Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos, and the U.C.L.A. Bruins: The Joy (and importance) of Sports

I was there last Sunday.

Tim Tebow Highlights 2011 2012 Broncos DEMARYIUS THOMAS (via stumpshus)

Perhaps some of you saw the highlights of this game. Maybe some of you have even heard of this Tim Tebow guy. As with the BCS game, I thought maybe Tebow wasn't being adequately covered in the press, so I thought I'd try to do some justice here on BN.

My wife and I have had season tickets in the South Stands for 15 years, and that goes back to the old Mile High Stadium when that section really meant something special. So I saw a lot of Elway's 4th quarter comebacks, a lot of big games, and a lot of playoff wins. Sunday was different. That second video is one that I took that with my phone over 5 minutes after the play, after we were done hugging and high-fiving every stranger within a 15 person radius. Everyone is still dancing and yelling and going nuts. No one wanted to leave. Everyone wanted that moment to last forever. It was incredible and unique and I've never experienced that big of a moment in the middle of that big of a crowd.

But there are some other moments which still rank a bit higher for me. Follow me after the jump...

The debate whether Tebow is really an NFL quarterback goes on all over the place, and I'd truly prefer Bruins Nation remain a safe haven from that, so I apologize for this post already. I can turn on the local sports radio if I absolutely have to hear about Tebow in the next 30 seconds. But this was a big moment, both for the way the game ended, and for being there in the middle of the ensuing pandemonium. The overall weight of that moment is (currently) tempered a bit for me because this was a Wild Card round playoff game featuring a fairly average Broncos team, and by winning this game, the Broncos earned the right to get waxed by Tom Brady the next Saturday. And I'm still not convinced that Tebow is really the right Broncos' QB, assuming they are aiming for the Super Bowl and not just merch sales, for the future.

But it also got me to thinking about some of the greatest sports moments I've witnessed. The kind of games where the desired outcome seemed impossible, where the game was still in doubt late, and where the finish came so suddenly and surprisingly that you could scarcely believe it when it occurred.

These are four of my "most important" - in terms of significance and timing - all-time sports moments when my side won:

The Miracle on Ice

(via x0rr3g)

Al Michaels' intro in this video is perfect, and this game is still the most momentous sporting event I can think of. When you imagine the political scene at the time, the vast disparity between the two teams, and the venue, nothing else compares. I was 11, my budding hockey career was tragically cut short the year before when the lone ice rink in Lancaster melted during the summer and the owners went out business. But I still loved hockey as my first sport. This game was actually televised on tape delay, though my family and I didn't know the outcome while watching it. The American college kids came from behind 3 times against the greatest hockey team in the world before Mike Eruzione's 3rd period goal gave them a 4-3 lead, and then I held my breath for the longest 10 minutes of game time ever. Think what that game meant to a country leaving the the decade of Vietnam, fighting the Cold War, and praying for our hostages in Tehran. Watching it now still gives me chills. Do you believe in miracles? I have ever since.

Junior

(via Gustavomsadsadasd)

I watched this on Sproul 6 South with 4 or 5 friends from the floor. When Magic dropped in "Junior" from the key, we went tearing out of the room up the hall, screaming for all we were worth. We hustled back to make sure they closed it out from there. It was a great moment by my all-time favorite NBA team, but the playoffs weren't over yet, and there was still plenty to be nervous about. An historic moment in the historic Bird-Magic rivalry.

Super Bowl XXXII

(via DiamondStarMedia1)

Trust me, when the Broncos were facing Brett Favre and the defending champions, as many people here in Denver were terrified of another Super Bowl loss as were excited about being there. But the Broncos matched the heavily favored Packers punch for punch until the 4th qtr, and when Elway gave himself up on that famous helicopter, got up and high fived his lineman and pumped his fist, we all believed. We would not be grouped with Minnesota or Buffalo anymore. We would be, finally, Super Bowl Champions. I watched this game with a few neighbors 2 doors down, and then my wife and I drove downtown to join the obligatory fray, arriving just before the famously quick-triggered Denver PD "dispersed" the crowd. No other Broncos game was ever or will ever be as "important", but watching it with a handful of neighbors couldn't compete with the 75K last weekend.

