Super Bowl Champions Shuffle: Why it's so hard to repeat

The Super Bowl captivates everyone. Americans relish this annual event as essentially a national holiday, drawing in 111 million viewers last year when the Seattle Seahawks thrashed the Denver Broncos by a score of 43-8. The Seahawks dominance on Sept. 4 over the Packers came against one of the best offenses in the league, making many people ask the question of how the Seahawks can be stopped from returning to the top of the pedestal in the most watched event in all of sports.

There have only been eight repeat Super Bowl champions in back-to-back years in the 48 Super Bowls that have been played. The world has not seen a repeat champion since the 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots.

The Seahawks have displayed a dominance at home that is rare in the National Football League. Since 2012, the Seahawks are 19-1 when playing in Seattle. The team’s stadium has been measured at a record 137.5 decibels––150 decibels is known to rupture human eardrums. As impressive as the Seahawks are at home, the Super Bowl is in fact played on a neutral site; keeping teams away from their advantageous and raucous home crowd.

Super Bowl champions generally struggle with trying to repeat their success from the previous year. The 2013 champion Baltimore Ravens followed their championship season with a record of 8-8, missing the playoffs entirely. The 2011 champion New York Giants put up a mediocre 9-7 record the next season, also missing the postseason.

Why is this feat is so hard? If the point of a champion is to crown the best team in the league, then how do teams such as the 2010 Packers (10-6) or the 2011 New York Giants (9-7) end up being crowned as the best team in the nation’s most popular sport?

The NFL lacks an oligarchy of teams that constantly dominate from year-to-year, while the other major sports display a pattern of repetitiveness in their championships. The Boston Celtics dominated an entire decade in the 1960s in the National Basketball Association, winning eight championships in a row before being unseated from their throne.

So before one starts penciling in the Seahawks for a date with Super Bowl XLIX, keep one thing in mind: history has shown that nothing is certain in the NFL—and that’s why more than 100 million people will tune in to see who takes home the Lombardi trophy this February. After all, who was that team that squeaked into the playoffs in 2010 with a losing record of 7-9? The Seattle Seahawks.

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Out of Bounds: Backwards NFL drug policy is too harsh

The National Football League is bigger than ever. With the Super Bowl being one of the world’s most-watched television events, the revenue goal for the 2014-2015 season is about $10 billion. The NFL’s biggest competitor is the National Basketball Association, which has about half the revenue of the NFL. The owners of the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell have created an insurmountable empire that provides first-class American entertainment on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights from September to December. The revenue of the league isn’t the only thing getting bigger in the sport. Headlines about NFL players running afoul of the law seem to have become daily occurrences. From quarterback Michael Vick’s involvement with dog-fighting to wide receiver Donté Stallworth’s drunk driving, players commonly tarnish their reputations with criminal acts.

Some players get their reputations damaged by using recreational drugs. The Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the entire 2014-2015 season for testing positive for marijuana several times. The NFL tests for 15 ng/ml of THC in urine tests for marijuana. All other competitive sports in the United States test for 50 ng/ml of THC. If this were the case in the NFL, Gordon would have passed his test and wouldn’t have been suspended for his drug use.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker also made the news by testing positive for unprescribed Adderall despite first being accused of taking MDMA. Goodell suspended Welker for four games.

The NFL’s strict policy for marijuana and other drugs would be understandable if it held its players to the same standards for performance-enhancing drug use. This is not the case. The NFL does not test for human growth hormone. This hormone allows muscles to grow and regenerate much faster than the natural human rate, letting players become massive in size and strength. That could be the difference between a league minimum salary or a multimillion dollar deal.

Imagine the benefits from the following scenario: the NFL and the National Football League Players Association agree that the NFL will lower its standards of testing for marijuana and other recreational drugs and start testing for HGH. Not only will this save players like Gordon from suspension, but players would be discouraged from cheating.

This could directly affect the concussion problem in the NFL. Smaller players don't hit as hard as bigger players. Fewer injuries means the games’ stars can stay on the field instead of on the injured reserve list. The world has heard of changing the rules, the equipment and even the game clock to decrease injuries. What hasn’t been heard is changing the players themselves.

