In anticipation of their upcoming 25th anniversary USA Today has been running these “Top 25 Moments” special features. The TV one drove me nuts but I didn’t think about it more than that. Now, however, I feel compelled to respond. Yesterday’s topic was “Sports Moments,” and even if you’re not a sports fan you should have heard of most of these. (After all, one of the definitions of a sports moment is that the general public is aware of it.) Mainly it’s the injustice that should get you up in arms. (Maybe we need to dissect all of USA Today’s lists to date, but for now, we tackle sports.)

You can find the entire list with USA Today-style explanations and pictures by clicking this link. For those of you too lazy to click a link (and let’s be honest: that’s most of you), here’s the bare-bones list:

1 Red Sox Win World Series
2 Ripken breaks record
3 Tiger wins first Masters
4 Villanova upsets Georgetown
5 BALCO-steroids in baseball
6 1998 home run chase
7 N.C. State upsets Houston
8 Nicklaus, at 46, wins ’86 Masters
9 Magic Johnson retires with HIV
10 Pete Rose banned
11 Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass
12 Dale Earnhardt’s death
13 Kirk Gibson walk-off homer
14 U.S. women win ’99 World Cup
15 Bill Buckner error in 1986 World Series
16 Christian Laettner jumper sends Duke into ’92 NCAA Final Four
17 Harding-Kerrigan skating scandal
18 Michael Jordan ends first part of NBA career with winning shot vs. Utah
19 1989 World Series Postponed by earthquake
20 Tennis Star Arthur Ashe has AIDS
21 Lance Armstrong wins seven consecutive Tours de France
22 O.J. Simpson trial
23 ’94 World Series canceled
24 Pervasiveness of ESPN
25 Wayne Gretzky sets NHL scoring record
USA TODAY reporting and writing by Rachel Shuster

Obviously, I have a few “disagreements.”

First of all, I would rip into anyone who made this list, but I can’t help but notice it was written by a Rachel Shuster. Sigh. People, you know I’m an ardent feminist and support women in each and everything they do, but frankly, this doesn’t help the Women and Sports cause.

The thing is, rightly or wrongly (and let’s be honest: for the most part it’s right), guys assume women know nothing about sports. They usually dismiss a woman’s point of view on a sporting matter reflexively because of personal experience. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m just saying it is. Of course, it’s not all male chauvinism. For the most part guys aren’t upset if girls don’t like sports; all they really want is for the woman to tolerate their love (or obsession). However, if a woman shows even the slightest interest or inclination toward a sporting event it instantly rockets her up hundreds of cool points in a guy’s book, way more than dressing slutty ever could. (Ladies, let this be a lesson to you. You don’t have to show up at the club all pushed-up and pantyless. Merely knowing how LeBron did the night before or how hard the US Open is expected to be this weekend will do you wonders.)

Now, you might call me sexist for remarking on the reporter’s gender. “Criticize the list on its own merits, Hyperion, and leave who she is out of it. That’s like pointing out she has black athletes on her list and she’s black.” I can just see this email coming, and with all due respect, cram it with walnuts, ugly.

I am justified bringing the issue up for the primary reason that Miss Shuster (and yes, I’m calling her “Miss” when I don’t really know her marriage status. Let’s fight over that another time) has at #14 on her illustrious list: “US Women win ’99 World Cup.”

Hello? Can you hear me in the back?

Under no circumstances is that event, great as it might have been, in the top 25 best sports moments of ANYBODY. It barely makes the Top 5 of Women’s moments, and, again, let’s just be honest here: the American sports scene, in terms of athletes, interest, money and any other category is mostly about male sports. That’s just life. The only thing you (or anyone) can even conceivably remember about the ’99 World Cup is that one of the players took off her jersey after winning, and even then that’s only the second most famous “women takes off clothes” moment in the last 25 years of American sports.

Thankfully, this fad did not catch on with the Women's Professional Bowling Association

(By the way, since I’m already picking on women’s sports, I might as well bring this up. A week ago or so I got into women’s college softball on ESPN. It was so unique looking it caught my eye, and the pitcher’s mound is so close the ball just seems to whiz in there. Color me impressed. However, I couldn’t help but notice that many—even most—of the players didn’t wear a hat in the field. So prevalent was this that I figured it must be in the rules or something. A few days later I had the opportunity to speak to a coach of a women’s softball team at a college in South Carolina. Sheepishly “Kara” admitted to me that the reason for not wearing a hat was because it messed up the girls’ hair. If this doesn’t explain everything you need to know about why women’s sports aren’t taken that seriously, then I don’t know what to tell you.)

"Subject was hatless...I repeat: hatless."

Besides the whole ’99 World Cup thing (which is so beyond ridiculous I’m calling it “beyiculous”), there were other glaring omissions. How do you have a list where not a single Super Bowl is mentioned? The larger than life moments when Montana, Young, Elway, Brady, Manning, Kurt Warner and Doug Williams each won their first Super Bowl doesn’t rate a mention? For that matter, how about “The Drive” and “The Catch” from the AFC and NFC title games? Other football moments as well, like the Ray Lewis trial, and uh, hello: Janet Jackson?

It's too bad her older brother couldn't have taught her how to behave in public

How can you have a list that mentions Jordan (who by the way, made that shot in the second part of his three-part NBA career, not the first), but not mention Magic and Bird? You’re going to tell me the Lakers/Celtics rivalry doesn’t make the list? I really have to assume this reporter is quite young to completely skip this. And what about Dream Team 1, the greatest basketball team ever assembled? Nothing?

