<
>

The ESPN Take

8/18/2004

ESPN.com's Page 2 writers provide their memories of the 100 moments ...

21The Bartman play
In this era of 15 seconds of fame (15 minutes went out
when the Internet came in), it's refreshing that
sports' No. 1 pop-culture novelty of 2003 -- Steve
Bartman -- likely has staying power for the rest of
baseball history. If nothing else, in Chicago he is
right up there with Mrs. O'Leary's cow.

There is a certain irony to Bartman's situation: A
great seat for a momentous Cubs game
turned into arguably the worst seat of all time. One
of the most unfair criticisms toward Bartman was this
idea that any other fan would have let Moises Alou
catch that foul ball.

The more likely scenario, however, is that no matter
WHO was sitting in the seat, they would have gotten in
the way. Remember: It was Mark Prior's collapse and
Alex Gonzalez's error that contributed far more to the
Cubs' loss than Bartman's boner.

But, oh, is it easy to make him the scapegoat.
(Actually, maybe that's scape-billygoat, given the
particulars of the Cubs' cursed history.) He went into
hiding. He suffered through death threats. His social
life -- for all intents and purposes -- is obliterated
in Chicago.

Even if he relocated, he'll always be "Excuse me, are
you Steve Bartman?" There will always be irrationally
angry Cubs fans; there will always be that cursed foul
ball. Wrong place, wrong time, classic moment.
--Dan Shanoff

22Villanova shocks Georgetown for NCAA title
N.C. State's 1983 title team gets all the glory as
college basketball's ultimate Cinderella, but let's be
honest -- it was a fluky finish. Villanova's 1985
title team, on the other hand, deserves a lot more
credit than it receives, because they basically played
college basketball's version of The Perfect Game.

The Wildcats had enjoyed the benefit of having played
Georgetown in the regular season, so the game
plan was obvious (albeit impossible): Shoot a
miraculously high percentage, while containing the
Hoyas' offense, which only happened to literally and
figuratively center around the best pure big man of
the era, Patrick Ewing.

But Nova's shots fell through the net. And fell. And
fell. And sometime into the second half, viewers got
the sense that Villanova actually had a chance to win
this game -- if only they could keep it up. And they
did. Meanwhile, Georgetown seemed to sense something
very, very wrong was happening, and their shots
looked panicked, even as Nova's kept looking smooth.

Now, the cynic could easily joke that Villanova's
shooting touch was enhanced by a pregame snowfall
that later came out in Sports Illustrated article by guard Gary McLain. It was one of the
more disturbing revelations in college hoops history;
I mean, we all knew that the players did drugs (it was the '80s, after all), but it was stunning to
hear that it was part of such a momentous night in college hoops history.

Regardless, the Wildcats managed to pitch that perfect
game, and -- much like N.C. State's title two years
earlier -- helped to permanently link "Madness" to
March.
--Dan Shanoff

23Lance Armstrong's wins first Tour de France
Before it became the Tour de Lance, before Lance Armstrong won the race a record six times in a row, before Armstrong become an iconic pop culture figure, he was an unknown bike racer who a few people in the U.S. had heard about only because he had survived cancer to return to cycling.

Most likely, though, they didn't know him at all. So few us followed that Tour de France in 1999. It was just another sporting event that the rest of the world paid attention to and us Americans ignored.

And then Armstrong, demolishing the field by winning by more than seven minutes. He won time trials and he won climbs through the Alps. It became a story of triumph over cancer instead of triumph over competitors. I remember thinking at the time: "How could he do this?" It didn't seem possible; after all, Americans (other than Greg Lemond) rarely did well in this race.

And then he won it five more times. And I know how: he's good. No need to overanalyze his victories, no need to talk about heart and determination and those things that are a insult to the other races. Lance Armstrong has a gift for racing a bicycle. And with that, he's provided a gift to the rest of us.

--David Schoenfield

24MJ's jumper beats Jazz for sixth NBA title
There is nothing more -- and, ironically, nothing less
-- "Jordanesque" than The Shot to beat the Jazz for
Michael Jordan's sixth (and final) NBA championship.

"Nothing more?" That it was a game-winner; no: a
series-winner; no: a title-winner.

That it was delivered in the last second.

That it broke the hearts of tens of thousands of Utah
fans there to witness it personally (frozen forever in
The Shot's classic photo).

And let's not forget that it came after the slightest
love-tap to Bryon Russell, a testament to MJ's
craftiness in old age, not to mention his ultimate
killer instinct (and the forgiveness from refs he
earned after a best-ever career).

"Nothing less?" That Jordan's biggest fans -- their
hearts in the right place, to be sure -- continue to
insist that he should have ended his career with it.
Nothing is a bigger slap in the face to someone as
competitive as MJ as to suggest he leave something in
the tank.

