Prior to this weekend, only twice in my life had I been truly euphoric about the outcome of a sporting event. The first time was when the Red Sox came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS—also known as, literally, “The Greatest Comeback in Baseball History.” The second was the team’s World Series victory just days later.
A large part of what made those victories mean so much to me was living through the team’s crushing Game 7 defeat in the 2003 ALCS. As you may recall, the Sox were five outs away from going to the World Series when, suddenly, Lucifer (disguised as then-Red Sox manager Grady Little) failed to sit Pedro Martinez in the 8th inning, despite the fact that Martinez’s pitching arm had already fallen off of his body and lay wilting in the dirt atop the mound at Yankee Stadium. Bye-bye, three-run lead; hello, Aaron Boone’s walk-off homerun, and sweetjesushchristinachickenbasket, thank god they won it all in 2004, or I’d need to chug a bottle of Pepto Bismol to stave off the massive ulcer that typing this paragraph would otherwise induce.
During the 2002 Winter Olympics, I experienced a mini-2003 ALCS-like heartbreak when I watched as short-track skater Apolo Anton Ohno, just a few meters away from crossing the finish line in first place during the men’s 1000m final, got wiped out in a four-skater crash. The look on his face as he went down—and, in that instant, so clearly realized that the gold medal had just been snatched from his grasp—was one of such shock and horror that it haunts me to this day.
I’ve always been an Olympics junkie. Summer, winter, whatever—I’m there. Not until seeing Ohno race, hearing him speak and learning of the determination and intensity with which he trains, however, had I been a bona-fide “fan” of an Olympic athlete … OK, well, at least not since that crazy crush I had on Mary Lou Retton when I was 14.
When Ohno blasted across the finish line in first place during the 500m final of the men’s short-track competition in Torino, Italy, on Saturday night, his victory became the No. 3 entry on “Jon’s List of Favorite Sports Moments.”