Speaking of Olympic moments, they are sorely lacking as well. If you want to argue the Ben Johnson steroid scandal was Canadian fine, but you’re going to tell me that in addition to the Dreamteam: Carl Lewis cannot make the list? Greg Louganis? The Olympic Park bombing? Michael Johnson’s unbelievable 19.32 in the 200? What about the Russian boycott in 1984? And speaking of ’84, what about Mary Lou Retton and the Women’s Gymnastics team that year. (Now THERE’S your Girl Power moment.)

Some of the biggest sports moments weren’t even in the arenas or on the field. Kobe Bryant, anyone? (For that matter, how does Shaq/Kobe not get mentioned?) What about Mike Tyson’s rape conviction, or the ear-biting incident? Even if you wanted to limit the “off the field” moments, how can any competent list leave out when Tyson was shocked by Buster Douglas? I lived through this, and it’s the biggest upset in sports history: much bigger than any of the college basketball games included.

Hey, don’t get me wrong: I love college basketball. Probably my favorite sport, but three moments in the top sixteen and two in the top seven is ridiculous, especially when football got shafted. And while I’m quibbling about the order of things, the Doug Flutie pass way too high, the O.J. Simpson trial (or Bronco ride; take your pick) way too low.

But the biggest positioning error has to be #1. Hey, the futility of the Red Sox was legendary, if only because their fans never EVER stop bitching. (Even after winning.) And I fully acknowledge that their victory is a huge story, especially when you consider they were one year removed from heartbreak and were down 0-3 to the hated Yankees when their historic comeback happened. But I don’t know if that changed sport, and all things considered, there were bigger moments.

And a corporation, uh, I mean legend was born

Personally I think the biggest moment would have to come down to either Tiger winning the Masters or Magic Johnson with HIV. When Tiger won it changed everything. Not only was he the first person of color to win a major, but it instantly made golf the fourth major sport, made it cool, an event. Completely changed the landscape in ways that still aren’t fully realized. As for Magic, I’m sorry, but that’s like the sports equivalent of 9/11. You remember exactly where you were when you heard about him. I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing, all the way down to what I was wearing. At the time I (and I venture to say almost everyone) assumed that he’d get AIDS and die soon. Hell, back then most people didn’t really understand or differentiate between HIV and AIDS. In some ways the fact that here it is 15 years later and Magic is still going strong is as big a story.

Anyway, I know most of you don’t care about these “lists,” but to me these kinds of things matter. Maybe they aren’t as important as world peace or whatever, but what we rank as important is important in and of itself. In a way we are creating mythology, a reality that will exist far after the event. After all, you can tell me what 10 things about Abraham Lincoln, but zero about Chester Arthur, right? And why is that? Because we’ve made lists of great presidents, and Lincoln always scores high.

If only Arthur had invented the Log....

Sports may not mean anything to you, but they do mean things to a lot of people, and the list deserves to be right. I half suspect that USA Today mandates at least a few screwy selections just to get people like me interested, and if so mission accomplished. No hard feelings, Rachel Shuster. At least you’re interested in sports. For what it’s worth, here’s my Top Ten Sports Moments of the last 25 years:

1 Tiger Woods wins the ’97 Masters
2 Magic Johnson announces he has HIV
3 1998 Home Run Chase
4 O.J. Simpson Car Chase
5 Dale Earnhardt’s death
6 Villanova upsets Georgetown
7 Dream Team 1
8 Tyson knocked out by Buster Douglas
9 Lakers/Celtics
10 Red Sox win the World Series

anybody want a peanut?

Honorable Mention: Wrestlemania III. You laugh, but you can’t remember what a big deal this was. Andre the Giant passing the torch to Hulk Hogan, and no one was sure if he was going to do it? I get chills just thinking about it.

Oh, and by the end of the summer there will be a new #1. You have my absolute word on this. What will it be? I’ll tell you then.


Dragon said...

New number 1? It must be Barry Bonds. I'm a right?

Sparky Duck said...

Bonds, or a Red Sox collapse that outdoes the 1978 or was it 77 collapse.

Your list is good, though the 98 home run chase should be lower. Just because it just has to be steroid induced. Personally I would have the Red Sox higher, because you have to include the whole special run to the championship, not just the World Series. And I might replace Lakers/Celtics with either a Jordan moment or Nicklaus at the 86 Masters.

And sheesh, as for USA Today, it was not a giant feat for us to win the womens WC in 99, it was the USA, China or one of the Scandanavian teams that would have won it, meaning team 4 was a joke to beat. And the pervasiveness of ESPN is just an opinion, not an actual sport moment.

Hyperion said...

Dude, even if you downgrade the homerun chase in retrospect because of steroids (and that would be rewriting history), at the time it had nothing to do with it, at least in the public consciousness. We're not making moral judgements here (else Pete Rose, OJ, et al wouldn't be on it), but simply talking about monumental stories, and that Home Run chase was epic. Everyone and their sister was paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks for devoting so much space to our Top 25 Sports Stories list.

In hindsight, we should have put that this list WAS THE RESULT OF VOTING BY THE USA TODAY SPORTS NEWSROOM.

I am a former sportswriter and sports columnist. My expertise in sports reporting was used to write up the items.

I disagree and voted differently about many of the items. But I did not let that impact how I wrote up the list AS VOTED BY USA TODAY.

Again, thanks for devoting all the space.