Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan: I Just Spent 8 Hours, 1/4 of a Bottle of Whiskey, & 5,000 Words On the Greatest Sports Plays of All Time (Part 2 of 2)

Hi there! This is Part Two of a Two-Part Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan feature: I Just Spent 8 Hours, 1/4 of a Bottle of Whiskey, and 5,000 Words On the Greatest Sports Plays of All Time. (Click here for Part One.) Around midnight of December 18th, I sat back with a fairly comprehensive Bleacher Report article (as they go), my laptop, a bottle of whiskey, a recliner chair, a big screen TV, and a YouTube to investigate what makes the “All Time Classic Plays” just so. Eight hours later, I had many thoughts, maybe even answers!1 In Part Two I continue analyzing the remaining 25 most amazing plays in that article, before tallying up the results to determine which factors are most likely to make a play one we’ll remember forever.

#25: Best Ping Pong Rally of All Time
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

… Alrighty then, moving on.

#24: Brian Kownacki Makes Superman Leap
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 10
  • Play Significance: 7
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: You bet your #%# I have.

This is freakin’ awesome. A great play, also I’m totally kindred spirits with whoever is calling this game, whatever it is. Apparently a college affair between, at-best, middling teams. But listen to the announcer go! All the important details, including what a miraculous comeback this is completing. Oh yeah. Adding the quality of the play-by-play call to the list of factors I should have included.

#23: Antonio Freeman
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (Oh yes. Live I think. The ball on the helmet/neck area brings it all back.)

I totally remember seeing this. Very nostalgic. I was in the fourth grade, and I definitely talked about it at school that week with a new girl in our class, who loved football and Brett Favre, and had moved to my town from Kansas. Super nostalgic. Also pretty crazy even as crazy catches go.

#22: David Tyree Catch
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Game Significance: 10
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 4
  • Vegas Panic: 10
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Oh my goodness, this is only good for #22? I still don’t know what’s more amazing, that Tyree caught it or that Manning didn’t get sacked. Also against Brady and quite possibly the best football team in history? IN THE SUPER BOWL? Kind of a bummer it was in Phoenix. Also I didn’t actually see this one live; with the Pats leading in the second half, I went with my host family in Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico out on the town. I heard they lost a couple of hours later. The thing is, normally I re-watch most 49er games, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to see the 2011 (season) NFC Championship game or last year’s Super Bowl since they happened. I can’t even imagine how agonizing this play is for Pats fans. I’m guessing like at least 10-50 times as bad as Kyle Williams fumbling those punts.

#21: Jim Edmonds Leaping Catch
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 3
  • Star Factor: 3
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

I can only assume The Catch (in baseball, though oddly sort of almost San Francisco, coming in one of the final years of the Polo Grounds) from Willie Mays is coming up? Because it’s pretty similar, AND he had to hop back up and make a throw to the plate?

#20: Mikael Nilsson Curls It Around the Wall
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 5
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

It took me a couple takes to figure out what’s wrong with this video. At first I kept thinking what made it so unusual is that Nilsson puts the ball to the wrong side of the wall, the side where the goalkeeper already is. For instance, if you go back and watch Roberto Carlos’ free kick (which, to be fair, is the perfect free kick), you’ll notice the goalkeeper is to Carlos’ left of the wall, and he puts the ball around (his) right side. But it’s not Nilsson’s fault; the wall isn’t lined up on the near post, or any post, it’s just in the middle of the goal. That’s super dumb and inexcusable. The whole point of the wall is to make the goal smaller, not to split the goal into pieces far away from each other that the keeper must still protect. Dunno what PSV was doing.

#19: Music City Miracle
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 7
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 3
  • Vegas Panic: 7
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Another factor I maybe should have mentioned: controversy. The announcers pick up on the forward lateral, live, up in the booth. They didn’t even need a replay. And while I may have missed one or two, I think this is only the fourth play on the list so far to have a true name, after the Bluegrass Miracle, Miracle at the New Meadowlands, and the 0.4 Shot, which curiously all ranked next to each other at 49-47, respectively.2 Hm.

#18: Full Court Miracle (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 6
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

WOW!!! Wow wow wow wow wow. Wow. Definitely worth a watch. The ole’ chuck-it-towards-the-hoop-there’s-no-time-left maneuver is hardly original, but from underneath your own basket, off a rebound, with 0.6 (!!!) seconds left? No way. Just no. Unbelievable. Someone tell me this YouTube video is a hoax. Oh, also apparently that was in overtime. The whole Guilford college thing is all that’s bringing this down. Oh also his name is Jim Snipes. Classic.

#17: Buehrle’s No-Look
  • Atmosphere: 4 (Opening day!)
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Only a nine for originality because come on Buehrle, you’re just copying Federer! Move on, dude.

#16: Earl Campbell Runs over the Rams
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 5
  • Star Factor: 7
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Can you imagine if we had the Internet, and memes, and hashtags in the 1970s (Thinking…) DON’T. Can you imagine if Earl Campbell was 25 years old and ripped off that play today? Crazy. The best part is how nonchalantly he jogs off the field to get a new jersey (and comes back in one play later). What a B0$$.

