Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Greatest Spectator Sport on Earth

Having started this month with a post about basketball, I feel honor bound to end it with one about hockey.

I have written before about what separates hockey from the other team sports that are played professionally. Three days after that post, following the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup victory, I closed my very next post by writing that “I hope the Lightning rise again and knock them off.” Well, last night the Lightning did that indeed, edging the Penguins 1-0 in Game Seven of their first round playoff series.

There were many great things about the series, including clutch performances by Martin St. Louis and nifty pass-and-shoot scoring plays by Dominic Moore and Sean Bergenheim, which resulted in carbon copy goals the last two games. But the greatest thing was the performance of 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson last night, as he made one remarkable save after another to steal the game from a Pittsburgh squad that outshot his own by 36 to 23. Though I am not saying the Lightning have a realistic chance to win the Cup this year, I am going to point out that no team has ever won the Cup without having their goalie save their ass in a couple of playoff games along the way.

Of course, the game of hockey -- popular in many parts of the globe and invented more than a century ago -- is much, much bigger than my home town team which is playing its nineteenth season. Hockey is played at a high level in so many countries that every NHL roster reads like a United Nations roll call, chock full not only of Canadians and Americans but also of Russians, Swedes, Finns, Czechs, and more. You know the players on an NHL roster are the best the world is able to offer, as opposed to an NFL roster on which almost 100 percent of the players are Americans because, well, football is played almost nowhere else.

Along the same lines, I love that hockey ignites feelings of national pride. When Sweden and Finland met in the gold medal match of the 2006 Winter Olympics, it was such a big deal that those neighboring countries practically closed for business so their citizens would all be able to watch the contest.

When the Czech Republic beat Russia for the 1998 gold, throngs of people gathered in Prague to celebrate the victory and many of them held signs proclaiming “Hasek is God” -- in deference to Dominic Hasek, the goaltender who dominated the Olympics to deliver the gold to his homeland.

Talk to everyday Canadians and you will quickly realize that the Stanley Cup means more to them -- much more -- than the Liberty Bell means to everyday Americans. Hockey Night in Canada remains a television institution there years after Monday Night Football became humdrum here, and Don Cherry at age 77 is just as puckish and entertaining as he has always been.

Meanwhile, American hockey fans are not foolish enough to suggest that the U.S.A. has produced the same depth of talent over the decades as Canada -- but at the same time, we don’t hesitate to mention that despite getting a “late start” when it comes to hockey, our country’s top line or two is every bit as good as Canada’s top line or two. We look back with pride at the U.S.A.’s victory in the 1996 World Cup, and we feel the bitter sting of the U.S.A.’s losses in the gold medal games of the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics.

I love that there is something palpably, if inexplicably, holy about the game. Is there another sport that could inspire a column like this one from 2002, in which John Buccigross waxes poetic about that year’s Western Conference Final by comparing it, song by song, to the feeling one gets while listening to U2’s Joshua Tree? I don’t think so.

One round in, this year’s playoffs are off to a spectacular start. Not only did my Lightning win a Game Seven last night, so did the Boston Bruins -- in overtime, against the Montreal Canadiens, continuing one of the NHL’s oldest and most revered rivalries. And the night before that, there were two other Game Sevens.

The first round featured phenomenal and surprisingly frequent comebacks in games, with San Jose coming back from being down 5-0 to beat LA, and Philadelphia coming back from being down 3-0 to beat Buffalo.

It also featured inspiring comebacks in series, with the Lightning needing to erase a three-games-to-one deficit to eliminate Pittsburgh...and with defending champion Chicago falling behind Vancouver three-games-to-zero, then rallying to win the next three in convincing fashion before falling in overtime in Game Seven.

And there have been underlying spectacles like the constant wondering about whether the Phoenix Coyotes will relocate back to Winnipeg during the off-season.

Hockey is the sports world’s cutting edge of diligence, excitement, and drama. Anybody who denies that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Addendum: Even though I acknowledged that hockey is bigger than just my team, I have to mention some impressive things about the Lightning's performance in the first round, largely because the MSM will not give them the attention they deserve: 1) they held Pittsburgh scoreless on 34 of 35 power plays for the series, including the last 1:33 of Game Seven when they were down two men because Pittsburgh pulled their goalie; 2) they became only the 24th team to ever come back from a three-games-to-one deficit and win a series; 3) they are now 3-0 in Game Sevens; 4) Roloson has a .949 save percentage so far this post-season, which is tops among everyone; and 5) Pittsburgh had not lost three straight games at all in almost 16 months, yet the Lightning beat them in three straight playoff games. Go Bolts!

