I have been lucky enough to be a part of some truly amazing games that my favorite teams have been involved with over the years. Louisville basketball and football as well as the Baltimore Ravens have been a part of so many fantastic memories I will always have as a sports fan. Some of the memories I have were from being at the games live, while others were simply unforgettable moments that I watched on TV. With many of the games that come to mind immediately, I can tell you where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. These memories that have been created by teams that I have given so much of my energy, emotion and time to for the majority of my life are why I love sports.
If you’ll allow me, I’m going to indulge myself and discuss some of the greatest memories I have as a sports fan.
- Baltimore 34 New York Giants 7, 2001: Let me start with the obvious one. Super Bowl XXXV. This was a while ago, but I still remember it rather clearly. I still lived in Louisville and was in 6th grade. I recall arguing back and forth on the bus during the week leading up to the game with some family friends that had moved from New York to Louisville. They were Giants fans and I obviously wanted everyone to know the G-Men sucked and the Ravens were going to win the game (which they did handily). I remember yelling and jumping up and down in my living room when Jermaine Lewis ran back an 84 yard kick return to cap an insane 21 points (14 for Baltimore and seven for New York) in under 30 seconds. I am 100% sure I would feel a greater emotional attachment to a Super Bowl victory as an adult who not only was able to live in Baltimore and be around the team, but gets the game of football and knows how special it is. Side note: my dad made delicious buffalo wings and chili for dinner.
- Baltimore 44 Seattle 41- overtime, 2003: What is now the second greatest Ravens game I have attended, in 2003, Baltimore was able to cap one of the most incredible comebacks in NFL history. Anthony Wright (who???) was their starting quarterback that day against the Seahawks. Matt Hasselbeck absolutely tore it up throwing 5 touchdown passes and led Seattle to a commanding 34-17 lead (this was back before the Ravens offense realized it actually needed to help the defense if they wanted to win football games). At this point people started to leave, but since it was the first Ravens game I attended I made it clear to my dad I had no intentions of leaving M&T Bank Stadium early. What a wise decision that turned out to be. Due to some lucky calls and Anthony Wright playing better football than anyone ever thought he could, the Ravens came back to win in overtime. This still stands as one of the best games I have ever seen live in any sport. The only reason I say it is number two in terms of Ravens games now is because of how amazing beating the life out of Pittsburgh in week one felt.
- Louisville 26 #4 Florida State 20 – Overtime, 2002: This was one of the biggest games in Louisville football history. I was supposed to go with my grandmother, but the pouring rain changed those plans. No one wanted to go with me, and my parents wouldn’t stand for me to go by myself in the downpour (it seemed like a much better idea to 8th grade me). I will forever remember Dave Ragone playing his heart out at quarterback in the monsoon weather. I Will forever remember Anthony Floyd intercepting Chris Rix on Florida State’s first over time possession. I will absolutely never ever forget the feeling that ran through my blood when Henry Miller ran 25 yards for a touchdown on Louisville’s first offensive play of overtime to win the game. There is nothing better than making a statement against the number four team in the country, and then watching the goal posts get taken down. I will never forgive Mother Nature for not allowing me to attend this amazing spectacle.
- The majority of the 2006 Orange Bowl run: The Cardinals started off the season by absolutely throttling those guys in blue, but the sweet victory was not without a price. Our star running back Michael Bush (who for some reason was still playing late in the third quarter even with a huge lead) broke his leg and was forced to miss the rest of the season. After a first half where he seemed primed to be in the Heisman conversation, his season, and thus college career, ended in the blink of an eye.
- A few weeks later, we proved we were for real by handling Miami at home. I remember watching that game at a Green Turtle sports bar with my dad and sister on the way to Ocean City for the weekend. It was a worthwhile detour. It didn’t get much more satisfying than beating West Virginia in a “blackout” game in Louisville.
-This Louisville team was perhaps an off-sides call on William Gay on a missed Rutgers field goal away from making the national championship game. Instead, Rutgers was allowed to re-kick and win a game that the cards seemingly had in the bag.
-Louisville’s BCS fate came down to the last game of the season between West Virginia and Rutgers. It was quite simple, if Rutgers won, Louisville doesn’t make the Orange Bowl, If WVU won, they do. Along with a large number of family members (also Louisville fan’s), I watched the game at the bar at the venue that was holding my cousins Bat Mitzvah party in Birmingham. West Virginia went on to win and Louisville represented the Big East in the Orange Bowl. My dad and I were able to go to the game, and through a pretty amazing EBay excursion, we found tickets about 15 rows up at the 40 yard line complete with a parking pass and tickets to the pregame Orange Bowl party for people on the committee. I was able to take my picture with the trophy and meet coach Dennis Erickson, which was pretty awesome. We also ate Dinner the night before the game at the table next to Muhammad Ali (Louisville’s honorary captain for the game). Louisville won too.
I could write for days about all of the amazing Louisville basketball games I have seen and attended over the years. Louisville basketball is my passion in terms of sports. I give the most attention, time and stress to them. I have probably lost years off of my life because of the knots they are constantly forcing to be tied inside me. I just want to jot down some quick memories that I won’t go into detail about just because I will feel bad if I leave them out.
