I am 20-something years old, and in my 20-something years, I have witnessed some amazing sporting events and individual feats. I’ve seen 2 Kentucky national titles, I watched the greatest basketball player in history (Jordan), I’ve watched the greatest hockey player ever (Gretzky), and I am watching what I think will be the greatest baseball player ever (Pujols). I have seen Michael Phelps win the most gold medals in one Olympics, and watched the greatest individual clash in sports history (Federer-Nadal at Wimbledon).
But despite all of that, there are certain things I crave to see someday. Some of these things are huge accomplishments and other are small things that I just want to see happen. But nonetheless, my sports history will not be complete without these things:
1) UNDEFEATED COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON (Last time: Indiana, 1976)
Why: I only vaguely remember the 1991 UNLV team that entered the Final Four undefeated only to get upset by Duke. AndI will still contend that team was the only one in the modern era of basketball that could have beaten the ’96 UK team in a 7-game series. But that Rebels team blew the chance at immortality, and continue to leave the ’76 Indiana squad as the last undefeated team. Since that time, it has become increasingly difficult to run through a season undefeated because of the parity of talent across the country, plus the fact that teams play 5-6 more games in a season than they did in the 70’s. St. Joe’s went undefeated in the regular season and then lost in their conference tournament, andthen didn’t make the Final Four. Illinois lost their last game of the regular season on a last second 3-pointer, then lost to UNC in the national title game.
I really think this can be done, but it can only happen 2 ways: A mid-major (Gonzaga?) dominates a weak conference, and then catches a good draw in the NCAA Tournament OR a major conference team plays a weaker non-conference and then catches their conference in a down year. It’s why I think Kentucky might be the best guess for a team that could possibly run the table over the next 10 years. Nonetheless, if Kentucky is out, I am cheering for ANYBODY (sans Louisville) to go undefeated.
2) TRIPLE CROWN OF HORSE RACING (Last time: Affirmed, 1978)
Why: Let’s be honest, for most people, even in Kentucky, horse racing has become a sport that lasts 5 weeks a year, from the Kentucky Derby through the Belmont. But for those 5 weeks I get all wrapped up in these horses, and there typically poor speaking jockeys, the awkward trainers, and rich owners. One of my favorite athletes of all-time is Smarty Jones, who I thought was a lock to win the Triple Crown until he faded to 2nd in the Belmont. Every year, a new horse wins the Derby, and hopes begin for somebody to actually win this thing. Three decades we have gone now since Affirmed won all 3 races. 11 horses have gone to the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown, and all have failed.
That’s what makes this so interesting to me because it’s so difficult to do. I don’t want the format to change at all. I like that it’s nearly impossible to do for today’s “weaker” thoroughbreds. It just means that I will cherish it more when a horse finally accomplishes it. (Damn you, Smarty Jones).
3) TRIPLE CROWN OF BASEBALL (Last time: Carl Yastrzemski, 1968)
Why: Much like the horse racing feat, the Triple Crown of baseball is nearly impossible to do in today’s baseball atmosphere. Players are given “roles” they are supposed to play in the lineup. Leadoff and 2-hole hitters are supposed to be average and speed guys, the power hitters are not expected to hit for average. Catchers are not expected to hit at all. And so, we haven’t seen a player win the Triple Crown in 43 years. Only ONCE since Yaz completed the feat has a player finished in the Top 2 in all 3 statistical categories (Jeff Bagwell, 1994).
And truly, there is probably only one player that has a legit shot at winning the Triple Crown in today’s game and that’s Albert Pujols. Pujols has finished in the Top 3 in all 3 statistical categories at different points in his career, but never in the same season. And with guys like Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard firmly planted in the National League, its unlikely Pujols will win the HR crown again.
Let’s put it this way: In the current state of baseball, a Triple Crown is about as unlikely as a 30-game winner for pitchers. But, it would be so cool to see a guy need a home run in his final game to win the Triple Crown.
4) SUMO WRESTLER AS GOALIE (Last time: Never)
Why: Why doesn’t an NHL team try this during a preseason game. The NHL has rules on how large the pads of the goalie can be, but there is no rule on how big the body of the goalie can be. And I feel like if you were able to put a 600-pound man in front of that goal, it would take a fairly accurate shot to beat him.
Now, am I serious that this would be successful? Of course not. First of all, most 600-poundpeople couldn’t stand up on skates that long. But hell, they put Manute Bol on a hockey team for a night, can they not at least try putting a sumo wrestler in goal.
5) (LATE EDITION) FULL INSTANT REPLAY IN BASEBALL
Why: Ummmm, if I really need to explain this, then please turn on a television.