Update, 5/1/11: Once again, I have to make sure the Lightning get their due. Since I published this post, they have made a statement in the second round by taking a 2-0 series lead over the top-seeded Washington Capitals...but what is truly amazing is the fact that their penalty kill has not only remained spectacular, but actually gained strength. The Lightning have held the Caps scoreless in all eleven power plays they have faced thus far, making them a mind-blowing 45 of 46 -- or 97.8 percent -- through nine playoff games.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Under the Big Top

To break her lifelong habit of walking on her toes (which can lead to muscle and tendon problems) Sarah is wearing serial casts for six weeks and is five weeks into the program.

The good folks at Shriner’s Hospital of Tampa replace the casts every two weeks, and when we were there one week ago, Sarah took note of the poster advertising the Shriner’s Circus -- which happened to be kicking off a four-day local run that very day. So I am sure you can figure out where we wound up on Sunday.

I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but Sarah loved it and has not stopped talking about it…which has turned it into one of my favorite daddy-daughter memories.

There was something very old-timey about the experience. Rather than being staged inside a basketball arena, the Shriner’s Circus really did take place “under the Big Top” -- in a tent with spectators seated on portable bleachers. It was warm inside because it was warm outside. We purchased cotton candy before it started and a snow cone at intermission. We ate peanuts and tossed the shells onto the grass beneath the bleachers. It was how I picture circuses being back in the Great Depression and other “old days” in our national memory.

There was nothing new about the type of entertainment provided, but Sarah was mesmerized far beyond what I would have expected, and I guess that proves that some things never change about the mind of childhood.

Her favorite performer was “Coco the Circus Freak,” who juggled fat plastic baseball bats and got members of the audience involved in his hat-juggling routine. After the intermission, he performed that tried-and-true stunt where he tries to ride a bike but it keeps falling apart: first the seat comes off, and when he puts it back on the handle bars come off, and when he puts them back on the pedals come off, and when he puts them back on and starts to ride, the wheels come off. Then, he rode what was billed as the world’s smallest bike. Sarah could not stop laughing the whole time he was in the ring.

The circus also featured a hula hoopster who was quite amazing.

And it featured a 14-year-old, slinky-spined acrobat who contorted on tall furniture while the speakers played a bawdy version of Roxanne. He was described as being from the fifth generation of a circus-performing family from South America.

Then there was the usual assortment of illusionists. And the usual assortment of Eastern European Gypsy types, including one young lady from Romania who did gymnastics on a Russian bar that was being held by two older men.

And yes, there were some animals, including elephants, but not many.

Outside the Big Top was a carnival where Sarah rode a pony; rode a ride; fed some animals; played some games; and won an inflatable pink dolphin. As has been the case ever since she got casts, they did not hold her back from going about her business.

Circuses have some incongruities about them. The ringleader kept saying they are the world’s oldest form of family entertainment and are always rated G, and that is probably true as far as it goes…yet I could not shed my suspicion that most circus performers are Bohemians who live X-rated lives after the lights go down.

But that is an admittedly odd part of their charm, and fortunately, it is not something we need to concern ourselves with. Childhood illusions are important, and circuses uphold those illusions in ways that are hard to grasp as adults.

If you attend the Shriner’s Circus, you will have the satisfaction of knowing the money you spend is helping fund the wonderful Shriner’s Hospitals, which provide children with state of the art medical care at no charge. If one of these circuses visits your area, take your kid and give it a try.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Red Letter Dates

The hours from tonight through tomorrow morning mark the 236th anniversary of Paul Revere’s “midnight ride” and the battles that ensued. It is one of the most significant anniversaries in American history -- perhaps the most significant, because it can be argued that if not for the events that took place on April 18th and 19th, 1775, the United States might never have come to be.

Tensions between American colonists and their British rulers were running high in those days, and while this was true in all of the colonies that would become our first 13 states, it was especially true in Massachusetts. Britain had effectively shut Boston off from the world by blockading its port and quartering large numbers of soldiers within the city.

