect, swishing a jumper over Bryon Russell to clinch the Bulls' sixth NBA title in eight years. He scored 45 and hit the game-winning basket with 5.2 seconds left. His Airness was all primed for the perfect conclusion with the snapshot of Jordan holding his wrist in the follow-through of his jumpshot. Did he push off of Russell? Sure. Did anyone care it wasn't called? Absolutely not. I never got a chance to see him play live - one of my biggest regrets - and what better day than this?

2) Tennis - 2008 Wimbledon Men's Singles Final: (2) Rafael Nadal defeats (1) Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7

This rain-filled, all-day affair ranks as the pinnacle of my tennis-watching experience. It's unbelievable to me that 67 percent of respondents to a ESPN SportsNation poll voted this year's final as better than last year (thankfully I realized I was still sane when Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim recently went on ESPN's Bill Simmons' podcast and agreed with me). Federer-Nadal had so many more storylines even if it didn't have 30 fifth-set games. This was clay-court specialist Nadal halting Federer's attempt at a modern-era record sixth straight Wimbledon title. It was No. 2 (Nadal) stripping No. 1 (Federer) of his throne, the No. 1 world ranking that the Swiss star held for 237 consecutive weeks. The epic showdown lasted a record 4 hours, 48 minutes but felt like even more of a back-and-forth struggle due to the on-again, off-again rain (a good argument for the roof Wimbledon now has). Federer's crushing defeat and Nadal's career-changing victory ended more than seven hours after it first began. At the time, the match appeared to be the passing of the torch - that is, until Nadal was injured and Federer won this year's French Open and Wimbledon to regain the top world ranking.

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1) College Football - 2006 Rose Bowl (BCS National Championship): No. 2 Texas defeats No. 1 USC 41-38

More than three years later, this game still resonates in my heart as the best college football game ever, if not my favorite sporting event. Remember when Vince Young was the talk of the nation, and not for his off-the-field despair? This was the former Texas quarterback in his prime, leading his team to a come-from-behind victory with a game-winning 8-yard touchdown run into the corner of the end zone on a do-or-die 4th-and-5 with 19 seconds left followed by a rush to complete the two-point conversion. Don't forget: This was the USC dynasty at its highest point. The Trojans came into Pasadena riding Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, both Heisman Trophy winners, to a 34-game winning streak.

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