Last week we talked about our first experience attending a Carolina game. Today's question is about our best experiences attending games. This is a broader question about your favorite experiences as a sports fan, so it isn't limited to Carolina or even college games, it can be any sport, at any level. What are the 5 best sporting events you've ever been to?
I've gotten to go to some really cool things in my life, and given that South Carolina hasn't played a ton of meaningful games in sports that aren't in baseball (almost all of which I've missed), here's the top five:
5. Game 4, NLDS, Nationals v. Cardinals, 2012. The Nationals needed a win to extend the series, and I had tickets to two NLCS games, so I was fully invested in Natitude. The game went to the ninth tied 1-1 with the two teams combining for just five hits, but as the first man up in the bottom of the ninth, Jayson Werth sent a ball into deep center field to send the Nationals into a Game 5.
The fact that they would go on to blow that Game 5 knocks this game down a bit, but not much. It was a really great game.
4. South Carolina v. Florida, 2010. The Gamecock football team wins its first championship since 1969. I'm still pretty giddy thinking about this one.
3. Game 5, NLDS, Cubs v. Braves, 2003. As a Cubs fan who grew up in the heart of Braves country, this was particularly sweet. We stayed for two hours after the game celebrating with each other and the players, who came out to spray champagne on the fans that remained and even shared a few bottles with Underaged Hoops. Unfortunately for Chicago, the season ended after this game and let's just all agree that's what happened OK?
2. 2006 World Cup Final. I got to be there as Zidane head-butted his way into infamy, and I, like everyone else in the stadium, didn't see it.
So the World Cup is the best thing in the world and you should go if you can, but one thing that is (or at least, was in 2006) crummy about it is that they don't show replays in the stadium, because it incites crowd violence. Yes, international soccer is a #badsportstown.
So, with the ball moving toward the French goal and Zidane trailing the play, no one saw what happened. We just saw an Italian on the ground - which we'd seen basically all tournament - a long delay, and then a red card.
The 1-1 game wasn't actually all that great, but it was a World Cup final, and stakes matter. Plus, Zidane's last game. Pretty great.
1. 2006 World Cup Semifinal. Take everything above about how great the World Cup is, and then get the home team involved. In Dortmund, the Germans played the Italians, and the crowd was utterly fantastic, and a German threw dried spaghetti at an Italian fan, and Mexicans came up to me and wished me a happy Fourth of July, and...
Seriously, what a great game. Until the damn ending where Italy plucked two goals in extra time to knock out the Germans. But still, the World Cup is amazing, and it's at its peak when the host country is playing meaningful games. This is the best, and I don't think it's ever going to get beat.
I'll be honest; I haven't been to a ton of live sporting events other than Carolina football games and South Alabama basketball games, so take my experiences for what they're worth. Here goes, though.
5. 2014 South Carolina-South Alabama. Obviously not a particularly exciting game, but I hold degrees from both institutions, so this was a fun game for me personally.
4. 2010 South Carolina-Florida St. I know this will seem like a weird pick, but I had a lot of fun on this trip. The Chick-fil-A folks do a really great job with this bowl. The game itself, though, was pretty painful, with Marcus Lattimore getting knocked out of the game with a concussion on the opening drive and Stephen Garcia proceeding to throw a ton of interceptions over the rest of the contest.
3. 2006 South Carolina-Florida Atlantic. This was the first time I saw Carolina live. It was a fun game to watch; Sidney Rice broke school records for both TDs scored and TD receptions with five.
2. 2011 South Carolina-ECU. This game was played at BOA Stadium in Charlotte. Everyone was pumped up for the 2011 season, as many thought we had a national title contender that year. The game started inauspiciously with Carolina going down 17-0, but the Gamecocks roared back when Stephen Garcia came into replace Connor Shaw. In hindsight, maybe the Gamecocks should have stuck with Shaw. In any event, an exciting game to watch.
1. 2012 South Carolina-UGA. For years, every time I went to see Carolina play a marquee opponent, the Gamecocks crapped the bed and figured out a way to lose. This time, though, Carolina completely outperformed expectations. The stadium absolutely rocked during this game, too. I'll never forget the crowd reaction when Ace Sanders took the punt back for a TD.
I'm wildly jealous of ChickenHoops and all the cool things he's been to because like Gamecock Man, most of my live sports experience has been local to where I am. I've still been to plenty of great games over the last several years though, so here's my top 5:
5. 2009 South Carolina-Ole Miss. This was my first big game as a student and was the night that I fell completely in love with college football. Upsetting the #4 team in the country and being a part of the start of a new tradition (Sandstorm!) tends to make a game pretty special.
4. 2012 Hartsville-Strom Thurmond. This was the South Carolina high school football 3A lower state championship game.Never underestimate how much high school football can mean in a small town; the stadium was packed over an hour before kickoff and it was one of the most intense, emotional game atmospheres I've ever been in. Hartsville's victory was sealed by a 70 yard fumble return for a touchdown. It was beautiful.
3. June 2, 2012 South Carolina-Clemson. An extra-inning postseason rivalry victory in a sold out Carolina Stadium is an experience that I highly recommend.
2. 2010 South Carolina-Alabama. The euphoria in the stadium in the final minutes of this game as everyone realized we were really about to beat the #1 team in the country was just so much fun to be a part of.
1. 2012 South Carolina-Georgia. College GameDay, hours of wonderful tailgating, largest crowd in Williams-Brice history, absolutely crushing a top 5 Georgia team, the feeling that our team could accomplish anything. There is no part of this game that wasn't amazing.
Most of my live sports experience is also Gamecocks-related, with the occasional Cubs/Blackhawks/Northwestern vs. Illinois game thrown in for good measure. Here are my top five games:
5. April 2012 Cubs vs. Cardinals - I went to this game with a friend of mine who's a giant Cardinals fan and who loves to talk a lot of trash about the Cubs and remind me the Cardinals are the best thing to ever happen to baseball. I didn't have high hopes for things going well, because Cubs vs. Cardinals, but somehow, the Cubs proved me wrong. They rallied to tie the game in the ninth, then scored the winning run in the tenth inning. It's rare that I can hold something over the Cardinals fan, but for one night, I could. It was wonderful.
4. 2010 South Carolina vs. Clemson - This was the only time I saw a Carolina-Clemson game in person, because I gave away my ticket to the game my freshman year. The Gamecocks won convincingly, which was obviously the best part, but given how much dislike for Clemson I'd built up in three years, it was nice to actually be at the rivalry game.
3. 2009 South Carolina vs. Ole Miss - Up until the 2010 Alabama game, this was hands down the best game I'd been to. I don't remember anything specific that happened, but I remember the feeling of excitement getting more and more palpable as the last seconds ticked away and everyone realized South Carolina was actually going to pull off a big-time upset. This is also the game where Sandstorming became a thing.
2. 2010 South Carolina vs. Alabama - My family opted to come visit me for this game, thinking that even if the Gamecocks lost, at least Alabama was good and they'd get to see some good football. They not only got good football, they also got to see South Carolina make history in the process. That was one of the few games that I didn't sit in the student section, and though I wish I'd been down there, there was really nowhere that wasn't a good place to be in Williams-Brice that day.
1. 2014 South Carolina vs. Wisconsin - This was the first bowl game I'd ever been to and the first time I'd ever been a credentialed sports media member, so I was both excited and feeling slightly important. The Gamecocks rallied and hung on to win, it was the last game that guys like Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington, and Jadeveon Clowney played for South Carolina, and I got to go to the post-game press conference with Connor, Bruce and Spurrier, so it was basically the coolest day of my life.