2001 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 7

(via Andrew1454)

So close... Any Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final is hard to match. But this was my team and it was in my town and we shared a pair of Avalanche season tickets with friends this season. But my wife's 10 year college reunion at MIT was that same week, so our friends took all the tickets, and we took a trip. I watched this game from a bar in Boston with a big crowd of Ray Borque fans. I was a minor celeb for wearing my Forsberg jersey and being a real Avs fan (and for buying a round of drinks for 15 Boston fans cheering with me nearby), but nothing could match what our friends experienced being there.

Apologies to fans of the Devils, Packers, Celtics, and, uh, the Soviets if these games bring back any painful memories. These were truly unforgettable sports moments for me. I think these games were all more "important" in an historical context than last Sunday's most recent Tebow miracle. As I said, last Sunday was a first round playoff game whereas these games above were Olympic or Championship moments. If Tebow's Broncos somehow win it all, then maybe this game changes in its importance, but for now, it can't compare with these more significant games. But I saw these games on TV, and in small crowds. There is something about seeing the moment in person, and being in a packed stadium that simply can't be matched. The energy and delirium and shock and elation is just impossible to replicate.

Still, even with that, there are a few games I have witnessed which gave me more pure joy than the OT win over the Steelers, or even than any of the games above.

They all happen to be Bruin moments...

1993 UCLA vs USC Football (no video available?!)

First off, someone get this game on YouTube! I watched this game in my condo in Houston with 3 other Bruins and a few other friends who were all going to school with me. Though $c is always the most important game just because, this was back when the game was always competitive and U.C.L.A. football was still relevant. Oh, and in this one, the winner was going to the Rose Bowl. The game went back and forth and the Bruins found themselves clinging to a 6 point lead in the last minute when *$c got down to the goal line. A TD and a PAT would send the trogans to the Granddaddy on New Years and taking my heart and guts with them. The Bruins stuffed 2 runs to force 3rd down, and then Marvin Goodwin etched his name among the eternal greats when he intercepted a pass at the goal line to preserve the win. We instantly became a dog pile of 5 in Houston, and no football win had ever been as sweet. Shortly after, we headed out for the bars on Richmond to celebrate, and I bought a whole bucket of roses from one of those hostesses at the bar, and passed them out to the nearest women in the place. I got a few kisses on the cheek, but zero phone numbers, which was ok with me because my team was going to play one more home game. Little did I know... Still, to this day, no Bruin football game has ever meant so much to me. And I really really miss those uniforms.

The 1995 Bruins NCAA Basketball Title

(via ncaaondemand)

I was visiting my fiancee in Redondo for this one and watched this with several roommates from my college days (seattlebruin was there with me). Arkansas seemed so strong, and I was used to Harrick's early tournament flame-outs, so I was so nervous that we had made it that far. The game was close all the way through, but the Bruins were led by Ed O'Bannon, who refused to let his team lose. Toby was great, Dollar was heroic, and the Bruins were just better. When Ed threw down the dunk to seal it, I got to enjoy my first title in one of the big 2 sports since I officially became a Bruin nearly a decade earlier (and our only one since). When they are that rare, they are very easy to appreciate.

1996 UCLA vs USC Football

(via DeluzEmerson)

I watched this with prob 20-30 of the Rocky Mountain Bruins Alumni group (back when it existed) at a sports bar. When we were down 17 with 6 and a half minutes left, I thought we had no chance. My buddy Pete and his wife, the only ones I knew personally in that group, left the bar right about that time to get an early start on a drive up to the mountains. That must have been the key. After that, literally everything just magically went our way. When the trogies last gasp heave to the end zone was picked, the small mob celebration was short lived, because the high score and overtime kept the little league team scheduled for our room waiting for about 30 minutes, and we were hustled out very quickly.