The NFL is most concerned with revenue. With more stars on the field, revenue should be higher. Injuries to players like St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford put a terrible product on the field for the NFL. New Rams quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Austin Davis just can’t bring in the same type of money. The NFL needs to allow its players to have a little more fun in exchange for their safety on the field. If the players can get a little high, the NFL’s revenues can get even higher. That’s a pretty even exchange.

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As October looms, MLB pennant race heats up

As September rolls on, so does the countdown to the end of the Major League Baseball regular season. This is a critical time for teams to “rev up their engines” and hopefully push their way into the postseason. Some teams are vying for the right to play in October, while others are trying to ruin that opportunity for their rival. While the reigning World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, are all but eliminated from playoff contention, the Kansas City Royals––who have the longest active postseason drought at 28 years––are in first place for the American League Central division. As a point of reference, the last time the Royals made the postseason, Ronald Reagan was beginning his second term as president. Baseball is full of surprises, however.

In the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles are the only team with a comfortable lead. The Royals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are both in danger of having their leads taken away from them in the next few weeks. Over in the National League, the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers all have leads that could be gone come October.

With the recent addition of a two-team Wild Card system, there are even more teams with an opportunity to play in October. The Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners are the top teams in contention in the AL with the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays just behind them.

The San Francisco Giants, Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates are all within a few games of the NL Wild Card spots. Even the Miami Marlins are still alive, just a few games behind that group.

With time running out on this race to the postseason, each team has to perform at their best and pray to the baseball gods for all injuries to heal. Success at this time of the year in baseball is largely determined by hot streaks and cold streaks. If a team gets hot at the right time, they can ride it all the way to the World Series.

Yankees fans think it’s only right to make it to the postseason for Derek Jeter’s final season (it’s Derek Jeter––he is a demigod, right?). They could at least win the Series for him and make it a record 28 titles.

On the opposite end of the universe, Royals fans are sick and tired of 28 years of cussing at the television and seeing Kauffman Stadium look like a Minor League park after the All-Star break.

With its high level of uncertainty, baseball is hard to predict. If someone said they could, they’re indeed wrong (unless someone says that the Houston Astros are not going to be a first place team). The Orioles, Tigers and Angels, however, could win their respective divisions and the Mariners and the Yankees could take the AL Wild Card spots. As for the NL, the Nationals, Cardinals and Giants are poised to take their divisions with the Dodgers and the Braves sliding in via the Wild Card.

Even though it is more painful to admit than it is for Alex Rodriguez to love a human being other than himself, the Orioles could win it all this year. Now all there is to do is wait and let things play out as fans strap in for the unpredictable ride of October baseball.

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FIBA world cup gives young players big opportunity

Twenty four years old is the average age of a player on head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s United States National Team that is competing in the International Basketball Association (FIBA) World Cup. The team boasts huge names such as guards Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Stephen Curry and forward Anthony Davis. Every player on the roster is an all-star on their respective teams, coming together to represent our country in the “mini-Olympics.” This is a showcase of what the 2016 Summer Olympics could very well look like in Rio de Janeiro. “Lucky for us, our guys are very unselfish and seem to have a collective ego. I always tell them in order to win, you have to be worthy of winning,” Krzyzewski said in a USA Basketball interview. That’s exactly what this U.S. squad aims to do in a couple of days.

“It means a lot to support my country––to know that my country has faith in me as a professional athlete,” forward Kenneth Faried said. “As one of the few people to be able to put on the USA jersey and represent the country at the highest level, it is an honor.” Faried has played very well so far in the tournament and has been a spark for Team USA.

For those who are not familiar with the FIBA Basketball World Cup, it follows an identical format to the FIFA World Cup. There are four groups composed of six teams, with all groupings chosen at random. In order to make it to the elimination round of 16, a team must win at least two out of its five games. Once in the round of 16, it is single elimination until a champion is crowned.

This is important not only for the U.S. but for the other countries competing. It gives countries that are not traditional basketball powers a chance to fine-tune their game before Rio. It also allows players from countries like Turkey and Ukraine to play against the best in the world before returning to their European clubs. With the exception of the U.S. and a few others, only about one or two players on every other roster is good enough to play in the National Basketball Association.

Without major names like Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant on the roster, this is a huge opportunity for the NBA’s younger stars to showcase their skills and show they can compete on the international stage. It is mind-boggling to think of all the other American players that sat this World Cup out and how good the U.S. team will be in 2016. “We are going to cherish this moment, cherish this opportunity, I think this is really important for our team morale,” Irving said. “The competition is wide open but we still have some of the best players in the world on this team. There’s no reason we cannot go for gold.”

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Thank you Derek Jeter, from a Mets fan

On Wednesday Feb. 12, in an official Facebook post, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced he will retire after the upcoming MLB season. A true honor to the game, he leaves behind a legacy that is unmatched by any player of recent memory.

I should clarify that I am a New York Mets fan. The Yankees are my least favorite team in all of sports and Jeter has been the face of my enemy team ever since I started watching baseball as a young kid. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I don’t respect what he’s done for the game.

While with the Yankees, he has amassed a Rookie of the Year Award, five Gold Gloves, over 3,000 hits, 13 All-Star Game appearances and most impressively, five World Series. One of those World Series wins came against the Mets in 2000 when Jeter was named World Series MVP. Basically, I should just hate Derek Jeter.

Jeter will retire as a legend of the game. He was the face of the most successful and popular franchise in history, along with one of the most popular brands in the world, both doing so with such class. He wasn’t the best fielder or the most powerful hitter, but he tried his hardest and gave every ounce of effort he had on every play to the sport that he loved. For that reason, I cannot hate him.

Jeter retiring will mark a new wave in baseball. He is one of the last players to come from the infamous Steroid Era and is the last of the homegrown Yankees who were a part of an unstoppable winning dynasty. One can argue that Jeter is the most recognizable baseball player of all time. Guys wanted to play like him, and would try endlessly to master his patented jump throw. Girls wanted to date him, as his good looks and charm attracted some of the most famous faces in Hollywood.

Jeter’s legacy as a Yankee will forever spark controversy. Fans will debate if he was better than Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle. The most impressive thing is that he is in the conversation with those pinstriped greats. There has never been a player like Jeter and it might be a long time until we see another who can even come close to the player and person he is. I’m glad that I was able to see such an amazing athlete play and obtain nothing but respect and admiration for him. With that said, maybe his retiring will cue the Yankees downfall and my Mets will finally be able to be the kings of New York. Maybe.

Congrats on a terrific career. Here’s to a wonderful last ride into baseball glory, No. 2.


Miracle at the 2014 Olympics

The 2014 USA Olympic hockey team roster has been announced, which means there is only one thing left to do: have some fun and assign each member on this year’s roster with the alter ego of someone on the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” roster. If you have never heard of the “Miracle on Ice,” just know you are a traitor and I hate you. Firstly though, some context.

This truly is perfect. Thirty-four years ago, we were in the middle of the Cold War. Russia came to our soil and we took them down with our rag-tag bunch of players who had known each other for less than a year and would barely be allowed to have a beer today.

Now, just one month from today, we are going there with a team that has gotten some flack after the announcement yesterday. The tensions with Russia are still there. They housed Edward Snowden after his NSA leaks, the USA sent two openly gay representatives in spite of Vladimir Putin’s firm anti-gay beliefs, and it’s pretty apparent that Putin and President Obama aren’t too fond of one another. Proof:

Huffington Post

Photo: Huffington Post

After the announcement yesterday, the Internet took the liberty of voicing its opinion on the selections.

“First team USA picks a s*** Olympic team, and then they lose in the world juniors, can't get any better as a Canadian,” exclaimed one Twitter user. “Team USA 2014 mens hockey team is a f****** joke,” croaked another on Twitter.

The selection committee didn’t help itself out by contacting a wrong number and said it had made the USA Hockey roster.

Right off the bat, we have a problem. The 1980 roster had 20 names on it, while the 2014 roster has 25. (Ralph Cox – you deserve retribution). So, some current members might not be named. But then again, I have no clue what I am even talking about so none of these really matters. But down to business.

