Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 games of 2011

For the past two years I've written about my favorite 10 games that I was lucky enough to attend in person. If you were curious below are the links for both lists:
2009 - Winner: Game 163
2010 - Winner: Dolphins at Vikings

Now it is on for this year's list.

10. Magic at Timberwolves. Magic won 108-99. Some games are memorable because of exciting plays or a dramatic finish. This wasn't one of those games. It was a mid-season game between a terrible Timberwolves team and a much better Magic team. There wasn't much surprise in the 9 point win, except that maybe the final margin wasn't larger. Still this makes the end of the list because it was fun in person to watch Dwight Howard play in person. Going to see players on the opposing team was a main draw for Timberwolves fans and you might notice a common theme on this year's list.

9. Miami at Minnesota (football). Gophers won 29-23. In my time in Minnesota, I saw Miami play Minnesota in football twice. The first game was a painful double overtime loss at the Metrodome. This year the hope was this was different. Minnesota had just come off a home loss to New Mexico State and ended up finishing the year with a 3-9 record. Miami won the MAC title last year and had a veteran QB that I knew would lead them to a victory over the not so mighty Gophers. On the 3rd play of the game Miami completed a 66 yard pass to Minnesota's 9 yard line. They had to settle for a field goal, but I still felt good about the game. Anyway, it was back and forth for a while. Miami's special teams were terrible (a missed PAT and a blocked punt for a td), but still they had a shot. Down 13 points they finally started throwing on every play. They scored one td to put them down 6 with plenty of time left. When they got the ball on the 34 yard line with 3 minutes to go and a touchdown and a PAT away from a win, I knew this was the year. They drove the ball down to Minnesota's 20 (even completing a 4th and 10) and had one final play with a couple seconds left on the clock. Miami's QB threw his final pass into the endzone and the receiver literally had the ball (and most likely the win) in his hands. The Gophers cornerback was able to knock it out at the last second and Miami lost. It was an exciting game and fun to hang out with M and two other friends (who were rooting for the Gophers). Still this game meant that there would be two "what if" Miami games against Minnesota.

8. Blue Jays at Twins. Blue Jays won 11-3. It is normal in basketball to go see a game because of one player. The #10 game made that list because of Dwight Howard. It is not normally the same in baseball. However, this game was different in that Jose Bautista put on a show that was a new in-game experience for me. He hit three home runs and came up to bat in the 8th inning with a chance to hit four home runs in a game. 15 players have accomplished that feat in game, which makes it more rare than a perfect game. The three home runs were enough to put this game on my list, and with one more swing of the bat it would have easily been the #1 most memorable game of 2011.

7. Miami at Ohio State (hockey). Miami won 5-3. Hockey games can sometime stick together in my mind. I can remember that some team won and the score was probably something like 3-2, but individual plays or incredible players usually skip my mind. This game was slightly different in that it was much more of a high scoring contest, and as someone who now lives in Columbus and is married to an OSU grad it is always nice when Miami can give me bragging rights over Ohio State.

6. LA Clippers at Timberwolves. Clippers won 98-90. It is hard to remember much about this game besides the fact that Blake Griffin is really fun to watch live. I can normally point out this players by who gets M's attention. Off the top of my head I know she knows Dwight Howard, LeBron, Kobe and Blake Griffin. That are the only four current players that I am confident she knows about and can recognize. The reason she knows about Griffin was because I took her to both Clippers games this year because (apologies to the Mavs and the Heat) the 2010/2011 season will be remembered by Blake Griffin. I made her watch the Griffin dunk on the Knicks more than a couple times. Anyway, this game was fun and definitely worth the price of admission.

5. Heat at Timberwolves. Heat won 111-92. Another game, where the main attraction was the opposing team - that might tell you how great the 2011 season was for MN teams. Anyway, pretty much any time I see LeBron play it will be on my list of top 10 games. This year was especially fun because not only did I see LeBron, but also Wade.

4. Giants at Brewers. Giants won 5-4. There were a few highlights from this game. 1) Hanging out with my brother-in-law as he watched his favorite team. 2) Seeing Tim Lincecum pitch. 3) Watching Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam in his first game in the majors. 4) Finding out that Giants relieft pitcher Sergio Romo was born on the exact same day as me.  5) Watching Prince Fielder get thrown at home in a game that wasn't that much different from Buster Posey's injury. It was a fun, close game and it was especially nice seeing two good baseball teams since that was never an option at Target Field this year.

3. Indians at Twins. Twins won 2-1. Last year I bought five season tickets and there were three Twins games on the list. This past year I doubled down and bought 10 season tickets. There are only two Twins games on the list and the first one was only because of how bad the Twins pitching/how awesome Jose Bautista was. This game looked to be like most of the other Twins games this year. It slow, boring and painfully hot. The Twins didn't score a run for 8 innings and didn't really even threaten during that time. However, what is nice about baseball and has been said many times before is there isn't a clock and that any comeback is theoretically possible. The Twins were able to load the bases in 9th inning and won on a 2 run single by Danny Valencia. I love walk-off wins and this walk-off was both exciting and unexpected.

2. Thunder at Timberwolves. Thunder won 118-117 in overtime. I wrote a full review of this game and my *courtside experience back in February. I wrote that I could cross off one spot on my top 10 list and sure enough the game comes in at #2.

*The tickets were listed as courtside even though they were the 4th row.

1. Ohio State at Nebraska. Nebraska won 34-27.  Just like the game above, I also wrote about Nebraska's greatest comeback in Memorial Stadium history back in October. It is a worthy game to hold the #1 spot, and I can only hope I see one game like that in 2012.

Happy New Year's everyone.

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