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The ESPN Take

7/29/2004

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

41Scott Norwood misses Super Bowl-winning kick
Scott Norwood was born to kick, and succeed, under enormous pressure.
He was good, he was accurate, and before Super Bowl XXV, he did what
every great kicker does, he saw himself kicking the winning
field goal as time ran out. Visualization is a common psychological
technique for athletes, and it works. Except sometimes it doesn't.

Super Bowl XXV will be remembered as one of the greatest Super Bowls
ever, one of the most tense (on the eve of the first Gulf War), and as the
start of one of the most heartbreaking losing streaks in history, the
Bills' four straight Super Bowl defeats. But more than anything else,
the memory comes down to two words: "wide right."

Norwood's kick resulted in a Bills loss, of course, but the more
lasting legacy will be the concluding phrase of the play-by-play.
"Wide right," entered the sports lexicon at No. 1 with a bullet, and
it's stayed on the charts for 13 years and counting.

What I remember most clearly is not what I saw on TV, over and over
again, but what I read about the Bills coming home to Buffalo after
their loss. At Niagara Square in Buffalo, 30,000 fans gathered to
honor their almost-champs. And who did they want? "We want Scott! We
want Scott!" And then, when he came out from hiding behind his
teammates, "We love Scott! We love Scott!"

A frigid, desolate, heartbroken city, arms wide open. No way Norwood
visualized that moment.
--Jeff Merron

42Serena Williams wins 1999 U.S. Open
We make too much of history. We waste our breath saying this or that moment is "historic." We cheapen the things that truly matter.

But Serena's win was historic.

It had Althea and Arthur in it.

And it had the future in it, too.

You knew, from the minute she held the trophy over her head, that you were watching the dawning of a new era.

For the first time in over 40 years the face of a woman's major champion wasn't white. And almost as importantly, the style of the game, the subtle precision of a champion like Martina Hingis, was being turned inside out with a game that came bold and powerful in ways the women's game had never seen before.

Women's tennis was an uptight sport before Serena and Venus. Wear white. (Be white.) Reduce unforced errors. Get your second serve in. Play "smart."

Serena brought the new smart thing: Power, guts, and creativity. She was willing to be wild if it meant being great. She was willing to risk errors. She was reinventing the game, taking it, by force and force of will, to some new heights.
--Eric Neel

43Joe Carter's HR wins 1993 World Series
It's hard to remember now, but there was a time when Toronto was the center of the baseball universe. When SkyDome was considered hip and when four million fans a year crowded inside every season to drink LaBatt's and sing the "OK, Blue Jays" song and root their baseball team on.

And SkyDome never was such a national mosh pit as it was that October night in 1993 when Joe Carter took Mitch Williams deep.

The Blue Jays led the World Series 3 games to 2 but the Phillies led 6-5 when Williams took the mound in the bottom of the ninth. Williams, who once said he pitched as if his hair was on fire, got himself into immediate trouble, walking Rickey Henderson and giving up a one-out single to Paul Molitor. That brought up Carter, who drove a Williams pitch over the left-field fence for a game-winning homer.

It was the first series-ending home run since Bill Mazeroski, but never before had a team that had been trailing one pitch come back to win the World Series on a walkoff home run the next.

It was Toronto's second consecutive world championship and as Carter leaped around the bases, it seemed as if the Blue Jays would become one of baseball's great dynasties. Instead, they haven't been back to the playoffs in 11 years.

But they still have the memories of that night.
--Jim Caple

44Annika Sorenstam tees off in a PGA Tour event
Nothing exposes the inherent insecurities and
anxieties of men like women who want to play in a
men's sport. Most are met with ridicule, or scorn, or
even threats. Not any female athlete can cross the
gender barrier; her bonafides must be exceptional.

Annika Sorenstam had the bonafides, and if any sport
could support a woman playing with the guys, it is
golf; the irony is that of all sports, golf is the
most farcical phallocracy.

There were a few remarkable things about Annika's
place at the Colonial.

The first is the level of support she got from almost
all of the men; outspoken top players
standing by her side kept most nay-sayers quiet (well,
all except poor Vijay, who has yet to recover from the
image hit).

The second was the level of interest she generated
from all levels of fans. She gave everyone a reason to
tune in -- avid golf fans (the smartest of which
certainly respected her game) were curious to see how
she'd fare; casual viewers could get a first-hand look
at a significant disruption to the standard U.S. sports
culture and even gender relations.

The third was that she performed admirably. No, she
didn't make the cut, but she beat a bunch of male Tour
pros. She held up her end of the bargain, earning with her play
her special exemption into the field.

And the TV ratings were off-the-charts; fans loved it.
And where the fans' eyeballs go, so goes the money.
And where the money goes, so goes the opportunity.
Annika's leap opened the door for teen sensation
Michelle Wie, who gets more offers to play in men's
tournaments than she knows what to do with.

The irony of the entire event is that Annika is
arguably the best women's golfer of all time; she's
certainly the best of her generation. Yet she'll be
remembered most for crossing gender lines to play in a
PGA event. Hopefully, also remembered as being good
enough
to earn the chance.
--Dan Shanoff

45Derek Jeter flips off the A's
There are better shortstops in baseball than Derek Jeter. There are better shortstops in the American League than Derek Jeter. There are even better shortstops on his own team than Derek Jeter.

But there is no better shortstop in October than Jeter.

He showed why during Game 3 of the 2001 Division Series in Oakland. With the Athletics leading the series 2 games to 0, Jeter flew in from his Fortress of Solitude and landed somewhere near the Oakland Coliseum hot dog stand to grab an errant throw from right field. Without stopping, Jeter made a backhand flip to home plate to catch Jeremy Giambi trying to score and preserve the Yankees' 1-0 lead. New York held on to win the game and eventually the series.

