Usually, it’s long after you’ve assumed the position on a bar stool and have somehow managed to have blown your cover and exposed yourself as a being guilty of being a sportswriter.
That’s when somebody will ask you the damn question: “What’s the greatest game you ever covered?”
My answer has always been the same. “Sorry. Can’t do it. Covered too many to name one.”
Then I skillfully change the subject by throwing out the usually shocking statement that sports scribes actually prefer blowouts to great games anyway. Brutal deadlines, these days.
Get a 54-14 football game you can have mostly scribbled by halftime and there are a lot of giddy guys and gals in the press box.
The reason I mention all of this is that the question has become an assignment. People from the play-pens of Sun Media are being requested to pick their game and write about it in a series beginning tomorrow.
I mean, come on. Give us a break. This is what we do. Cover games. Thousands and thousands of them. How do we pick one?
More than most, partially because of location, location, location, not to mention timing, age and travel budget, I confess to having been spoiled beyond belief when it comes to covering great moments in sport.
What my eyes have seen over the years …
I mean, how can George Gross pick one? He goes back to the golden age of sport when they covered games by train. He may have covered Wolfe-Montcalm.
In my case, how do you pick one single, solitary game of games or moment of moments even if you restricted yourself to ones involving Wayne Gretzky? I was there for virtually every major moment of No. 99s career, including the ones when he played for Los Angeles and New York.
Try picking just one Edmonton Oilers game during their Stanley Cup years alone?
Try selecting just one of more than 500 Stanley Cup playoff games you’ve covered?
How about all the Canada Cups? Darryl Sittler-Vladimir Dzurilla in 1976? Paul Coffey-Mike Bossy in 1984? Gretzky-Mario Lemieux in 1987 — probably. But you get the idea.
There isn’t space to get started when it comes to hockey games.
And how about the 14 Olympics I’ve covered. Do individual events count? How do you pick one of those? And football? Forget about it.
I’ve covered the Edmonton Eskimos winning nine of their 12 titles and covered 34 consecutive Grey Cup games. Just about every Grey Cup is a great game.
I keep changing my mind about the greatest Grey Cup game I ever covered.
First it was the 1987 game.
Then came the 1989 game.
Then there was the overtime game two years ago.
At least I don’t have to debate about any of the 20-some Super Bowls I attended. Most were duds. Then again, there was Scott Norwood’s wide right. Kind of falls into the category of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series I covered when the ball rolled between the legs of Bill Buckner.
They’re not all great games.
I’ve already managed to forget most of the 100-and-some World Series games I’ve been accredited to witness over the years, but I still remember one Reggie Jackson at bat in a Yankees-Dodgers series when it seemed time stood still. And where do you put Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in Game 6 in 1993 to give the Toronto Blue Jays the World Series?
If we’re expanding this to memorable moments, how about Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco? That was the World Series earthquake. I was in the auxiliary press box on the first row of the upper deck right behind the plate. The concrete rolled like ocean waves. I’ll never forget the crowd which, at first, began to cheer the idea of having a World Series earthquake until they realized the extent of it. But I guess, being that there was no game, that wouldn’t count.
Same as standing on the roof of Tiger Stadium watching the riot when Detroit won a couple decades back. They helicoptered pizza in for the press. Landed right behind the mound. Opened beer kegs from the concession stands. They kept us in the ballpark until the middle of the night when the riot died down.
Where do you put Ben Johnson? When he won the 100-metres in Seoul in 1988,at least for a few hours there, it was arguably the ultimate moment in all of Canadian sports history, save for Paul Henderson’s goal in the 1972 Canada-Russia series. And, no, I wasn’t there in ’72.
I covered Hagler-Hearns and Ali-Semenko in boxing. Hey, lots of writers covered Hagler-Hearns. How many can say they covered Ali-Semenko?
If that doesn’t count, how about Alydar-Affirmed in horse racing? Jackie Stewart in auto racing? Arnold Palmer’s last win in an Open golf tournament?
In fact, I covered the last Bing Crosby golf tournament at Pebble Beach when Crosby was still alive and was one of a dozen writers chosen to walk inside the ropes with President Gerald Ford on his first day out of office in a group with Jack Nicklaus and Palmer. That count?
It goes on and on. Just last year there was Zinadine Zidane and that head-butt at the World Cup of soccer.
Looking back there have been more great moments than great games.
And what about curling? There have been some incredible curling contests at all those Briers over the years.
Anyway, the point of this is that I can’t wait to read the choices of Chris Stevenson, Ian Busby, Steve Simmons, Ken Wiebe, Bob Elliott, George Gross, Morris Dalla Costa and Eric Francis — poor sods.
Excuse me? What’s that, boss? This “game dropping” column of mine doesn’t get me off the hook? I still have to pick one? Stay tuned.