            Jim Craig

Ryan Miller earns this spot, no questions asked. Craig was the quintessential American inspiration during the games at Lake Placid. During the 2010 games, Miller put on a clinic. Heading into the gold medal game, he was averaging 1.04 goals-against and had a save percentage of 95.37. He, much like Craig, put the team country on his back. And Miller has a pretty striking resemblance to the actor that played Craig in the Disney motion picture.

FanPopWhiz Wit Sports

Photos: Fan Pop, Whiz Wit Kid

           Ken Morrow 

Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild earns this spot. Morrow started at defense for the Miracle team and Suter will assume a similar role. He, Suter, leads the NHL in minutes per game so he used to putting in work. Morrow didn’t earn much facetime in the movie but the guy was a horse. Suter surely will provide that work ethic the USA needs.

            Mike Ramsey

Gotta give this to two current members, Paul Martin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers. Ramsey started alongside Morrow at the blue line and also was the youngest member of the roster in 1980. Martin would be the obvious selection to partner with Suter but a lingering tibia injury complicates things. McGonagh gets the nod from me because he likely will be in the first line and because being 24 years old puts him on the younger end of the roster.

            Mark Johnson

Easy. Zach Parise. He tied the game up in 2010 against Canada with less than 30 seconds in regulation. Johnson, similarly, hit the game-tying shot with ONE second left in the second period against the Soviets. Parise has a style of play that “stretches far beyond the score sheet” but needs to get healthy before the games.

           Buzz Schneider, John Harrington, Mark Pavelich

In the film these three work together like clockwork. They always find each other on the ice and even finish each other’s sentences. So I have designated Toronto Maple Leafs Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk to represent all three of these guys. These two have a chemistry that was attractive to the committee. It would be egregious if they didn’t appear in the same shift.

           Rob McClanahan

Somewhat of a difficult decision. McClanahan started up top but also had an injury during the Sweden game. (Note: About 90 percent of my information is based on the film. Just thought I would throw that out there.) David Backes of the St. Louis Blues gets to be the guy to yell, “I AM A HOCKEY PLAYER!” Backes has had some injuries scared but that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the top performers in the NHL this year. I also made this decision because McClanahan is from Saint Paul, Minn. and Backes is from Minneapolis. If you know anything about geography, they’re pretty close so I figured this would be good enough.

           Jack O’Callahan

O.C., as he is called, is a spitfire. He’s kind of an idiot and always likes to stir the pot. This undoubtedly goes to Patrick Kane. Kane is notorious for partying and being into himself. He once couldn’t pay for a cab so he and someone else beat the driver up and asked him “Do you know who I am?” Chicago bouncers claim to have endless stories about Kane and his drunken stupors. All of this aside, he will be extremely important to the USA next month.

           David Silk

Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks. I don’t have much reasoning behind this. Silk started for in 1980 and Kesler likely will too. If not, he will see significant time. Silk assisted two of the goals against the USSR, which I use to say he was one of the most important players on the team. Kesler has been called the “single-most important forward on the American squad,” which is reason enough for me to pair up the two.

            Ralph Cox

Now I know that Cox wasn’t actually on the 1980 roster but his role in the movie was too good for him to leave out. Representing Cox for the 2014 Sochi Olympics is Ottawa Senator Bobby Ryan as the biggest snub of the games. Since the 2008-09 season, Ryan ranks fourth in points behind Kane, Kessel, Parise and in front of Joe Pavelski. Basing solely off this, it’s a shame he didn’t make the team. But the coaches and committee have made their case that Ryan just simply did not fit into the scheme they have planned. So, too bad for Ryan. I just hope he played college hockey for the right reasons.

            Mike Eruzione

I had to save the best for last. Now this decision through and through is 100 percent biased. Eruzione, as everyone knows, was the leader of the Miracle on Ice squad. He donned the “C” on his jersey and he wasn’t even in the starting shift. He didn’t play for Boston University. He played for the United States of America. I give the honor of being Eruzione to none other than my fellow Rochestarian Ryan Callahan. Callahan, not only is from Rochester, but he is my neighbor.

