Top 10 Sports Moments of 2007
#10 - Formula 1 Racing - Chinese Grand Prix (10/1/07)
This was the first year in which I really followed Formula 1, and it was a highly entertaining season. The Chinese Grand Prix was the 16th of 17 races in the 2007 season, and super-rookie Lewis Hamilton entered the race with a seemingly insurmountable 12 point lead in the championship race. Prior to the start of the race, the rain started to come down -- and while that wasn't unexpected, it would play havoc with Hamilton's championship hopes. On the 30th lap, Hamilton's tires were worn out and he needed to come in to pit. When Hamilton moved to dive onto pit lane, however, his car failed to turn and he ended up in a sand pit from which he couldn't escape. As a result, Hamilton picked up the first DNF of his career and his points lead would dwindle to just 4 points heading into the final race of the season. By the time that race was over, Hamilton was tied for second with teammate Fernando Alonso, just one point behind champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari. This makes my list not necessarily because it was the best race of the 2007 Formula 1 season, but because it was almost certainly the most consequential.
#9 - Scott Baker's 1-hitter (8/31/07)
In a season where very little went right for the Minnesota Twins, this game was a high point. Baker, who has at times been frustratingly inconsistent as a Major Leaguer, put it all together in the second game of a doubleheader against the Royals. Baker took a perfect game into the 9th inning before walking John Buck and giving up a single to Mike Sweeney to lose his perfect game and no-hitter on back-to-back hitters. The Twins nonetheless ended up winning the game 5-0, and Baker turned in the pitching performance of the year for the team. Sadly, this is the only Twins moment of the season to make my list (although Jason Tyner's first career homerun was an awful lot of fun).
#8 - Florida Gators Repeat (4/2/07)
March Madness is always a blast -- and I actually prefer the first weekend and the attendant craziness to the Final Four. Nonetheless, the culmination of the tournament in 2007 gave us the first repeat national champion since 1991-92, when Duke did the deed. Florida beat Ohio State 84-75 to finish the season 26-5, meaning that the poor Buckeyes were once again the runners-up to Florida for a national championship -- three months earlier, Ohio State got pounded by Florida in the BCS Championship Game. While I remember next to nothing of the game itself, it is the achievement that I'm honoring with this spot on the list.
#7 - Patriots go Undefeated (12/29/07)
A 38-35 victory over the New York Giants just 2 days ago gave the Patriots a perfect 16-0 regular season. The first half of the season saw the Patriots looking virtually unbeatable as they pounded opponents into oblivion -- but the second half required the Patriots to do some work as they had several close calls. While the Patriots will not consider this season to be a success unless they finish things off with a Super Bowl victory, there's no question that going 16-0 is in itself a remarkable achievement that deserves recognition. This entry would also be incomplete if it didn't mention Tom Brady's ridiculous mark of 50 TD passes for the 2007 season. Unbelievable.
#6 - Missing Man Tributes
The USC Trojans and Washington Redskins both honored fallen teammates by using a version of the "missing man" formation in games this year. The Trojans were first up, honoring kicker Mario Danelo in the season-opener against Idaho on September 1. After scoring the first of what was sure to be many touchdowns in the game, the Trojans went onto the field for the extra point with 10 blockers and no kicker, resulting in a delay of game penalty. Danelo's parents, who had been invited to the game, took a few moments to realize what was being done, but were said to be quite touched by the gesture. Three months later on December 2, the Redskins honored Sean Taylor by going out for the first defensive play of their game with the Buffalo Bills with just 10 players on defense. I may be sentimental for finding these gestures to be meaningful, but I don't care -- they were incredibly touching, and represented the most visible way for the players to honor their fallen comrades.
#5 - Appalachian State over Michigan (9/1/07)
I'm a sucker for upsets, so I understandably loved the 2007 College Football season. Without question, though, the first upset was the best. Michigan turned out not to be nearly as good as a lot of pundits thought they would be in 2007, but when this game was played they were considered to be potential championship contenders. Watching the end of this game, which Appy State won 34 to 32 thanks to some incredible last minute play, was an exhilarating experience that fully primed me for what was to come. Again, as with several other items on this list, it's not necessarily the game itself that merits attention on this list, but what it stood for. Essentially, this game is standing in for all of the other upsets this season. Honorable mention in that category goes to Stanford over USC on October 6 -- but when I think back on the 2007 season, it'll be Michigan losing to open the season that I'll remember.
#4 - AFC Championship (1/21/07)
The Colts and Patriots entered the playoffs following the 2006 season as the 3rd and 4th seeds respectively, but after the Ravens and Chargers failed to live up to their higher seeds, Indy and New England met in the AFC Championship. New England led for nearly the entire game, but with about a minute left, Joseph Addai made it into the end zone from 3 yards out to give the Colts the lead. The defense held on, and the Colts won 38-34 to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Two weeks later, Peyton Manning got the Super Bowl monkey off his back when the Colts beat the Chicago Bears, but it was the AFC Championship that presented the bigger challenge.
#3 - NASCAR Daytona 500 (2/18/07)
I love the Daytona 500. After three months without any racing to speak of, NASCAR comes roaring back with its biggest race of the season. As a result, the Daytona 500 would probably be somewhere on my top 10 list every year, just because of what it is. The 2007 version of the event was particularly great, however, as Kevin Harvick edged out Mark Martin by just 0.02 seconds -- the closest finish since the inaugural event in 1959. The end was not without controversy, as a major wreck on the last lap was ignored by NASCAR officials to allow Harvick and Martin to battle to the finish line -- contrary to what almost everyone believed was standard procedure. Nonetheless, the finish was great, and the race meant NASCAR was back.
#2 - Rockies win the Wild Card (10/01/07)
The Twins are my team and always will be, but living in Colorado, it was hard not to get caught up in the Rockies unbelievable finish to the 2007 season. The season culminated with 11 straight wins by the Rockies -- and 14 of 15 overall -- to get Colorado into the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Colorado needed to beat the San Diego Padres in a one-game playoff, and pulled it off 9-8. The magical run would continue into the World Series, as the Rockies swept the Phillies and Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the Red Sox brought things crashing to a halt. The end of the regular season couldn't be tainted, however, and the weeks of enjoyment it brought me earned it this high place on my list.
#1 - Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (1/1/07)
What a way to kick off the year! Boise State beat Oklahoma 43 to 42 in this unbelievable game which I hope you've seen -- I can't do the ending justice and I'm not even going to try. The only time in my life when I enjoyed the ending of any game as much as I enjoyed this one was in 1991 when the Twins won the World Series. I credit this game with my newfound love of college football, which came on full force this season. When I was compiling this list, there was no question for me that this would be at the top. I can only hope that one of this season's BCS games will deliver in such a big way in the next few days!