But if Jordan's playing career is divided neatly into
four acts -- Before the Titles, Titles 1-3, Titles
4-6, the D.C. Denouement -- Act III climaxed in the
most poetic, most appropriate, most aesthetically
scintillating way possible. With that shooting hand
extended after the release of the ball, like he knew
it was going in all along.
--Dan Shanoff

26Earthquake hits Game 3 of 1989 World Series
Back in '89, Joe DiMaggio was still relatively healthy, and made his
honorary appearances. Since the earthquake hit just a minute or two
after ABC went on the air, I'm pretty sure he wasn't discussed or
targeted by the cameras. But it's DiMaggio I'll never forget, thanks
to Richard Ben Cramer's bio of the Clipper.

DiMaggio, Cramer wrote, was at the ballpark that day, and one of the
hardest-hit areas in the Bay Area was The Marina, where DiMaggio
lived. So Joe got home as fast as he could, found his house was
OK, went inside, and came out clutching a garbage bag full of ... cash. $600,000. According to Cramer, local TV cameras caught him holding the bag, but nobody knew he kept a cash hoard at home.

This was one of the major themes of Cramer's book -- that DiMaggio was
greedy and miserly -- and this little anecdote really hammered that
home. An accurate portrayal? I don't know. But Cramer's a good writer,
the book is a great read, and that's what comes immediately to mind
when I recall the '89 quake and baseball. What a lousy thing to
remember.
--Jeff Merron

28Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson Has it been 14 years already? Fourteen years' worth of downward destruction for Mike Tyson? It can't be. Doesn't seem right.

I'm not a boxing fan. Never bought a pay-per-view in my life (although I think I once chipped in $5 at a friend's house to watch Foreman fight Holyfield). And there was no reason to watch Tyson beat up the unknown Buster Douglas.

But I did. Sort of. It was a cold night in Montana, where I was attending college. A group of us were coming back from somewhere -- dinner? party? tipping cows? -- when somebody says, "Tyson lost." What?

We scrambled to find a television with HBO, where the fight would be rebroadcast. Trying finding HBO on a college campus in Montana in 1990. Finally, we found a friend who had keys to the basement of the cafeteria, which was closed but had a little lounge area -- and a big-screen TV. It didn't have HBO, but the sound was good, even if the picture was a little fuzzy.

And there we "watched" the fight through the lines on the television, crowded together on a couple couches, some of us drinking beer out of paper bags (just in case), and listening to Jim Lampley call the destruction of Iron Mike.
--David Schoenfield

29Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
Wow. Tonya just won't go away, will she? It should have been over a long time ago. She got some thugs to thwack her top rival. Kerrigan survived, and they faced each other in Lillehammer. Kerrigan got silver. Tonya broke her shoelace and cried. Kerrigan flubbed any chance at post-Olympic riches by dissing Mickey Mouse at Disneyworld.

These people should have been out of our lives a long time ago. It's a gripping little sordid tale, but . . .

Tonya won't let go of the limelight. Just when we've all forgotten about her, she pops up again -- in mugshots, in small news items involving violence with hubcaps, in wedding videos, in the boxing ring.

Kerrigan has pretty much disappeared from the gossip pages and glossy mags. I recall reading recently that she was happy to live quietly with her family, or something like that. Sounds okay to me.

But another major player in the episode has almost completely faded from the limelight. Connie Chung, was, at the time, co-anchor of the CBS Evening News (back when a few people still watched the network news). And she was crazy about Tonya. Back then you still hoped that one of the most visible journalists in the country would be concerned
with truly important issues. But not Connie. She went after the Tonya story harder like she was Woodward and Bernstein trying to pry apart the Nixon Gang.

She interviewed her on her "Eye to Eye" show. She chased her to Portland, and cozied up to her on a plane to Norway. Connie loved Harding's cheap story, and helped to blow it way out of proportion.

On "The Tonight Show," back then, Jay Leno told this joke in his monologue: "Tonya Harding came to a sudden stop, and Connie Chung broke her nose."

I had to look up the exact wording of that one. But I just remember, at the time, wondering what the heck CBS's top newswoman was doing in the middle of all that.

I still do.
--Jeff Merron

30Tyson disqualified for biting Holyfield's ear
Aside from its barbarity, the ear-chewing incidents were a clear sign that Mike Tyson, the boxer, was finished. The first bite -- remember, there were two, one for each ear -- may have been a heat-of-the-moment thing. The second, much more nasty one, when he actually removed a chunk of Holyfield's ear, was clearly premeditated.

I remember being a little frustrated by the moralizing that went on in the aftermath. Boxing's a brutal sport, and there have been much worse things that have happened in the ring -- deaths, for example. The problem was, and still is, that while true boxing fans want a good, straight match, the millions of casual pay-per-viewers expect some spectacle. Tyson gives it, promoters know to expect it, and folks pony up big dough for it.

I also found it sad, because Tyson became an international laughingstock. He's a deeply troubled man, a criminal, but there are things I like about him. He's smart. He does, I think, have a real sense of humor. And I believe he really seeks to be a better person.

But maybe I've been fooled. Mike can be who you want him to be. He's a good actor -- if you haven't seen "Black and White," go rent it and watch his scene with Robert Downey Jr.
--Jeff Merron