I will definitely watch Celtics/Lakers today. Thank jeebus for the NBA, otherwise we'd have nothing to distract us from our boring families on Christmas. Unless you count college football, and anyone who reads this site regularly knows I don't.
Unfortunately there wasn't any NBA on Christmas Eve, just Notre Dame/Hawaii in the - get ready for it - Hawaii Bowl. Yawn. To get my sports fix I resorted to DVRing two ESPN Classic games: "The Fumble" and "The Tuck Game." So fucking awesome. I watched both of these games live when they happened, and I have to say that watching them again really drove home how much mythology and conventional wisdom can affect your memory of sports.
To the uninitiated, the 1987 AFC Championship Game between Cleveland and Denver ended when Cleveland running back Ernest Byner fumbled on his way into the endzone for what would've been the game-winning touchdown. Byner is an all-time goat in the Cleve because of that play, and until yesterday I would've sworn he just dropped the ball without being touched by a defender. But no siree. The DB actually made a great play, punching the ball out as he was tackling Byner. Like I said, I distinctly remember watching this game, and "The Fumble" has taken on the stench of a legendary fuckup, so imagine my surprise when I realized 21 years later that what I thought had happened really didn't. I feel betrayed. By whom? Myself, I guess. And every bitter Cleveland fan who ever brings it up. Get over it already pussies.
Anyway, after seeing the game all over again yesterday, I'm giving Ernest Byner a Christmas pardon. You're off my shit list forever. Although I suspect Cleveland fans won't be as forgiving, probably because the memories of that game make it too painful to watch again with an open mind. I guess I can understand, because "The Fumble" came just a year after "The Drive," when Denver QB John "Horseface" Elway beat Cleveland with a last-minute 98 yard TD drive. Oooof! Any time your team winds up on the wrong end of one of those sports moments that are so historic they can be referred to with two words - The Fumble, The Drive, etc. - you're in bad shape. So despite calling them pussies in the previous graph, I guess I have to applaud the resolve of Browns fans, because if my team had its season end in heartbreaking fashion two straight years to the same team, I would've killed someone or myself.
"The Tuck Game" was a classic too, although my memory of that one isn't as skewed as it was for "The Fumble." For instance, even though I hate the Raiders with a passion, I thought at the time (and still do) that the ref's call was horrible and the Patriots should've lost. A fumble is a fumble is a fumble. But one aspect of the game that stood out this time around is how much better the Raiders were than that Patriots team, especially on offense. Brady's top receiver was David Patten, and their top running back was literally some guy I've never heard of. Oakland outplayed New England, but the blizzard evened the field and kept it closer than it should've been. I remember the two teams being even, but honestly, New England was lucky they weren't blown out.
The other overriding point of this post is that ESPN Classic really needs to stop showing poker and American Gladiators 24/7 and get back to doing what it's intended to do: show historic sporting events we haven't seen in years. Seriously, these things are great. The two specials I watched yesterday were each 90 minutes and included almost every play of the entire game - even incompletions and meaningless runs - with the downtime edited out. It was interspersed with updated commentary from players and coaches from both sides that really shed light on what had happened in the game. I need more of this please. I'll suck your dick Santa!
I'm not sure if any of this interests anyone except me, but I needed something to do while my son ignores me because he's more interested in the toys I got for him for Christmas than he is in hanging out with his old man. Also, I really want IKH to reach 100 posts by New Year's so we can launch the new version of the site. So expect a few more of these rambling musings in the next week or so. And if you're all good little boys and girls, I'll keep it up in 2009.