UCLA v Gonzaga

End of UCLA v. Gonzaga (via jellyville)

I watched this one by myself in my living room while the family was out of town. Being down so far in the second half, I was becoming resigned to a Gonzaga win, though the idea of losing to a lower ranked mid-major team wasn't very tasteful. Then we started inching back. We all know how the last couple of minutes of that game went. When Farmar made the steal and found "the freshman" underneath, I was screaming for joy, then panicked and started screaming "Get back on D!" at the TV. Of course, Luc raced back and caused the jump ball, and I started running around the house screaming "Our ball! Our ball!", b/c I knew the possession arrow was ours. I saw a lot of great wins in person in Pauley, and watched a lot of others before and since, but I don't remember ever being as exhilarated as I was during the last few minutes of that game. And I will always love Gus Johnson.

You may note which team appears in every one of those most personally joyful games. U.C.L.A. will always be my number one love. And had I been at the Gonzaga game, or any of those Rose Bowl finishes, or for Ed's dunk in Seattle, and celebrated those wins with a few thousand of my brand new closest friends, those games would be number one ahead of last Sunday in terms of the combination of the moment and the meaning.

Sports matter. Maybe not in the same vein as Middle East peace and world hunger and homelessness, but for what it is, it matters. Deeply. These last 4 games, all of them coming AFTER I graduated, are what maintained, and strengthened my love for my alma mater. This is why I donated money to the school (academics >> sports, btw), and talked up U.C.L.A. academics and sports to colleagues, and still wear Bruin gear nearly every day (sorry, tazmiami - you're much stronger than I).

This is why BN is such an important community to me (and not simply because it gives me an excuse to peruse my favorite youtube vids for a few hours under the guise of "posting" something). People here feel the same way. People here care the same way.

It is no coincidence that after lurking for months, my very first post on BN came immediately after this:

(via jtthirtyfour)

BN gave me a venue to share those incredible Bruin moments with a crazy and delirious crowd of partisans. I logged in simply to type Go Bruins!! or Yay!!! or some other not so terribly clever comment in the game thread, and mentioned that it was my first ever post and I just wanted to share it with fellow Bruins (I watched the whole game alone as the family was out of town during that game, too). And in doing so, I found a bunch of people whose all-time favorite sports moments were colored Powderkeg Blue and Gold, too. And it felt as much like home as any internet community could.

These games are also why I won't give up on the problems that are continuing at Morgan Center. While I don't think Dan Guerrero is maliciously running our athletics into the ground, there is no question that Guerrero has proven that he is not the right man for the job. You tried, Dan, but it hasn't worked and it hasn't been good enough. Until we get an Athletic Director who has the same passion we do (he doesn't) and who also has the skills to make needed actions happen (he doesn't), I'm afraid that there won't be anymore football moments like when we dominated *$c in the 90's. When we regularly went to Rose Bowls in the 80's and 90's, and to other major bowls in the meantime. When home games brought 90K to Pasadena and our uniforms were the best looking in the country. When Bruin fans celebrated deliriously as a group, instead of commiserated with each other the way we do now. When Bruin athletics fostered love and joy, it was returned by increasing donations and lifelong loyalty. If Guerrero doesn't leave soon, this generation of students will never realize that powerful, emotional, and eternal connection, and it will cost the University untold amounts of emotional support in financial support.

Losing that connection is a terrible waste, and a terrible mistake, and it doesn't have to happen.

One crazy inexplicable thing about Tim Tebow, he gives the Denver fans hope. Whether that hope is deserved or not doesn't really matter. What matters is that his team and its fans and this city are a lot better off because that hope exists.

That's why sports is important.

Unfortunately for U.C.L.A., Dan Guerrero does the opposite.

Contact the Chancellor: 1 310 825-2151 and chancellor@ucla.edu and demand a change.

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