It’s the final countdown of the Top Sports Moments of 2009. A new year of sports has already begun with the 2009 Rose Bowl yesterday so it’s time to wrap up the 2009 highlights. So far we’ve covered seven key sports highlights like Mark Buehrle’s Perfect Game, the UConn-Syracuse 6 Overtime Game, Mine that Bird & Rachel Alexandra: the little horses that could, Y.E. Yang’s astonishing defeat of Tiger Woods, the highly anticipated match-up of Sid Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in the NHL Playoffs, Santonio Holmes’ last second catch that won the Super Bowl for the Steelers, and of course, the recap of the year of anti-climatic national title wins.
So what moment was so amazing, so powerful, so fan-tastical, that it earned the spot as the #1 Sports Moment of 2009?
The Michigan State Spartans Take on the North Carolina Tar Heels for the NCAA National Championship.
No, they didn’t win. They didn’t even come close. It was in fact, a massacre of the little green men from Michigan.
So….then why is it such a great moment?
Because it wasn’t just about that one game; it was about their entire journey.
First, the Spartans took the world by total surprise. Even though they were actually a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State was definitely the Cinderella Team of March Madness. Sure, Michigan State is known in the college football world, but college basketball? Not so much. But there they were taking down powerhouses like the UConn Huskies and the No. 1 seed of the entire tournament: Louisville.
I don’t even think Mich State fans would have put money on their boys to go all the way through the tourney but there they were, standing tall and proud against the elite March Madness dominating Tar Heels.
But it was more than just the little underdog-that-could story. I’m not going to dwell on “these hard times” or the “economic crisis of ’09″ because it irritates me to no end that the hardship has become a major marketing ploy. But it does need to be mentioned to understand the significance of the Michigan State Spartans. Their “surprising” uprising through the ranks of the tournament inspired such hope to so many across the country especially to those living in the economically ravaged state of Michigan.
See, Michigan State campus is only 75 miles away from Detroit, Michigan where the 2009 NCAA Final Four was taking place. So when the Spartans defeated Louisville and took their place in the Final Four, the boys in green were coming home!
Hope had packed up and left Detroit months before and the city had become a place where spirits were low. In the last year, they have been rapidly losing their esteemed title of “Motor City.” Having the “underdogs” of the tourney coming home to battle it out has breathed life back into the bleak town–in the same way that Seabiscuit and James Braddock (Cinderella Man) brought towns back during the Great Depression.
In fact, the 2009 Final Four in Detroit had the highest attendance of all time. Ford Field packed in over 72,922 fans. To compare to the next highest attendace, in 2003, when the Final Four was in New Orleans, 64,959 fans showed up.
So maybe they didn’t win the National Title, but they won over the heart of the nation. And that, to me, is even more important.