#15: Willie Mays the Catch
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Game Significance: 10
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 5
  • I’ve seen this before: Uh, yeah, my dad might have made me watch it twenty or a hundred times or so (quite justifiably).

There it is! Say Hey! Remember when I said “The Catch” (baseball edition) is everything and more than that silly Jim Edmonds’ wimp-#^@ diving catch is? See how right I was? Running back, looking over his head for several yards. Game One of the WORLD SERIES. Leaping back up afterwards to throw home and keep those base runners from scoring. WILLIE MAYS. Magical.3

#14: Flutie Hail Mary
  • Atmosphere: 5
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Pretty much nowhere close to as miraculous as the Bluegrass Miracle… except Doug Flutie! Look at him go! What a guy.

#13: Roberto Carlos vs. Tenerife
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 5
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

More ridiculous than the free kick I suppose, what with it being a live ball and everything, but also… stupider. Not bad though. (I mean, I probably couldn’t do that.)

#12: Jeter Flip
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 7
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 3
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (My father and I completely lost it when this happened. What was he doing? How did he know?)

I broke my rules and looked up some things about this play. Apparently Jeter had been practicing it all season long at the suggestion of Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer, after a throw got away in a similar fashion in spring training. You know, because he’s Derek Jeter and he needs to be ready FOR EVERYTHING. Just in case. Good call, Derek. Good freakin’ call.

#11: Boise State Miracle (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 11
  • Play Significance: 11
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 10
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. Live, and many, many times after.

Okay, so Bleacher Report’s Austin Schindel cheated by putting two plays in one, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest because both plays would receive the same score independent of one another because they are both ludicrous and probably tie for the second best play in college football ever, and I love them more than my family. (Well, almost as much.) And if you even try to refute that Boise State turned it up to 11 on those plays, I will punch you in the solar plexus. 4th&18? Fine. A magical play that scores a touchdown? Sure. OFF A HOOK AND LADDER? You bet. ON NATIONAL TV AGAINST A NATIONAL POWERHOUSE NO ONE THOUGHT YOU DESERVED TO PLAY IN THE FIRST PLACE? Why not? That’s play one. Then, maybe ten minutes later in overtime, ANOTHER absurd trick play, even more ridiculous than the last? Okay… ON A 2 PT CONVERSION ATTEMPT when the conventional wisdom says you kick the extra point and keep playing? Every college football game I have watched since then, I’ve only watched on account of my hope that something even half as fantastic will happen again. Oh yeah, also the on-field marriage proposal right at the end… well done Ian Johnson. And well done Boise State. Frickin’ A.

#10: Immaculate Reception
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 9
  • Vegas Panic: 7
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

An alleged conversation the refs had with the Pittsburgh Police Department before actually ruling the play a touchdown (it took them some time):

Ref:

How many police can you get here to escort me out after the game?

Pittsburgh Police Department:

I dunno, maybe six?

Ref:

SIX?!? Well in that case, SIX FOR PITTSBURGH!

#9: Vince Carter Dunks over Weis
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Game Significance: 3
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Ehh, isn’t Nate Washington stuffing Yao Ming cooler?

#8: Rooney Bicycle Kick (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 6
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 9
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Yeah… a bicycle kick is incredible. Scoring one, more so. Off a high-speed cross, more so. To win the game in the final minutes, more so. Against your team’s big rival, more so. In the English Premiere League… I could go on.

#7: Jerome Simpson Flip
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 3
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Certainly makes those guys who settled for merely hurdling the defense look like a bunch of chumps, right?

#6: Marshawn Lynch Beast Mode (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 9
  • Star Factor: 7
  • Vegas Panic: 10
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (Live, of course.)

As a lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers, and a friend of a Saints fan with whom I was watching the game, I must say that this is a positively glorious run by Marshawn Lynch. We remember how we laughed our #%#es off that the 7-9 Seahawks were in the playoffs at all, let alone hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in the first round. After playing well the whole way, the Seahawks saw the Saints get within a touchdown. They had to answer. And Lynch did, about seven or eight times, throwing a defender down to the ground in the process. And I know Seahawks fans are down on me after I seemingly took a big crap on their stadium yesterday, but I love how the noise builds over the course of the 67 yards. The Marshawn Lynch train is coming through town and it’s not stopping for nobody, no matter how many Saints march into that number. I just watched it like three times, it’s so great. I listened to it with my eyes closed. The announcers point out right at the beginning that the stadium has grown quiet. It’s perfect.

#5: Blake Griffin: Monster
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 2
  • Play Significance: 2
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Certainly one of the more powerful dunks in history, but other than that…

#4: Jose Guillen Has a Cannon
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 4
  • Star Factor: 4
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

It’s all in the improvisation. He goes for the up-against-the-wall catch, and upon failing immediately finds the ball and trebuchets that %#^$er in there to third from the track in right, without a hop. Ichiro’s may have been more impressive in that he nailed a speedier runner, but still, a pretty darn good throw.

#3: Ovechkin Goal
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Once again, how come more people don’t like hockey? (But also seriously why did we put an NHL team in Phoenix? We know their NBA team is “the Suns”, right? Not so good for the hockey.)

