I skipped the World Cup this year. Until today’s final. Holy cow. It was one of the best sporting events I’ve ever seen. I saw a couple of textbook plays by Argentina that blew my mind. One was a goal scored on a series of touch passes that looked like a fast break by the Larry Bird Celtics or the Showtime Lakers. Another was a put back by Lionel Messi who was lurking in front of the goal like Phil Esposito of he old Boston Bruins. France should have won but for an absolutely magnificent save by the Argentine goalie near the end of the game. Lordy.
I’ve seen a lot of sporting events in my life but this World Cup final one was definitely one for the ages. Here are a few others.
The Sixth Game: In September 1974, the Red Sox brought up three rookies from their Pawtucket farm team: Burleson, Rice, and Lynn. I told my father about them and said that they were going to be a great team in 1975. He laughed. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park was the pinnacle. It was credited with reviving the nation’s interest in baseball. I lived in Boston and drove a cab that summer. The Sox were all any of my fares wanted to talk about. It almost didn’t matter that they lost Game 7.
Hagler vs Hearns: Hagler was New England’s greatest boxer since Marciano. Hearns was called the Hit Man. They battled it out for three rounds that had more action than any three entire bouts anybody had ever seen. It was exhausting to watch.
Celtics vs. Phoenix Game 5: This game went three overtimes. Near the end both the players and the fans were utterly spent. I was watching in a bar in southern New Hampshire. The bar was supposed to close but nobody would leave with the game still going on. They closed the bar and locked us in! Celtics won the game and the next to win the championship.
Nationals World Series 2019: Nearly everything they did worked. They lost all three of their home games and still one the series. That never happens.
USA wins gold: The 1980 mens’ Olympic hockey team really should not have been on the same ice as the European teams but they won. I lived on a hockey floor in a dorm during my freshman year in college. One of the freshman players went on to be the 1980 USA team captain. The icing on the cake was that for once a nice guy finished first.
Red Sox 2004: The Sox hadn’t won the World Series since before my father was born. True to form they were punished for three games in the playoffs by the hated Yankees then pulled off the biggest comeback in history. I was jumping up and down on the couch like a madman. My kids thought I had lost my mind. The Sox went on to win it all.
After the 2004 World Series, I couldn’t watch baseball again for years. I just wasn’t interested. Nothing could top that. It probably helped that we didn’t have a bona fide major league baseball team in DC until 2012. I feel the same way about this year’s World Cup final. I’ll just move on from soccer for a year or so before I watch another game. (Okay, I might just peek at the women’s World Cup final next summer. Just for a bit.) In a way, I felt the same after riding my bike across the country in 2018. I walked around in a dream state for weeks afterward. Despite riding through some of the most jaw dropping scenery in the world, I really didn’t enjoy my 2019 tour. It wasn’t until this year that fun came back.