No one had ever seen anything like Jeter's play. No one had ever seen a shortstop take a relay throw in that spot. There was no reason for Jeter to be there. No reason for him to make that play. No reason other than pure baseball instinct.

And that come October, Jeter is always in the right spot when it counts.
--Jim Caple

46Ted Williams introduced at 1999 All-Star Game
They played an All-Star Game in 1999 but no one cared after the ceremonial first pitch. Pedro Martinez struck out the game's first three batters but none of those pitches were as emotional, important or memorable as the pitch Ted Williams threw before the game started.

That's no insult. Babe Ruth pitched from the Fenway Park mound, too, but he never threw a pitch as memorable as Teddy Ballgame's that night.

Williams was in his 80th summer and had been struck down by strokes, a broken hip, bad vision and simple old age. He needed to be driven to the mound in a golf cart. Tony Gwynn had to steady him on the mound and point out catcher Carlton Fisk.

But when Williams was introduced as the "greatest hitter of all time" and when all the All-Stars and the veteran players surrounded him to give the largest group hug in baseball history, an 80-year-old man was once again The Kid.

They played the All-Star Game after that but no one remembers it very well. Mostly because it was hard to watch with all those tears still in your eyes.
--Jim Caple

47The Music City Miracle
Show me the replay a thousand times. Show me Frank Wycheck turning and
firing, like the Michelin Man playing shortstop. Show me Dyson in the
crouch, like he's catching a baby falling from the window of a burning
building. Show me the sprint down the sideline with an entourage. Show me
Bills players running like statues and sinking like stones.

But don't ever show me the super-close-up, super-slo-mo, is-it-a-forward-lateral,
Zapruderesque breakdown of the film, frame by frame.

If it's not a forward lateral, I don't want to know. If it is, officially, a
forward lateral, I don't want to know.

Plays like this don't hinge on videotape and official review. They're
playground plays, plays for neighborhood kids.

You make a play like this on the big stage, good on ya.

You get burned by a play like this on the big stage ... Well, you can
stomp your feet and scream and shout, but the last thing you can do is go to
the tape, you know what I'm saying?
--Eric Neel

48Tom Brady's controversial 'tuck' play
The most memorable moments in sports -- particularly
in the ESPN Era -- usually come with a previously
unmemorable phrase that is instantaneously seared into
the collective memory of sports fans. Here's one:

"Tuck rule."

Say it in New England, and it's met with a sigh of
relief and perhaps with a knowing smile; say it
anywhere else in the country, and it's probably met
with the word "bleepin'" inserted somewhere within
it.

It's the ultimate "What If?" If Tom Brady's "tuck" is
ruled a fumble, the Raiders win the AFC title on the
road, advance to the Super Bowl and more than likely
lose to the high-octane Rams, who then go on to claim
"dynasty" status.

There is no "genius of Bill Belichik," who earned it
with his great defensive scheme in the Pats' Super win over the
Rams. There is no Super Bowl heroics of Tom Brady.
There is only standard New England heartbreak.

But, for once, a toss-up sports decision went in a
"Nor'easter-ly" direction. Brady didn't fumble; he
threw an incomplete pass. It was, by all accounts, a
miracle call.

It could have gone either way, and it went the Pats'
way -- maybe because they were on offense, maybe
because they were at home, maybe simply because Tom
Brady -- he of those two Super Bowl MVPs, he of that
super-hottie girlfriend -- is just that lucky.

Needless to say, between the stakes, the star and the
snow, the "tuck" became the biggest non-call in NFL
history.
--Dan Shanoff

49Jordan hits title-winning shot for Carolina
The legend of Michael Jordan didn't begin with his
awesome rookie scoring average or even the sky-walking
dunks (and accompanying ad campaign). It began with a plain
ol' jump shot.

Now, it just happened to be that this jump shot won
North Carolina -- and its legendary coach Dean Smith -- its first
national title. And it was against mighty Ewing-era
Georgetown. And did I mention that MJ was just a
freshman?

But there he was, pulling up on the left wing from
about 16 feet out, his shooting form remarkably
similar to the one used to buzzer-beat the Cavs and
the Jazz and so many other teams in the pros.

Jordan the Freshman was very good -- good enough to
start as a first-year player -- but certainly not the
star of a Tar Heels team that also boasted two older
All-Americans in James Worthy and Sam Perkins.

Yet there he was, in the first (and, arguably,
biggest) clutch moment of his career, dropping the
most memorable jumper in the history of the ESPN Era
Final Four.

And, if nothing else, it offered up one of the
greatest example of "foreshadowing" in 20th
century sports. An entire legend was built on the
strength of that single, gorgeous shot.
--Dan Shanoff

50Jim Valvano's emotional speech
When Jim Valvano had little time left, he took his time. That's what I
remember.

When he started talking at the 1993 ESPYs, he said, "Time is very precious
to me. I don't know how much I have left, and I have some things that I
would like to say."

What did he say? I'm paraphrasing, but: Every day: laugh, think, cry. You do
that every day, you're living a good life.

But what sticks with me is time. Basketball coaches are, by necessity,
extraordinarily aware of time. They've got one eye on the game, another on
the scoreboard. Minutes count. Seconds count. Fractions of seconds count.

About halfway through his speech, Jimmy V says, "That screen is flashing up
there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got
tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty
seconds, huh?"

And he continued on. The speech lasted 9 /2 minutes, an eternity in TV.
Listen to it again. Don't worry about other things you think you should be
doing. You'll probably laugh. You'll probably think. You may cry. That's
time used well, isn't it?
--Jeff Merron