#2: Amazing Catch by Alabama Receiver
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 4
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 3
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Helluva’ catch, helluva’ catch. Obviously this list predates the Alabama catastrophe that was the 2013 Iron Bowl, which should surely find itself among such lists in the future.

We’ve nearly reached the end of Bleacher Report’s 50 Most Amazing Plays of All Time (published back in February, 2012), down to the number one play. Of the 49 so far, I’ve taken a sip of whiskey for the 30 I had not seen before. I’m feeling in touch with the list, and my sportsfan self, and I’m betting a shot that the number one play is The Play, the Cal-Stanford “THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD!” Play. If I’m right, I win by saving whiskey for later; if I’m wrong, I win by taking a shot of whiskey and going to bed. And here we go!

#1: Tiger Woods on the 16th Hole

AAAAUUUGGGHHH OF COURSE! The cover picture was Tiger! No golf the whole way through, and then this! ALSO HOW DOES THE CAL-STANFORD PLAY NOT GET ON THIS LIST? THE SAINTS’ LATERAL PLAY GETS ON THE LIST FOR A MISSED EXTRA POINT, BUT THE CAL-STANFORD PLAY, COMPLETE WITH PERCUSSION AND WIND SECTIONS, DOESN’T CUT IT? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME BLEACHER REPORT??? … I really did not see that coming… like any most amazing sports play? Well, muck it.4

#1: Tiger Woods on the 16th Hole
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 9
  • Originality: 10
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Alright, I will concede that this is an amazing shot, and probably one of the most difficult feats of any of the plays. And the drama is incredible! Obviously it’s going in if it’s number one, but it slowed down so much I did wonder for a few fleeting moments. Well, that’s my score of the 50 plays. Which brings us to…

The Results

Overall Scoring Breakdown

  • 1. Play Significance: 301, average 6.02, standard deviation 3.3
  • 2. Originality: 295, AVG 5.9, SD 2.6
  • 3. Atmosphere: 207, 4.14, 2.89
  • 4. Star Factor: 206, 4.12, 3.16
  • 5. Game Significance: 167, 3.34, 2.92
  • 6. Vegas Panic: 127, 2.54, 2.58

The results of this positively unscientific and whimsical process couldn’t be clearer: it’s a play’s impact on a game’s outcome, and how unusually the players pull it off, that are most likely to set a play apart.5 The atmosphere of the game and the presence of any stars in the sport are significant, but lesser contributions to a play’s ultimate “amazingness”, with the significance of the game itself being lesser still. The Vegas Panic stat that I completely ad-libbed was generally irrelevant, although I’m confident it had its moments (like the first Pats-Giants Super Bowl).

In terms of straight-up plays that are most likely to be remembered, I’d bet that game significance would become, uh, more significant. For instance, The Catch (football, not to mention The Catch II and The Catch III) isn’t as technically difficult as many of the (football) catches Schindel selected, but it’s probably more widely remembered than all of them combined, because we now know that the play launched the 49ers into the first of their four Super Bowl Championships in the 80s, cementing them as the team of the decade. (Also Vin Scully’s call is fantastic.)

My Top 10

After adding up scores for all 50 plays (not bringing in other plays even if I thought they were worthy), here are the ones I graded the highest (sum score of all six factors in parentheses):

If I had added other plays in? Off the top of my head, there are some baseball home runs missing (Bobby ThomsonCarlton FiskKirk Gibson), a few basketball game winners (JordanJordan…), a few soccer goals (MaradonnaMaradona again in the same match…), Olympic craziness (Jason Lezak, Phelps’ Touch-Out), and I already mentioned how all the women are missing. Oh, and The Play, duh. I know there are some others I can’t think of at the moment, so drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter (@candid_colin) if you know of something I need to see. I already can’t wait to do this again. Until next time.


  1. And of course a great deal of questions as well. Why are people so awesome and put together all these YouTube videos? How could Bleacher Report do this to me? Is it light outside? 
  2. I guess you could throw in “The Helmet Catch” for David Tyree, and many people dub Carlos’ free kick “The Ultimate Masterpiece”. 
  3. Check out what Wikipedia says about The Catch! Many of the same questions I myself have grappled with in this feature. 
  4. I took the shot in two parts. I think that’s fair, as this post is two parts. Also looking at the comments on the article, author Austin Schindel replies to a list of not-featured plays, including “THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD!”, as such: “All great plays and a bunch of those were in the last 5 out. It’s hard to find the most amazing plays accross (sic) the board but I appreciate the comment.” You’ve got like a half-dozen plays of college football, yo. You’re saying you remembered the band and decided it really wasn’t one of the most amazing plays? (shakes head sadly) 
  5.  At least for the 50 plays Schindel chose. As usual, more research is needed. I demand more research. And I’ll be supplying it too. Stay tuned. 
4 comments
  1. Victor said:

    Nice article….but I just watched Jason Lezak’s finish again, and no sporting play makes me more emotional than that. WOW.

  2. Rebecca Weaver said:

    …and 2 hours later I can finally start on my homework. Thanks, jerk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: