Monday, August 18, 2008

Extraordinary Sports Events

Watching the Olympics this week reminds me of some of my favorite extraordinary events in sports:

1. Dorando Pietri's Marathon: Pietri, an unknown entrant in the 1908 London marathon, led the field as the race entered the final segment in the stadium, but was so exhausted and confused that he started going the wrong way around the track. Within sight of the finish line, he collapsed multiple times and had to be helped over the line by race officials. Although apparently the winner, he was later disqualified because of the help he received.

2. Emil Zátopek's Marathon: Having already won the 5K and 10K races at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Zátopek decided at the last minute to enter the marathon, despite having never run the race before. He won.

3. Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal: Dempsey, born without a right foot and right hand, kicked a 63-yard field goal, the longest in NFL history, to give the New Orleans Saints a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions. I think this is one of the most exciting moments in professional football.

4. Berkeley-Stanford football game, 1982: I was listening to this game on the radio, and couldn't believe my ears. With 4 seconds left, and Berkeley trailing 20-19 on a last-minute Stanford field goal, Berkeley returned the kick-off 55 yards to win 25-20. What made the return special was the use of 5 laterals and the fact that the Stanford band, believing the game won, went onto the field and created additional chaos, with the trombone player getting flattened at the conclusion. This event is so special that among Cal alumni it is simply known as "The Play". The next week, Berkeley street vendors were selling a t-shirt with a diagram of the play, ending in a music note representing the trombone.

5. Jordan Snipes' 2005 shot: With 0.6 seconds left in overtime and Guilford College trailing Randolph-Macon 89-88, Jordan Snipes rebounded the ball and launched a full-court shot that swished the hoop at the other hand, giving his team a 91-89 victory. Then a news team asked him to re-enact the shot, and he made it again.

6. Bonnie Richardson, a Texas high school student, won the state's team championship -- all by herself. Richardson, the only student from her school, Rochelle High, to compete, won the high jump and 200 meters, placed second in the long jump and and 100 meters, and finished 3rd in the discus, for a total of 42 team points.

7. Cliff Young's Ultramarathon: Young, a 61-year-old sheep farmer, entered the Sydney-to-Melbourne footrace (a distance of 875 kilometers) in 1983. Despite wearing work boots, Young outran the world-class athletes by not sleeping, finishing 9 hours in front of his closest competitor. He then split the $10,000 first prize among 5 other runners and didn't keep a cent for himself.

8. Jennifer Jones' curling shot: I don't know anything at all about curling, despite having lived in Canada since 1990. But this shot by Jennifer Jones in the 2005 Scott Tournament of Hearts is so spectacular, one can enjoy it just for the geometry.

9. Dave Wottle's 800 m Finish: Wottle, known for wearing a golf cap while running, had an unbelievable kick in the 1972 Olympics to come from behind to win the 800 meters.


Anonymous said...

The teams may not have been as renowned as Berkeley and Stanford, but you have to love the Trinity vs. Millsap closing play from this year.

It's only a 60-yard touchdown on the final play. It's not that impressive. Or is it?

paul01 said...

Enough anthropoid chauvinism. How about this one:

Garkbit said...

In the current Olympics, Mikkel Hansens's after-full-time free-throw goal for Denmark in the qualifying groups of the handball was an amazing moment. It was enough to tie the match and thereby keep Denmark in the tournament.

(And I say that as someone who would never describe himself as a handball fan.)

Anonymous said...

Berkeley-Stanford football game, 1982:

At about 0:15 in the video, I suspect the ball carrier may have been down before lateraling the ball at the 28 yard line. I would want to see a higher resolution video to be sure.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing these. It's good to hear stories like this.

I see most of your points are on individual accomplishments. What are some of the better team accomplishments that you have seen?