2000 Sports Moments
Clemens Goes Batty, Carter Plays Leapfrog, and Rulon Gardner Upsets
by Mike Morrison, Gerry Brown, and John Gettings
Clemens Goes Batty
It was the most memorable moment of the Subway Series and arguably the year in sports. But months later we are still asking ourselves, "What was that?" N.Y. Mets catcher Mike Piazza shatters his bat during a plate appearance in Game 2 of the World Series against Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, who three months earlier Piazza accused of intentionally throwing at him. The jagged head of the bat rolled out towards Clemens as Piazza heads up the first baseline. Clemens fields bat as if it were a ball in play and throws it towards Piazza. Was it intimidation? Was it intentional? Was Clemens (as he explained later) confused? Were we, and Piazza, mistaken? What was that?
Dyson Jonesing for One More Yard
Trailing 16–0 in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXIV, the Tennessee Titans offense became inspired by the team's defense, which had contained the favored St. Louis Rams better than most teams. Titans quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George led the comeback and tied the game with two minutes and change left. A quick Rams strike required more Tennessee magic. The Titans drove down the field in the game's final minute and the final play was a moment to remember. McNair rolled out of the pocket at the Rams' 10–yard line and six seconds remaining, avoided a sack and hit wide receiver Kevin Dyson with a pass over the middle at the 3–yard line. Dyson stretched out towards the end zone but was wrapped up by St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones, ending one of the most dramatic fourth quarters in Super Bowl history.
No Shea at the Beach
In light of his derogatory remarks about New York City and its commuters on the #7 train, John Rocker's late-June visit to Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y. was bound to be interesting. The Atlanta Braves pitcher later admitted his comments made him sound "like a complete jerk," and to make up for it he was going to take the #7 train to the game against the Mets. New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani told him that wouldn't be a good idea. After all, most New Yorkers were pleading for Rocker to climb under, rather than on the train. More than 700 security officials were assigned to the stadium and the visitors bullpen was reinforced with a special security fence and covering. But the anticipation of Rocker's trip to the mound was a bigger moment than the actual event. Rocker worked a perfect eighth inning and all disasters were avoided.
Who Says 13 is Unlucky?
Certainly not Pete Sampras. As if winning his seventh Wimbledon singles championship wasn't impressive enough, this one was even more special. His 6–7, 7–6, 6–4, 6–2 victory over Patrick Rafter was his 13th Grand Slam singles title, breaking the long-time mark of 12 held by Roy Emerson. Making the moment even more memorable was the fact that Sampras' parents, Sam and Georgia, were at the All England Club for the first time to see their son's record-setting performance. Pete also married actress/model Bridgette Wilson in 2000, which was a close runner-up to this moment.
A Black Eye for Hockey
The Marty McSorley incident caused an avalanche of "I told you so's" from the legion of sports fans that believe hockey is too violent. After being pummeled in a fight earlier in the game against Vancouver enforcer Donald Brashear, McSorley returned to the ice with under a minute to go and leveled a vicious two-handed hack with his stick to Brashear's temple. He later said he was aiming for Brashear's shoulder, which is a lie. The league and the Canadian court system didn't buy it either. He also said he regretted what he did. That was not a lie. McSorley essentially earned his living trying to protect his teammates from cheap shots and high sticks. His action was disgusting and indefensible but it's a shame that when all is said and done, it will be his lasting legacy.
Storming the Beach
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that what Tiger Woods accomplished at the 2000 U.S. Open was one of the most amazing individual feats in sports history. Tiger turned the tough Pebble Beach course into his personal playground from June 15–18, winning the tournament by an incredible 15 strokes, the largest margin of victory ever at a major tournament. He led wire–to–wire and finished with a 12–under–par 272. In all, he broke or tied nine records at the tournament. It was only his first of three major championships in 2000, but it turned him into a living legend.
Carter Plays Leapfrog
"For me, that was probably the greatest play in basketball I've ever seen," said amazed Team USA basketball star Jason Kidd, after watching what his teammate Vince Carter did to poor Frederic Weis in the United States' 106–94 victory over France at the Olympics. Four minutes into the second half, Carter took the ball and bolted towards the hoop with only Weis standing in his way. Instead of pulling up with a jumper or trying to outmaneuver Weis, Carter decided to go OVER him. He literally jumped, spread his legs in mid-air, leapfrogged Weis, and slammed the ball home. Now consider this: Weis is 7–foot–2!
Music City Miracle
The Buffalo Bills looked like they were advancing to next round of the NFL playoffs. After Bills head coach Wade Phillips made a decision to replace starting quarterback Doug Flutie, with former starter Rob Johnson, a move that was met with much controversy. Phillips looked to be exonerated, at least for one week, when Johnson led the Bills on a late and apparent game-winning drive against the Tennessee Titans. The Bills had taken a 16–15 lead with 16 seconds left. But then Titans head coach Jeff Fisher called for a gadget play on the kickoff. What followed proved to be more controversial in Buffalo than any change at quarterback. Here's what happened:
Lorenzo Neal fielded the intentionally short kick and handed the ball to tight end Frank Wycheck who turned to his left and fired the ball overhand across the field, in what initially appeared to be a forward pass and therefore would be illegal. Kevin Dyson caught the pass and, behind several blockers, raced 75 yards up the left sideline to the endzone for the touchdown and the stunning victory. The play held up under the closer scrutiny of instant replay and the Titans advanced.
Rulon Gardner Upsets
He might not have been an Italian stallion from the streets of Philadelphia but, regardless, he was the real-life Rocky Balboa. The farm boy from Montana shocked the world when he took down the invincible Russian bear, Alexandre Kareline, in the super heavyweight gold medal match of the Olympic Greco–Roman wrestling competition in Sydney. Kareline, who had won three straight Olympic gold medals, was primed for his fourth. Why not? He hadn't lost a single match in more than 13 years! IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch showed up before the match to personally award Kareline's fourth gold but instead handed him the silver as Gardner, smiling ear to ear, got the gold medal treatment.
Cathy Freeman Lights the Olympic Flame
In what has to be the single most enduring image of the Sydney Games, Australian track star and Aborigine Cathy Freeman stood in front of a crowd 120,000 at Olympic Stadium in Sydney and a television audience of countless millions. It was a memorable moment not only because it was getting the 2000 Summer Games started but because Freeman, a representative of the continent's indigenous people, helped heal the wounds of racial injustices that were inflicted long ago. She seemed up to the enormous task and delivered on the country's great hopes for her when she won the women's 400 meter gold medal.