A few days ago one of the blogs I regularly visit, Bob Rickert's OregonLive Ducks Blog, posed this question: What are the top five sporting events you've attended? These were my answers:
(1) 1995 Rose Bowl, Oregon vs. Penn State, Pasadena, California: Yes, our Ducks lost this game. But when my dad and I entered the legendary Rose Bowl stadium that morning, we were overcome by the thrill of walking into the 'Grandaddy of them All' on a perfect 70-degree day, seeing our team run onto the field as Pac-10 champs for the first time in 37 years with the nation watching. We said to ourselves, 'This is what heaven must look like.' Plus, Oregon played the best team in the country very close for 3 quarters.
(2) 1996 World Series, New York Yankees vs. Atlanta, Yankee Stadium, New York. This was the game where the Yankees clinched their 26th World Series championship and first in nearly two decades. I was living in New York at the time, and my roommate camped out for tickets to Game 6. The Yanks lost the first two Series games at home, then won four in a row to take the series, winning it all as we watched from the upper deck. As a then-New Yorker, it was absolutely stunning in a way far beyond sports to see this city of millions come together in pure joy. I was slapping high-fives with homeless men in the Bronx late at night -- something that would normally have been pretty dangerous.
(3) 1992 Tournament of the Americas basketball: USA vs. Cuba, Memorial Coliseum, Portland. This was the first-ever game played by the "Dream Team" of professional USA basketball players, and their first exhibition was in Portland. It didn't even sell out! My dad and I saw a starting five of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, which was incredible. But the best part was when Clyde Drexler came off the bench to a thunderous standing ovation. The US won the game by 79 points (!), but it wasn't about seeing 'competition' so much as a display of talent by the greatest basketball team ever put together.
(4) 1980 Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State football, Parker Stadium, Corvallis. This game isn't one for the history books per se, but it was my first Civil War game, and my dad and I were treated to a virtuoso display by Oregon quarterback Reggie Ogburn, whose talent at both running and passing pre-figured Akili Smith and Dennis Dixon. Oh, and Oregon won by several touchdowns.
(5) 1987 Oregon vs. Washington football, Autzen Stadium, Eugene. This 29-22 win for Oregon against Chris Chandler and the mighty Huskies was part of a magical freshman season for Bill Musgrave and a very cathartic victory against dreaded Washington after several years of losing. This game was also one of the first times as a Duck fan I really thought to myself, "We really can be good!" Within two years, the Ducks would not only make it to their first bowl game in 26 years, but would begin a streak of 15 bowl appearances in 19 years that continues today.