Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The List: MTAC's Moments 10-6 of 2007

You may think I am going to list the Mitchell Report, or the Kobe "trade me/keep me/trade me" saga from the summer, or even the Colorado Rockies winning 21 of 22 on their way to the improbable World Series run. Not happening. This list is dedicated to my teams. The moments that moved me to happiness, anger, bitterness, and pure unadulterated joy. Things that just missed this list were Jamal Lewis' 31 yard TD run to ice the Jets game where he carried five tacklers on his way to paydirt. Casey Blake's unbelievable week ending with his 11th inning walkoff HR to essentially put the nail in the coffin of the Tigers. Josh Cribbs tip-toe kick return against the Steelers. Ben Francisco's unlikely walkoff Home Run against the Devil Rays in July, and Darnell Jackson's tip jam against UCLA in the West Regional Final. Why is that significant? My son was about three weeks old and I jumped out of my seat and yelled "ughhhhhhhhh" so loud it scared him into tears. So here we go, the MTAC top 10 moments of 2007 starting with 10-6.

10 tie. The Shopp-Vack Sends Us Home Happy - Of all of the players you would expect to hit a walkoff home run in a big spot pinch-hitting, would you ever think it would be backup catcher Kelly Shoppach? Me neither. But it happened on June 26th.

The Tribe trailed 5-3 going into the ninth against interim A's closer and former Indian Alan Embree. There was two down with a man on when the rally took shape. Victor Martinez walked. Travis Hafner doubled to tie the game at five. With first base open, Jhonny Peralta was intentionally walked, bringing up Mike Rouse's spot in the order. We all know how great Rouse is with the stick, especially against lefties. Eric Wedge had one right handed bat left; Shoppach. He deposited a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers for the 8-5 win.

"It was do or die," the catcher said. "I knew he'd go with his bread and butter and not let a young guy beat him on his second or third pitch."

10 tie. Fun in the Snow down at the Lake Front - Maybe the best time I had at any Browns game since I was a kid happened just a few short weeks ago. I described it
in this blog entry, but being at the Browns 8-0 win over the Bills was an experience I will never forget.

The cold, the blowing snow, Phil Dawson's unbelievable 49 yard Field Goal, my seemingly endless layers of clothing. What a day. The Browns won. I nearly killed myself falling twice trying to walk up a hill to my car. Getting into the Stadium was like a mosh pit. But it was all worth it. Props to my aunt and uncle for being there as well.

9. KU Takes the Big 12 title in Hoops...Again - The Kansas/Texas game of 2006 both had major significance. The first was on the last day of the regular season. The teams met in Lawrence with KU winning 90-86 and taking home the Big 12 regular season title outright. That was the first game was son was alive for. We brought him home from the hospital the day before and he took in that game with his daddy.

Eight days later, the same two teams met in Dallas for the Big 12 tournament title. Texas featured the country's best player, Kevin Durant. On this day, his 37 points in regulation weren't enough. Trailing by three with 15 seconds left, Mario Chalmers, with ice water in his veins, nailed the game tying three, forcing OT.

From there, the Jayhawks talent took over. Freshman Guard Sherron Collins was magnificent, scoring 20 off the bench to lead KU. Julian Wright and Brandon Rush each had 19 and Chalmers had 17. "That's one of the best games I've ever been a part of. That comeback in Lawrence paled in comparison," said KU coach Bill Self, whose team erased a 16-point deficit to beat Texas a week earlier.

8. Derek Who? The Browns Offense Comes Alive - It was the second week of the NFL season. One week after the Browns were disgraced 34-7 at home by the Steelers and looking like the worst team in the NFL. Six days earlier QB Charlie Frye had been dealt to Seattle. Things looked bleak. Then the Cincinnati Bengals came to town and everything changed.

I took my father in law to this game who hadn't been to a Browns game since Red Right 88. What he witnessed was something none of us had seen in the new Browns era. The team had it's new QB. Derek Anderson, the man who couldn't beat out the pathetic Frye in preseason, looked like the second coming of Tom Brady, throwing for 328 yards and a Browns record-tying five TD passes. Jamal Lewis looked like the 2002 version, running for 216 yards including a 66 yard TD run in the Browns 51-45 victory.

This game was a foreshadowing of the season to come. An exciting, upstart offense with a rocket-armed QB and his talented pass catchers Braylon Edwards (8 catches for 146, 2 TD's), Kellen Winslow (6 for 100 and 1), and Joe Jurevicius (4 for 44, and 2) to go with a defense as bad as their is in the NFL. They allowed Carson Palmer (my fantasy QB) to throw for 401 yards and six TD passes. Yet the Browns still won this shootout after CB Leigh Bodden picked off a Palmer pass, ending the attempt at a Bengals comeback.

Said GM Phil Savage after the tumultuous week: "We live close to Cedar Point," referring to the popular amusement park. "It has been a rollercoaster. We won a game that nobody expected us to win." At the time, I said this was the most exciting game in the new Stadium's short history.

7. The Tiger Comeback - One for the Ages - In the interest of full disclosure, I was at this game, but when Detroit took a 9-5 lead in the eighth, the MTAC crew was outta there. The Tribe cut it to 9-7 with back to back singles in the eighth by Trot Nixon and Josh Barfield, but gas can Fernando Cabrera came in and the flames got hotter.

Before you can say "this guy will be cut tomorrow," it was 11-7. But then the rally began. With Tiger closer and Joe Borowski clone Todd Jones on the mound, pitching his fourth game in five nights, Casey Blake singled and Travis Hafner walked with one down. Victor Martinez had one of his many big hits in the 07 season, a three run shot to cut the lead to 11-10. I was home at the palatial MTAC estate at this point watching the end.

Jhonny Peralta doubled to right. Wedge used Mike "the worst played in the majors" Rouse as a pinch runner and Jones intentionally walked Trot Nixon (do you believe that?). With two down, Josh Barfield tied the game with a single, bringing up David Dellucci. The offseason signing which was a colossal mistake only paid off once. On this night. He delivered his only big hit of the season, a game winning single up the middle scoring Nixon. It was a five run comeback in the final two innings against the team the Tribe would be fighting with, and eventually beat, for the AL Central division crown.

6. Dawson doinks it in - The man we dubbed "Philly the Groin" booted home one of the most memorable kicks in Browns history. Previous to this, you'd have to say Rich Karlis' "did it go in or not?" kick in OT of the 1986 AFC title game ranked #1.

You all know what happened. On the last play of regulation with a stiff wind in his face, on the road against the hated Baltimore Ravens, Dawson drilled a shot the hit off of the support which kicked back into the field if play and ruled no good. After the referees conferred on the field, referee Pete Morelli went under the hood to look at something. That something was not reviewable.

What happened under that hood we will never know, but the call was corrected. Dawson's kick was good, and the Browns went to overtime where they eventually won. The beauty of it all was being able to stick it to the preening schmo himself, Brian Billick.

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