We really miss sports. So much so that during the pandemic we've asked ourselves a question: What was *the* moment or reason that we fell in love with sports in the first place?
This story below is from USA TODAY Sports' Gabe Lacques.
But we also want to hear (and share) your stories as well. Don't miss a memory by signing up for our daily newsletter, where we'll be spotlighting our stories – and yours.
Email us at More amazing sports memories. The best feel-good stories. All delivered weekly. Sign up!
ESPN launched in September 1979, and even if it wasn’t in our living room yet, the sports programming boom made any team, in theory, your 真人百家家乐官网网站home team.
And for a tween in the early ‘80s, no team could fill up a living room like the Georgetown Hoyas.
Not that I was a fan, per se. Already a man of the people, my collegiate rooting interests favored public schools like Cal and UCLA, an ideal winter evening spent with Kevin Johnson running the point and Barry Tompkins on the mic.
Yet this emerging beast called the Big East Conference was impossible to ignore.
The first NCAA title game I can sharply remember was 1982, Georgetown and North Carolina, which unfortunately elbowed for position with the Academy Awards in my living room. Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot was the game’s most important moment, one that could be scored nicely with the theme from that night’s Best Picture winner, Chariots of Fire.
For me, the unforgettable image was this 7-foot freshman from Jamaica via Boston swatting away shot after shot from North Carolina, racking up four goaltending violations in the opening minutes that were probably worth it for the intimidation factor alone.
And with every passing year, the myths and realities of Georgetown basketball only grew. “Hoya Paranoia,” a concept co-opted by a media largely shut out by Coach John Thompson’s desire to close ranks around his team, added to the team’s mystique but also came with thinly-veiled racial overtones.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a collegiate team that imbued itself into the culture, coast-to-coast, like Ewing’s Hoyas. What a different time: Superstars often stayed in college four years, allowing their legends to super-size before they were dispatched to an NBA outpost.
By April 1, 1985, the Ewing-era Hoyas’ legacy was undeniable: 121 wins, just 22 losses, three appearances in the NCAA title game. The last of those three seemed more coronation than anything: The Hoyas were 35-2 and eight-point favorites over 24-10 Villanova, a fellow Big East squad they’d defeated twice already.
The real title game seemed to come in the national semifinals two days before, when the Hoyas disposed of their “real” Big East rival, throttling St. John’s 77-59 to avenge one of their two losses.
How suffocating was Georgetown? Future NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin got up just eight shots and scored eight points against the Hoyas; he’d averaged 25.5 in four tourney games coming in.
The final? It seemed a formality Georgetown would defend its title. And certainly didn’t seem like the night I’d truly fall in love with sports.
But as the years go by, you come to find so much about fandom is circumstances.
For all the best-laid plans we often make around our sports consumption – a bucket-list trip to a stadium, a carefully curated gathering for the big game – so often the most indelible moments are thoroughly unplanned.
This certainly qualified.
Three days before the Final Four tipped off, I became an uncle for the first time, my nephew coming in a little early and not without some complications for my sister. My mom had headed up to the Bay Area for the birth, leaving me and my next-oldest brother to fend for ourselves a couple days. Somehow – Greyhound bus, maybe? – we made the 90-minute trip north in time for the weekend.
The next few days were a bit hazy and mildly chaotic. My sister was going to be laid up in San Francisco General a few days. She needed a blood transfusion, and a few of my kin lined up to give blood and buttress the local supply.
This was 1985 in San Francisco, perhaps the height of the AIDS crisis in terms of both infection and misinformation. Could you contract HIV by giving blood? (Not by then.) How transmissible was HIV via a blood transfusion? (Very). Could we somehow route all our clean blood to my sister? (Sorry).
It was more than a bit unsettling for a 13-year-old. On this particular Saturday, even sports provided no respite: After spotting the Final Four broadcast on a distant waiting-room TV, I snagged a chair only to see Georgetown already well on its way to blowing out St. John’s.
Two days later, for reasons I can’t recall, I was left alone in another sister’s apartment as the national title game approached. (Hey, it was the latchkey kid era). This was 1985 in San Francisco, which meant a twentysomething could wait tables and go to school and live in the city on something less than a tech mogul’s salary. Alas, the digs were decidedly Bohemian, and my connection to Rupp Arena would have to be a 12-inch black-and-white, rabbit ears pulling in Brent Musburger and Billy Packer from Kentucky.
What unfolded next remains the greatest upset in college basketball history, 16-over-1 be damned, simply because of what was required to pull it off.
A perfect game.
Villanova made 78.6% of its field goals, still a Final Four record, all the more staggering given that the Hoyas came in holding opponents to 39.4% shooting. Familiarity bred fearlessness: The Wildcats never backed down from their Big East brethren, but also knew when to back off, such as when they held the ball the final 1:45 of the first half, taking a 29-28 lead into halftime.
That is a dangerous way to live against the ball-hawking Hoyas, who surrounded Ewing with a cadre of elite defenders like Michael Jackson and David Wingate and Reggie Williams and even Horace Broadnax, whose name apparently will never be expunged from my memory.
Nor will Harold Jensen’s. Arguably the most unremarkable player among the regulars on the floor that night, Jensen made all five of his shots from the field, four of his five free throws, his 14 points matching Ewing’s. Just five Wildcats scored points, the entire game an exercise in precision and patience.
Though Villanova led for almost the entire game, the sporting public awaited an inevitable and decisive finishing kick from the Hoyas. It wasn’t until 80 seconds remained that Musburger even dared mention that one of the most momentous upsets in the sport’s history was brewing.
The Wildcats literally held on, the Hoyas so relentless that inbounding the ball with two seconds left, leading 66 to 64 still felt daunting. But they did get the ball in. Georgetown was vanquished, and the shock that rumbled out of Lexington was palpable even through a decidedly low-def connection a continent away.
The numbers say we – even foolish young me – should have seen this coming. Five of Villanova’s 10 losses that year came to teams ranked No. 1 or 2 at the time. They reached the tourney final by knocking off Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina and Memphis – teams with a combined eight future NBA first-rounders, including five lottery picks and one Len Bias.
And then they took down Ewing.
In that night of solitude, sports went beyond mere entertainment and became a realm in which anything seemed possible. It was a stunning end to Ewing’s era, which for me was a lifetime, spanning as it did the transformative years of fourth through seventh grade.
More momentous changes were on the way. The 45-second shot clock was introduced a year later. Two years after that came the three-point arc. Gradually, the trickle of underclassmen declaring for the NBA became a flood, as young men rightfully claimed recompense for entertaining us so spectacularly.
Sports are probably better nowadays. It’s just evolution, nothing more. But there are moments where history and talent and context converge in a manner that takes us to a different place.
And reminds even a lifetime curmudgeon why we love all this, anyway.