- Edgar Sosa burying the game winning three with 2.3 seconds left against Kentucky in 2009.
- Reece Gaines and Bryant Northern leading one of the most incredible comebacks I have ever seen in the last 30 seconds against Tennessee in 2001.
- Watching Darius Washington Jr. melt to the ground after missing two of three free throws with no time left on the clock that would have tied or won the game.
- Taquan Dean Hitting a three to send the game to overtime against Notre Dame in 2006. I was sitting about even with where Dean hit the shot about five rows up.
- Seeing Reece Gaines, Francisco Garcia, and Jerry Smith all hit game winning three’s against Marquette. Coach Crean wasn’t too fond of those.
- Coming back to beat Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament in 2011.
- Winning the Big East regular season and tournament titles in 2009.
- Attending my first game at the nicest arena in college basketball, The KFC Yum Center, in 2010.
- Watching Louisville overcome an 18 point deficit led by Preston Knowles to come back and beat Marquette on my birthday in 2011
These are just a few of the amazing memories I have that I will never forget as a Louisville basketball fan. Now, onto two of my favorite memories.
- Louisville 78 #1 Syracuse 68 – Final Game in Freedom Hall, 2010: This was one of the most emotional day’s I have ever been a part of as a Louisville fan. 54 years of history has taken place inside Freedom Hall, and I was there to see it all end. My dad and I were able to procure second row seats behind the Louisville bench (thank you Grammy), which was pretty amazing. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the pregame introductions. There was an aura in the arena unlike anything I had ever felt before. You thought Louisville was playing for a national championship instead of scraping for one of the last spots in the NCAA tournament. There was no way the crowd would let them loose. The fans refused to leave the caramel corn scented arena for the last time with a loss to anyone, let alone the number one team in the country. Led by Kyle Kuric (King stay the King), who at the time was lucky to play more than five minutes a game and seemed to be nothing more than your average white boy, Louisville willed its way to victory. Kuric scored all 22 of his points in the second half, much to the crowds delight. Not a single person sat down after half time, and the building was literally shaking for nearly the entirety of the last 20 minutes. I had no voice left following the game. This was a truly magical game that I will never forget.
- Louisville 93 West Virginia 85- Elite 8, 2005: I watched this game at one of my oldest friends houses in Louisville. We have been friends since Kindergarten where we attended Sunday School with Ms. Paula. He is also the only other person I know who is as insane as I am when it comes to Louisville basketball. He had just lost a close soccer game and by the time he had returned to his house, West Virginia had a commanding lead and he chose to watch the remainder of the first half by himself. We chatted at halftime about how we couldn’t lose this game. Francisco Garcia, Taquan Dean and Larry O’bannon would not let that happen. We had come too far to loose now. Louisville basketball would NOT get Pittsnogled. Sure enough, after being down 18 at halftime, we saw an amazing second half comeback to send it to overtime. Francisco Garcia (clearly Louisville’s best player) fouled out and Taquan Dean was suffering from a terrible case of leg cramps to the point he couldn’t run even if he tried. It didn’t matter though. Louisville dominated overtime and went on to the Final Four. We jumped, yelled, screamed, hugged and probably shed a tear. I want that feeling again.
Anyway, finally to the point of this whole thing. If you know me well, you know I am not a huge baseball fan, but I will attempt to root for the Orioles. I have never really had one of these memories that will stick out in my head forever to go along with any Orioles game. I was too young to appreciate Cal Ripken for what he was (he was one of my favorite athletes as a young kid, but I never could have known just how great he was when he retired), and they have been so bad for so long.
This year was no different for the O’s who again, finished in last place with a record of 69-93. They Lost the cities interest quite early and instead of being able to go to one of the most beautiful ball parks in all of Major League Baseball, Baltimore sports fans probably preferred to sit in their air conditioned homes and wait for the lockout to end and the Ravens to return to the forefront.
Wednesday night however, in a game that meant absolutely nothing for the Orioles aside from the pride of winning a game, was different. They came out and played with the heart that had not been there for most of the season. They looked like they wanted to win more. They had totally embraced the role of spoiler and the games were actually somewhat fun to watch on TV (I tend to have a very tough time watching baseball on TV).
They also gave me something I have been lacking from a team I root for. I finally got my distinct memory that will stick with me forever as an Orioles fan. Sure, their season was over as soon Nolan Reimold crossed home plate off of Robert Andino’s walk off double, but it doesn’t matter. The Orioles were part of one of the most exciting nights of not only baseball, but sports, in a good while. It took all of three minutes for the Red Sox collapse to become official. What are the odds the just three minutes after Reimold’s walk-off, Evan Longoria smacks a walk-off home run against the Yankees? It felt like a night of faith.
My team might not be making the playoffs this year (or anytime soon), but I will not soon forget this game. Hopefully this group of O’s uses this final stretch of the season as a jumping off point for next year and can maybe have some success. No matter what, this Orioles game, and entire night of baseball showed why I love sports. It is the greatest reality TV out there. It brings people together and helps form memories and lives.
I can’t wait to work in sports.