It was believed that Britain would invade the colony en masse, so residents in surrounding towns had been stockpiling munitions to defend themselves. The British targeted Lexington because revolutionaries John Hancock and Samuel Adams were thought to be there. They targeted Concord, the next town west of Lexington, because it was rumored to have a huge stash of munitions (which they wanted to confiscate) and because it had hosted the Provincial Congress.

When British forces were detected sneaking from Boston under cover of darkness on April 18th, Paul Revere and William Dawes mounted their horses and galloped into the countryside to warn their fellow citizens. Revere departed from Charlestown, across the Charles River from Boston proper, while Dawes left directly from the city. Revere’s route was the shortest to Lexington and Concord, and thus he was the first to warn their occupants of what was coming.

The next morning, Lexington’s village green was the site of the first skirmish between the British forces known as redcoats and the citizen militia known as minutemen. The latter took the worst of it, with eight dead and ten wounded compared to just a single wounded redcoat.

The British then marched on to their primary goal of Concord. After arriving and crossing the North Bridge, nearly half of them went about securing the bridge while the rest searched for weapons. When wooden cannon mounts were found, they were set afire and before long the flames engulfed a church.

Positioned on Punkatasset Hill some 300 yards from the bridge, Concord’s minutemen had been joined by minutemen from neighboring towns, giving them a numerical advantage the redcoats did not anticipate. When they saw the rising smoke, they believed their homes were being destroyed and responded by advancing. Seeing them approach in such numbers, the redcoats retreated back across the bridge. A shot soon rang out, though no one knows who fired it, and within minutes a full-blown battle had transpired in which half the British officers were wounded.

Disoriented, the redcoats fled back toward Boston. Along the way, they fell under fire from minutemen who had arrived from elsewhere and were hiding behind fences and walls. By the time they returned to the city, they had sustained more than 200 casualties.

It was an indisputable defeat for the world’s most powerful military, delivered by ordinary people seeking simply to defend themselves against royal oppression. The example set by those people ignited the fuse of the American Revolution in such a way that it would not be extinguished. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why I Love Hockey

During a playoff game Wednesday night, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis took a stick to the face that resulted in three broken teeth. He finished the game and after it was over paid a late night visit to the dentist -- on the road -- for a double root canal. He made it back to the hotel at 4:00 in the morning.

Without missing a beat, the 35-year-old was back on the ice when the next game started less than 48 hours after he absorbed the blow. Showing no ill effects from the incident, and still incensed that no penalty was called, he delivered two points to help lead the Lightning to a 5-1 victory that wrested home ice advantage away from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Playing through pain. Talking with actions instead of words. Wearing wounds like badges of honor. That is what hockey players do, and that is a huge part of why I love the game.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Images from the womb

On Thanksgiving I wrote that Erika was very pleasantly and very unexpectedly pregnant. Since 4½ months have passed since then, our baby now looks a lot different than he did in the ultrasound photo I published at the time…so here are some from today’s 4-D ultrasound, beginning with one in which he opened his eyes, which is something you rarely see on ultrasound. At first you might not discern that the eye is open, but if you pay attention to its inside corner, you will notice the iris and see that he is glancing up.

Before I go on, allow me to call him by name: Parker Wasson Stanton. It just doesn’t feel right to keep using semi-generic terms like “baby” and “him” to describe a person, born or unborn, when you know the person’s name. (And in case you are wondering, Wasson is Erika’s maiden name.)

Anyway, Parker moved quite a bit during the ultrasound but kept his hands in front of his face most of the time. This meant that we got very few unobstructed pictures of his face; and many of the pictures we got were distorted by him being in motion when they were captured -- for example, they were blurry or had blank spots where you would expect to see body parts.

Below is a picture that manages to show good detail and also show a good example of the distortion I am talking about. You get a good view of Parker’s nose, mouth, and cheek structure…yet it looks like half his scalp is missing, and there is some kind of blob appearing in front of his forehead. As you can see, he is grasping his head; and I think it’s interesting that his arm looks to be so much more bone than skin.

If you look at this next picture, you will see what look like bumpy ridges on his forehead. I would have assumed they are veins, or that they are developing material that will eventually become solid skull, but according to the sonographer those bumpy ridges are actually hair. On the other hand, that flowing substance on the side of his head, which does look like long hair to me, is not hair but is instead placenta.