Humble brag time: I see him all the time in the summer and do my best not to gawk. He walks his dog and goes to Wegmans just like anyone else. Except he’s not anyone else. He is an Olympic medalist and a heck of a hockey player. So, like I said, I made this decision entirely subjectively. Callahan, in my eyes, is a cool dude and it goes without saying that Eruzione is the same.

I think that is all I have time for. While I didn’t use all the names on either roster, I wasn’t looking for the best players, just the right ones.

It bears repeating one more time that I have no idea what I really am talking about with my decisions. To be honest, I don’t know hockey that well.

But I do know two things: I love America and I love sports. And when you combine the two, it becomes euphoric.

I will leave you with this. It is the speech Herb Brooks gives in Miracle. I would advise you watch it every day for the rest of your life, but definitely at least until the Winter Olympics are over.

Fixing football's problem

There are two conversations that aren’t happening right now within the NFL and I’m not sure why.First let’s agree on one thing: The sport of football is on a decline. With the reality that head injuries are becoming a real problem (and not only in football), the higher-ups of the sport are trying to implement changes that protect the athletes while still creating an exciting product.

There are constant discussions on how to make the sport safer but amending the rules seems to be the only action taken to actually protect the athletes. But these rule changes aren’t fixing the game, they’re hindering it. They’re making it a shell of what it once was. Now, with the fear of hitting high and being penalized, players are hitting low which¬, from the standpoint of career longevity, can be more harmful than a hit up high (see: Rob Gronkowski. And F.Y.I. this hit that forces Gronk to be out for a year was completely legal).

Okay, so about those conversations I mentioned. The first one that needs to be had is about performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs, in the NFL and the punishments – or lack thereof – that players receive when caught. The second conversation – which will likely be scoffed but makes so much sense – is why the athletes don’t wear padding on the outside of their helmets in addition to the inside. I will tackle (pun completely intended) these issues in succession.

PED Uses

As it stands right now, the punishment for PED offenses have three levels: four games without pay; eight games without pay; and a full 12 months without pay. These are all subject to more time determined by the NFL and NFLPA.

These are significant fines considering the NFL only has a 16-game regular season; however, the third offense is petty compared to other leagues’ policies. MLB – banned. NHL – banned. NBA – two years. In the Olympics, a third offense does not even exist. The first offense is a two year ban from any Olympic competition and the second offense is, you guessed it, banned.

Now maybe these punishments are light and other leagues, like the MLB, come down on their players too hard. There has never been an NFL equivalent of the Mitchell report or old, washed up ex-athletes writing about sticking needles in their teammates’ butts. Hell, in the MLB, you don’t even need to have failed a test to be suspended. See: Alex Rodriguez.

Or, on the complete flipside, maybe the MLB punishes its athletes in the 100 percent most appropriate way. I mean, it’s not like these athletes are just breaking the rules their sport has set. Anabolic steroids are illegal as set in place by the United States government. A first time offender simply possessing steroids is punishable by up to one year in prison.

And, HGH, though not intrinsically illegal, is by-and-large illegal. It is true that a person can be prescribed HGH (human growth hormone for those not in the know). But you need to have a hormone deficiency to get it, and to prove you are deficient requires lab testing. This drug is a problem for multiple reasons. The body does not process the drug in a constant manner, that is to say a blood test is hit-or-miss because the drug is released into the blood in “batches.” It also gets flushed out quickly so the opportunity window is small. The symptoms brought on by a deficiency in adulthood only add to the difficulty, including: reduced muscle mass, increased body fat, memory loss, reduced energy and hair loss.

In other words, everything that happens to dudes when they get older.

The entire reason for me bringing this stuff up is that maybe the NFL needs to employ some of the scare tactics of the MLB. Guys like Rodriguez and Ryan Bruan of the Brewers are demonized for their association with performance enhancing drugs whereas Von Miller of the Broncos barely got a blurb on ESPN for his use. A player being fined for a hit to the head seems to get more airtime than the player committing crimes.

The MLB has begun to regress. It is moving into Deadball era-esque type of play. The same with the NFL will likely happen. It’s a simple fix, really. Let these athletes know how unacceptable PED use is and things can go back to normal.

But, this fix is not nearly as simple as the following argument.

Putting padding on the outside of the helmet

How is it that in 2013 – 93 years after the NFL was founded – we don’t have helmets with more padding? It is mind boggling how little sense there is to be made of this.

There have been countless studies on football hits and the forces associated with them. The numbers are pretty alarming, and can be expressed in g-force.

One-g is you sitting in front of your computer right now not moving. An astronaut in a shuttle launch experiences a force of 3gs. Racecar drivers and pilots pass out under the force of 9gs. 22gs is the median number experienced by football players, as reported by the Purdue Neurotrauma Group. Concussions occur at g-forces around 100. This study’s high reported helmet impact was 289gs. Stefan Duma, the University of Nebraska’s director at the Center for Injury Biomechanics says they see 100g hits “all the time.”

When Riddell, one of the top football equipment manufacturers, was asked about the issue, they said the technology currently being used is the best that is available. Which made me think I had hit a dead end for the topic but then I read more. The test that Riddell uses on its helmets is rather crude. They take a 20 pound “head,” put it in the helmet and then drop it on a surface. Two problems. The first being that this “head” which is really just a solid piece of material, doesn’t have the characteristics like a real head does. There is no brain inside this material that may shift or be damage. Secondly, these falls max out at 75gs – 25gs short of when a concussion occurs.

Riddell claims they are using the best equipment available but football equipment has gone largely unchanged. Other sports have made dramatic changes to improve safety. Baseball going from its BESR certifications to BBCOR. Hockey goalie gear has become stronger and covers more area. NASCAR has made significant changes to improve the safety of the drivers.

Believe it or not, this has been done before. Mark Kelso, a safety for the Buffalo Bills in the ‘80s and ‘90s, wore a helmet with padding on the outside. He did so because, after suffering two major concussions, he was advised to give up the sport. But, instead, to keep playing he decided to make the helmet safer and put padding on the outside. He finished his career with 30 interceptions in eight seasons – impressive numbers for a 10th round pick. Steve Wallace, an offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers also wore this “ProCap,” as it was called.

The “ProCap” or “Gladiator Helmet” was invented by a man named Bert Straus. When he brought his idea to the NFL, it was shot down immediately. The NFL and Riddell, both now being sued by ex-athletes for head related injuries, had a lucrative partnership and refused to use Straus’ creation. A simple speculation says that Riddell was offended because it pointed out the flaws in their creation – the same flaws mentioned above.

The only real downside to an outside-padded helmet is the aesthetics. Sure, it doesn’t look the best but that is only because we aren’t used to it yet. Baseball players didn’t used to wear helmets when batting and when they were forced to, the change was scoffed. Same with hockey. It is a minor sacrifice for a long-term benefit.

These changes I have suggested here may seem “soft” but really think about what I am suggesting here. I, as much as you, want the crushing tackles and open field hits. Not only are those plays exciting, that is what the sport was founded on. The game is designed to test how tough you are. My suggestions allow the game to return back to that state while improving overall safety for the players.

These are two conversations I know Roger Goodell and the rules committee and Riddell are not having because they’re admissions of failure. Agreeing with things like this is to say, “The way we have been running the NFL is wrong.” And who wants to admit they’re wrong? A person who truly cares about safety, that’s who.

You and I both agree Goodell and the NFLPA have made the game worse. Drug testing and equipment improvements aren’t soft. Rule changes are soft. My suggestions and these conversations are what we need to get the football we all loved to watch.

Recalling other wild finishes

I am not a college football fan. I rarely watch the sport and I don’t have a good reason as to why this is. But the sporting gods commanded me to lift my remote and put on CBS to watch the remainder of the 2013 Iron Bowl – an annual contest between rivals Auburn University and University of Alabama. I caught two plays: the one where Alabama ran out of bounds and the refs reviewed the play to put one more second on the clock – one more chance to score in the 28-28 draw, and the one that turned the Jordan-Hare Stadium into a zoo. As soon as senior Chris Davis returned that 109-yard missed field goal, it immediately drummed up thoughts of other games with wild finishes. And not just games that were won in the final play, games that made the win so much more special.

