…was the Iron Bowl between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met on the gridiron 78 times, but the most recent was arguably the most memorable. Heading into the game, two-time defending champion Alabama was 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country, while 10-1 Auburn was ranked No. 4. With one second left on the clock and the score tied 28-28, Alabama kicker Cade Foster stepped up for a 57-yard field goal attempt, but it fell short. As time expired, Auburn kick returner Chris Davis received the missed field goal and proceeded to return it 109 yards for a touchdown. His game-winning return capped my favorite moment because its impact was felt not only in the state of Alabama, but also throughout college football. Davis ran his way into Iron Bowl lore and ended a modern day dynasty.
…was the Philadelphia Eagles hiring Chip Kelly. I saw his University of Oregon Ducks scoring points at a crazy rate in the Pac-12, and was excited to see what he would do with the Eagles after a stale last few years of Andy Reid. Kelly turned Nick Foles into a great quarterback and LeSean McCoy into an elite running back while lighting up the scoreboard. Simply, the coaching change had me looking forward to the team after almost 15 years of the same coach. Reid showed why he was fired last offseason when his Kansas City Chiefs blew a 28-point lead to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. His atrocious play calling and clock mismanagement that cost the Chiefs a win was what we constantly saw in Philadelphia for years. That collapse against the Colts made the hiring of Kelly even better in my eyes.
…was Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. You will never watch a better basketball game. Never. LeBron James and the Miami Heat used a life affirming three-pointer from Ray Allen — the greatest three-point shooter of all time — to beat quite possibly the longest-standing dynasty in NBA history, all after James scored 16 points in a single quarter — without his trademark headband — to bring his team back from 10 down with 15 minutes to play. James recorded yet another postseason triple-double. Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs were robbed of yet another NBA title. The shockwaves of that game will be felt for years to come. In a word, it was brilliant. In ten words, it was the best basketball game you will ever watch.
…was probably the best one of my life. The Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs — and had a winning record — for the first time since 1992, and I had to be there. I made the pilgrimage back to Pittsburgh to see the NL Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Reds, which featured the now-infamous “CUE-TO CUE-TO” chant that caused Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Cueto to drop the ball on the mound, followed immediately by a Russell Martin home run. A PNC Park record crowd of 40,487 was dressed for a blackout and the atmosphere was indescribable. Fans that have waited 21 years seized the moment and the team followed suit. The Pirates won the game 6-2 behind a spectacular pitching performance from Francisco Liriano and advanced to the NLDS, where they lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
…was the Ray Allen three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to force overtime with 5.2 seconds left. I’m not a Heat fan by any means, but this has to be it. The stakes: LeBron James’ newfound reputation as a serious contender for GOAT (Greatest of All Time), Tim Duncan’s fifth championship, and quite possibly the future of the entire league as a whole. To have this battle of the old (San Antonio Spurs) vs. the new (Miami Heat) systems for team-building come down to a single Allen three-pointer seemed like an appropriate way to end one era and begin another. Miami won Game 6 in overtime and then Game 7 for their second-consecutive championship. As far as I can tell, the future of the NBA as we know it changed with that shot.
…was Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel earning his 1,000th career victory. It was not just because of the accomplishment, but how perfect the story was. Not often does everything align perfectly to be fitting, but on Aug. 12 it did. For a few years, the Phillies replaced the Atlanta Braves as kings of NL East, as they followed Atlanta’s long reign with five consecutive division titles of their own. But after one and a half years of Phillies struggles, Manuel was fired and replaced by Ryne Sandberg only four days after his 1,000th win. What I will remember about that game was how it was won: Charlie Manuel style, with tremendous pitching and defense, and a three-run home run. Jimmy Rollins led off with a hit and Cole Hamels took care of the rest, as he dominated on the hill for a 5-1 victory. It was a flashback to golden times, now years removed.
…was the push for equality. 2013 was the Year of Jason Collins. It was the Year of Robbie Rogers. It was the Year of Brittney Griner. It was the Year of Fallon Fox. We learned how to use sports to challenge the status quo — to move society forward. When Collins, Rogers, Griner and Fox freed themselves from years of living in a lie to live a life of truth, they were accepted with open arms. When Russian president Vladimir Putin enacted a malicious series of anti-LGBTQ legislation just months prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics, the world spoke and vowed to not shutter their views. 2013 was the year sports made a push for equality. It was the year we found new role models and rethought our definition of courage. It was the year of being you.
…was the marathon Philadelphia Phillies game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The game lasted 18 innings, which took a total of seven hours and six minutes, and ultimately resulted in a heartbreaking 12-7 loss. We were at the stadium past 2 a.m., watching the stands slowly clear as the 7-7 tie persisted inning after inning. Both teams eventually exhausted their bullpens, and were left with no option but to scrounge up position players who could at least get the ball over the plate. While some may have been bored by the seemingly endless baseball, I loved seeing the entire record-setting game. Its anomalies included the 14th inning stretch and “pitchers” like John McDonald and Casper Wells. Despite the loss, I loved the opportunity to see players pushed to new limits and to experience a part of Phillies history.
…was the Boston Red Sox World Series championship. After the bombings at the Boston Marathon, our country was left in shock and disbelief. As our nation mourned the loss of the victims in the marathon, the Red Sox seemed to provide hope. This year’s victory seemed to hold deeper meaning than just winning a World Series ring. During the darkest of times, the Red Sox were there for the subconscious healing process that Americans so desperately needed. As designated hitter, David Ortiz hit a game-tying grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 2 of the ALCS, Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter went head over heels in a courageous attempt to catch the ball as it sailed over the wall. One of Boston’s finest was standing in the bullpen and his arms went up in celebration, and the hope of a nation was instantly restored.