And finally, I leave you with the picture that proves Parker is a boy. The funny story that comes with it involves Sarah. Erika showed her the pictures today after school, and when they came to this one, Sarah said, in her little six-year-old’s voice: “Oh, it’s his parts!”

The due date is June 30th but the C-section is tentatively scheduled for June 23rd. We can’t wait for the moment to arrive!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Averted Shutdown

Anyone who read my last post may have inferred that I was hoping for a government shutdown. They would have inferred correctly.

Right now I have mixed emotions about the eleventh hour compromise that was struck between John Boehner and Harry Reid…but I am leaning towards believing that it was, on balance, a positive.

A recent caller to Bill Bennett’s radio show pointed out that the reason Democrats win so many legislative battles is “they’re willing to die on the hill.” It was because of that willingness that Democrats passed Obamacare: They knew it was enormously unpopular and they knew passing it might cost them their jobs, but they passed it anyway because they believed the cause it represented was worth sacrificing their careers for. Conversely, Republican officeholders have a discouraging tendency to compromise their principles for fear of negative publicity, even though years of compromise have led to no reduction in negative publicity. As a result, the leftist agenda is almost always being advanced, with the only question being “by how much right now?”

I agree with the caller and have felt that way for years. And therefore, when the Boehner-Reid negotiations went to stalemate, I began itching for a fight and hoping the Republicans would make like Spaghetti Western heroes by drawing a line in the sand and defending it with “over my dead body” determination. Given the public’s mood when it comes to the size, scope, and spending habits of the federal government, I am convinced Republicans would be rewarded at the polls for taking such a stand.

On the other hand, it is true that Republicans control only one-third of the federal government, and therefore do not have anywhere near the numbers they need to get everything they want right now. When you think about it from that perspective, and when you realize Democrats wanted to increase spending and that Obama proposed increasing it by $40 billion, you realize how significant it is that Boehner was able to get the Dems to decrease spending by more than $38 billion.

I can not think of a single time in history that the Democrat Party ever agreed to a reduction in federal spending. But now it has, even while being in control of two-thirds of the federal government. This is a paradigm shift with potentially colossal implications.

And consider this: When Boehner originally sought to cut spending, he proposed doing so to the tune of $32 billion. Only later, after feedback from several first-year congressmen, was the proposed amount of cuts upped to $61 billion. Although the cuts Boehner ultimately achieved were less than the latter amount, it should be noted that they were $6+ billion more than he originally sought…which is a remarkable feat for a politician to accomplish.

And, consider this: A few days before the deal was completed, Reid publicly stated that $33 billion in cuts had been agreed to. This means that between when Reid said that and when he and Boehner inked the deal, Boehner was able to secure an additional $5+ billion in cuts. That is yet another rather remarkable feat for a politician.

Truth be told, if we’re talking simply about the dollars involved, the national debt will hardly be affected by either amount -- $38 billion or $61 billion. Ultimately, much larger cuts are necessary and everyone knows it. But by setting a precedent of the federal government actually lowering its spending (can anybody name the last time that happened?) Boehner & Co. have created an environment in which larger cuts suddenly feel very likely, after having felt impossible only a year ago.

As many Boehner supporters have noted, avoiding a government shutdown (i.e., avoiding the distracting media bonanza and Democrat finger-pointing that would have resulted from it) allows the Republicans to focus on other issues that could go much farther toward bringing the national debt under control. Primary among these are Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposals, which seek structural changes to address runaway entitlement spending -- which is, after all, the main culprit driving our debt crisis.

So, having written all this down to think all this out, I have decided that Boehner & Co. did well in the negotiations over 2011 spending; and that they deserve our support, not our criticism. However, those negotiations were only the first play in the first quarter of a football game that will last four full quarters and likely go to overtime. From here on out Boehner & Co. must continue to ratchet up their intensity, and must become less giving come negotiation time. If they do that, and if we hold them to it while having their back, America will win.

Note: The figures used in this post are public data and widely available, but were obtained from the writings of Andrew Stiles.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

et ceteras

Well, so much for my hopes that the NCAA Tournament would end with a championship game for the ages. The finale was one of the worst basketball games I have seen at any level. It was so bad, and Butler’s shooting was so atrocious -- they routinely missed open lay-ups and finished 12 of 64 from the floor -- that I don’t even know what to say.

Are Donald Trump’s recent political pronouncements serious, or is he just being a publicity hound? I think it’s a little of both, and when it comes to whether he wants to run for president, I doubt that even he knows for sure. But I do believe he means what he says about economic policies, the state of the world, etc. -- and it was satisfying to hear him talk on O’Reilly last week. Given today’s need for a blunt, no-nonsense leader, America could do a lot worse than a President Trump.

Speaking of blunt, no-nonsense leadership, wouldn’t it be nice if today’s commander-in-chief was more like British General Charles Napier? This is what Napier once said to locals in India, regarding their tradition of killing widows by burning them on their husbands’ funeral pyres: “You say it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.” Now that is the kind of attitude that crushes evil and advances human rights. Thank you, Mark Steyn, for reprinting the quote.

The MSM is in a tizzy over the prospect of a government shutdown if the GOP-led House and Democrat-led Senate don’t agree on a spending resolution. I say bring it on. Obama & Co. will try to falsely blame a shutdown on the GOP, and yes, there is a chance the lie will work like it did when Bill Clinton was president…but I believe people are too well-informed to fall for it this time around.

Will gas prices careen well over $4 per gallon and even go above $5 per gallon, like some experts are predicting? I don’t know, and my skepticism of anything said by people called “experts” makes me tend to doubt that $5 is in our immediate future. But I did hear a figure this week that should be taken as a warning sign: The cost of oil at this time of year in 2008 (the year gas did eventually reach $4) was higher than it is right now; however, the price of gas at that time was 50 cents lower than right now. Combine that with all the turmoil in the Middle East, and our government’s unwillingness to do anything which might increase supply or lower production costs, and we might want to buckle our belts for a wild price ride.

Do you want an example of how diverse this country is when it comes to the climate from one region to another? In my part of Florida, we have been experiencing afternoon temperatures in the 80’s for weeks. This morning, a co-worker in town from New York said it is the first time he has seen a temperature above 50 since October, the last time he came here. I love that about America!

And finally, how about finishing this post with another great quote? This one comes from Thomas Sowell, who always hits the nail on the head: “When someone gives you a check and the bank informs you that there are insufficient funds, who do you get mad at? In your own life, you get mad at the guy who gave you a check that bounced, not at the bank. But, in politics, you get mad at whoever tells you that there is no money.” Nobody could have said it better.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hoops Time

Having used part of my last post to speak ill about today’s brand of basketball, while at the same speaking well about the play in this year’s NCAA tournament, I feel driven to write about some of the great moments in college hoops.

Simply put, when it comes to basketball, team play was better in the years before the mid-1990’s and remains better in college than in the pros. I was born in 1971 and my father took me to several University of South Florida games in the 1970’s; but it was from 1980 forward that I followed the game closely, and it just so happens that it was during those years that many classic championship games were played. I do not think I am blinded by my age when I say that the 1980’s were the golden age of college basketball.

This year’s tournament has given me hope that the game can regain its prior luster. While hoping for that to occur, here is a look back at what I consider the five greatest college basketball games in my lifetime, in no particular order.

1983 NCAA Championship Game

North Carolina State 54, Houston 52

Every sports fan who was alive and watching remembers this one. NC State didn’t have a good enough season to even be invited to the tournament, but managed to secure an automatic bid by wining their conference tourney. On the other hand, Houston was a fearsome and dominant team with three future NBA stars. They scared the bejesus out of opponents and dunked so often that they caused “number of dunks” to be kept as a statistic for the first time. Nobody in their right mind thought NC State had a chance against them.

Fortunately for NC State, they believed in themselves when nobody else did. It was before the shot clock era, and Coach Jim Valvano drew up a slow, ball-control game plan that was designed to keep Houston’s players from getting into the fast tempo at which they thrived. Valvano’s players executed the plan to perfection, and the Wolfpack had possession of the ball in the closing minute with the score tied at 52.

In the waning seconds, Houston’s defenders kept Wolfpack guard Dereck Whittenburg from getting a good look at the basket or moving anywhere near it, and in desperation he heaved up a shot from 30 feet away. As the ball came down short of the hoop, Lorenzo Charles leaped up, grabbed it from the air, and dunked it home a fraction of a second before the final horn sounded.

Pandemonium ensued. To this day, 28 years later, the video of Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug gets played over and over again every single season. At the time, it was the biggest upset in college basketball history…well, except maybe for this one:

December 24, 1982

Chaminade 77, Virginia 72

The Virginia Cavaliers were the #1 team in the AP poll, and the Chaminade Silverswords weren’t even members of the NCAA. Located in Hawaii, Chaminade had only 900 students and competed in the NAIA, and its entire athletic program was only seven years old. Virginia’s center was Ralph Sampson, national player of the year for two years running, and he stood eight inches taller than Chaminade center Tony Randolph.

But on Christmas Eve, Randolph held Sampson to 12 points while scoring 19 himself, and unheard-of Chaminade stunned the sports world by toppling mighty Virginia. When the score appeared on the AP wire, Sports Center anchor Tom Mees initially refused to report it, believing it was a mistake. And rather than follow the usual procedure of simply taking stories from the wire and publishing them for the next morning, newspapers flooded the phone lines of the AP’s New York office to make sure the score was correct before proceeding. Eventually, everyone realized it was true.

1985 NCAA Championship Game

Villanova 66, Georgetown 64

This game was just as big an upset as NC State over Houston, and it was just as close, but for some reason it doesn’t get talked about as much. Georgetown was the defending national champion and was appearing in the title game for the third time in four years, while Villanova was seeded only eighth in its region and appeared hopelessly outmanned against the Hoyas.

Everyone knew the Wildcats needed to play a perfect, once-in-a-lifetime game to give themselves a chance, and that is precisely what they did. In basketball, it is very good for a player to make 50 percent of his shots and very rare to make 60 percent -- but on this one night, the Wildcats shot an astonishing 79 percent as a team, missing only six shots the entire game. And they did that in spite of the fact they were playing against one of the best defensive teams in the history of college basketball.

1987 NCAA Championship Game

Indiana 74, Syracuse 73

But of course, not every game is David vs. Goliath and most championship games are actually Goliath vs. Goliath. That was the case in 1987, when juggernauts Indiana and Syracuse met in New Orleans to determine the national title. Indiana led by one point at halftime, but Syracuse took the lead by scoring first in the second half and then remained on top all the way…until the game’s final basket.

The Orangemen were ahead 73-70 with 38 seconds remaining when Indiana got the ball and raced downcourt and pulled within 73-72 on a bucket by Keith Smart. When Syracuse brought the ball back inbounds, Indiana intentionally fouled Derek Coleman to send him to the free throw line for a one-on-one. He missed the front end and the Hoosiers got the rebound. Back at the other end of the court, Smart got the ball in the corner, moved slightly toward the baseline, and shot a jumper that swished through the net with four seconds remaining. When Syracuse brought the ball back in play to try for one last shot, Smart intercepted the inbounds pass to clinch Indiana’s third national title under legendary Coach Bob Knight.

Many great players were on the court that night, including some destined for the NBA. And both head coaches are considered to be among the best of the last 40 years. But mention the 1987 title game, and the only thing anybody says is “Keith Smart.”

March 28, 1992

Duke 104, Kentucky 103

This was the ultimate Goliath vs. Goliath match-up. Duke was the defending national champion and roughly a decade into its run as a year-in-year-out national power. Kentucky, one of history’s most storied college basketball programs, had returned to national prominence after a brief downturn. It was the Elite Eight, and the prize was a trip to the Final Four.

The game went back and forth from beginning to end, with both teams playing diligent defense and executing well on offense. Fittingly, it was tied at the end of regulation and went to overtime. Kentucky scored with two seconds remaining in OT to go ahead 103-102. Grant Hill then threw the ensuing inbounds pass almost the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who caught it near the top of the key, turned, and shot a jumper that went in as time expired to give Duke the victory.

Sports Illustrated declared it the greatest college basketball game ever played, and it is hard to disagree. The game was so good on a team-vs.-team basis that people often forget it included what has to be the most impressive clutch performance by an individual: Laettner hit every single shot he took, finishing 10-of-10 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the free throw line.

This list could cause some controversy if anyone looks at it, because I excluded some classics that have taken place in my lifetime. Like the Bird-vs.-Magic showdown in 1979, and Chris Webber’s infamous time-out in 1993. Not to mention NC State’s victory over Maryland in the 1974 ACC Championship Game, back when that was the only way to get a ticket to the NCAA tourney. If you disagree with me, let me hear it!