Here’s the background to this game: Auburn had an abysmal year last year that ended up bringing the demise of head coach Gene Chizik. Then offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn would be his successor. Malzahn was also the offensive coordinator when Auburn won the title in 2010. Alabama is a perennial powerhouse not only in the SEC but also in all of college football. Nick Saban might as well be a god. He has won three of the past four NCAA BCS titles and the one he didn’t win, the Tigers won, who say “War Eagle.”

So, in no particular order, here are some (highlight on the word “some” because by no means is this an exhaustive list) games of recent memory that follow a similar pattern to that of the battle in Auburn.


Manchester City vs. Queens Park Rangers, May 13, 2012

You may not like soccer, but considering it is the most popular sport in the world and the English Premier League is arguably the best league in the world, this game was one of the best to ever happen. Manchester hadn’t won the title in over 40 years and they sat at the top of the table with 86 points going into the final day, tied with Manchester United who always seems to win the title.

Everything about this was perfect. They are crosstown rivals battling for first place. The only way it could have been better is if they had played each other. City had the goal differential in its favor so all they had to do was win and they claimed the title. Long story short, it took two stoppage time goals in the 90+ minutes of the game for it to happen, but it did. They won 3-2. United ended up winning their game 1-0 to Sunderland on a goal by Wayne Rooney in the 20th minute.




St Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers, Game 6, Oct. 28, 2011

This is a definitive underdog story. The Cardinals made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, earning the National League wild-card spot. They took down the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Texas Rangers. Texas was in the 2010 World Series the year before but lost to the San Francisco Giants.

In Game 6 against St. Louis, the Rangers had two separate times to put the game away. Third baseman David Freese, the homegrown Cardinal, and first baseman Lance Berkman were able to come through in clutch situations, the bottom of the ninth and tenth, respectively. Then, in the 11th, Freese walks up to the plate, and with a full count, blasts a home run to dead center for the walk-off win.

The Cardinals, who entered Game 6 down 3-2 in the series, went on to win Game 7. Heading into Game 162 of the regular season, they weren’t in the playoffs and a few weeks later, they’re World Series champions. Amazing.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Sept. 10, 2011

When you think college football, these two teams come to mind. They both have 11 national titles and are top five in all-time total wins. These teams are good. These teams are huge rivals to begin with but to make the game more special, they played it at night. No big deal, right? Well, it was the first game in Michigan Stadium history to be played under the lights (the stadium opened in 1927).

The game was good the whole time, but it became great toward the end of the fourth quarter.

All I will say is there were three – THREE – touchdowns in about 80 seconds. It was incredible.



Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs, Game 6, June 18, 2013

Heading into Game 6, the Heat was down 3-2. It definitely looked bleak for Miami. Despite the age of Tony Parker, 31, and Tim Duncan, 37, it seemed as if they would run away with the title.

In the offseason, Ray Allen decided that he wanted to take his talents to South Beach and try to earn himself another ring, much to the dismay of the Boston fanbase.

This game really put salt-in-the-wound for the Celtic faithful. Down 92-95 in the final minute, Chris Bosh dishes his offensive rebound, off LeBron James’s missed 3-pointer, to Allen in the corner. With Tony Parker in his face, Allen – the all-time 3-pointer leader in NBA history – puts up the ball and sinks it to tie the game, 95-95.

The shot forced overtime where the Heat won to force Game 7. As you probably know, Allen and the gang were dancing after Game 7, celebrating the second consecutive title. And it is all thanks to this shot.



Honorable Mention:

Duke Blue Devils vs. Butler Bulldogs, April 5, 2010

This only gets honorable mention because the team that won was supposed to win. Duke walked away from the game as the NCAA champions but not easily. They only won by two.

Butler, a small college outside Indianapolis, played in the Horizon League – a conference not known for basketball dominance. The team earned fifth seed after winning its conference championship. They stormed into the tournament with the rest of the world pretty much wondering when they would stop winning.

It took every possible game the bracket has to offer for the Bulldogs to meet their demise.

Gordon Hayward took a shot at the buzzer that was inches from going in. If that shot had gone in, this would be the greatest Cinderella story and – dare I say it – on par with the 2013 Iron Bowl.

The shot comes at the end, but I encourage you to watch the entire enthralling final minute.

In ,