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10 Classic Sporting Events ESPN Should Air to Fill Its Programming Void

9 minute read

Dear the good folks at ESPN:

During this time of an unprecedented global sports shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we realize you’re trying your best to fill programming hours with compelling athletic content. And as much as we love seeing UFC fights from Brazil with no fans, the Basketball: A Love Story documentary and wall-to-wall coverage of the NFL player movement, we think you can do better. We know you can do better.

(Even during these surreal times, no government has issued restrictions on obnoxious sports fan opinions.)

Below, TIME presents our list of 10 classic sports contests we’d love to see rebroadcast in full, as we seek to distract ourselves during quarantine. Note: this is no list of the greatest sporting events of all-time. No, these are 10 things we just want to watch.

We do realize that ESPN may not own the rights to rebroadcast some of these events. To that, we humbly reply: so what? Go out and get them. We’re in a national emergency. Networks and sports bodies can surely work together to fill our collective sports void.

The good news: most of this stuff is available on YouTube anyhow. So to the fans, we say, ESPN or no: enjoy.

Women’s World Cup quarterfinals 2011, USA vs. Brazil

The game was all but over. In the 121st minute, America was down by a goal and down a player. Brazil, after stalling and collapsing from phantom injuries over and over, controlled the ball deep in the corner of American territory.

What happened next was voted the best moment in U.S. soccer history: a perfectly executed set of passes that ended in Abby Wambach heading in a pitch-perfect cross from Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe later said she had no idea whether or not there was a teammate in the box when she launched it, but that she just had to give her team one final opportunity. The ball sailed past the outstretched arms of Brazil’s keeper Andréia and right onto Wambach’s forehead.

“The stadium shook. It was absolute pandemonium,” Rapinoe recalled three years later.

Denver Nuggets vs. Detroit Pistons, 1983

The highest-scoring game in NBA history, Detroit’s 186-184 triple overtime road triumph over the run-and-gun Denver Nuggets, is basketball from some alien planet. Combined, the teams took only four three-pointers. Denver’s frontcourt featured a 6’9” center, Dan Issel, with graying hair and little leaping ability, and a pair of long, wispy, angular forwards—Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe—who looked like they never met a weight room, weren’t particularly fast, and specialized in the type of mid-range jumpers and bank-shots over defenders that are essentially extinct in today’s NBA. Issel scored 28 points on 11 for 19 shooting: Vandeweghe dropped 51 (on 21-29 shooting), while English added a cool 47 (on an efficient 18-30). Denver also sported unis with rainbow stripes topping the city skyline, and a green lining. They resembled a kindergarten painter’s fever dream.

Detroit, however, pulled out the victory, thanks to Isaiah Thomas’ 47-point effort, over 52 minutes of playing time. Defense was optional. What a glorious affair.

2015 MLB ALDS, Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Game 5

It’s one of the most indelible sports images of the last decade: a slugger standing stoically at the plate, his bat hovering a foot above him, an entire stadium going nuts.

But Jose Bautista’s bat flip—an emphatic turning point challenging a long held unwritten taboo of baseball—was just one more crazy moment in a game filled with them. In the top of the seventh, the Rangers took the lead on a freak play, leading Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to be ejected and Toronto fans to angrily throw debris onto the field. In the next nail-biting half inning that lasted half an hour, Toronto crawled around the bases thanks to three errors and another misplay, setting the stage for Bautista’s heroics. Bautista would be on the wrong end of a literal punch when the bitter rivals met the next year, but it was this game that played out like a WWE heavyweight bout, with Bautista emphatically delivering the knockout blow.

1994 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Game, North Carolina vs. Louisiana Tech

Remember Charlotte Smith? You might not. But you should: so rewatch the 1994 women’s basketball final, where Smith, a North Carolina junior, does something awesome with .7 ticks remaining (we won’t spoil it).

Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas, 1990

The degree to which Mike Tyson was viewed as an unstoppable heavyweight force, as the Michael Jordan of his sport, in 1990 is difficult to overstate. Buying expensive tickets to his fights proved risky: if you were stuck in the beer line before the opening bell, by the time you got back to your seat, chances are the fight was already over. His opponent on this February Sunday morning in Tokyo, Buster Douglas, was a 42-to-1 underdog. “Douglas Expected to Be An Easy Payday for Tyson,” read a headline in the Los Angeles Times.

So much of America woke up in shock that weekend to find out that Douglas knocked out Tyson in the 10th round. HBO had shown the fight, but cable was still in its relative infancy. Many homes didn’t have HBO, and you couldn’t follow the fight on any smartphone or laptop. So many people missed one of the biggest upsets in sports history. What better time to catch up to it then now?

1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game: Villanova vs. Georgetown

On one side: Georgetown, the top-ranked defending champions, featuring a towering Patrick Ewing in his senior year. On the other: an unranked underdog who clawed their way through March Madness with an agonizingly slow offensive approach that took full advantage of the NCAA’s final year without a shot clock.

In the title game, Villanova coach Rollie Massimino’s patient strategy worked flawlessly: they held the ball until they could get an open shot—one possession lasted 62 seconds—and the team shot an astonishing 78.6% from the field, including nine of 10 in the second half. Every possession took on a crazed intensity, and Villanova needed every last point, clipping Georgetown 66-64. The night would come to be known as “The Perfect Game.”

USA-Canada Women’s Gold Medal Hockey Game, 2018 Olympics

At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the U.S. women’s hockey team lost a late 2-0 lead and fell to Canada in overtime in the gold medal game. So the Americans entered the 2018 Games seeking to avenge that heartbreak. In fact, Canada had won the last four Olympic tournaments, three times defeating the Americans in the final.

In South Korea, a classic decided the latest chapter in international hockey’s most heated rivalry. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, and after a scoreless overtime, a shootout would determine the gold medalist. A bit of dipsy-do stick wizardly from Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davidson—nicknamed “Oops I Did It Again,” after the Britney Spears song—gave the U.S. and advantage: after a save on Canada’s next shot, the Americans hurled their gloves in the air, Olympic champs for the first time in two decades. The game aired in the middle of the night for many in the U.S. Too many sports fans missed it. ESPN can rectify that problem.

New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Feb. 9, 2012

On the morning of Feb. 9, 2012, it was reasonable to assume that the national sensation known as Linsanity was something of a fluke. Jeremy Lin, a 23-year-old out of Harvard, had started just three games before the Lakers arrived in town; it seemed unlikely he could replicate his hot streak against Kobe Bryant himself.

But Lin poured in 38 points against the Lakers—who had won the title just two years before—weaving in and out of their defense, spinning past Derek Fisher, freezing Pau Gasol on the perimeter, raining down threes, drawing charges. Lin willed the short-handed Knicks to their fourth straight victory, and his naysayers got eerily quiet. But Madison Square Garden rained down “MVP” chants upon the grinning 23-year-old; the Garden hasn’t been louder since.

Atlanta Braves vs. San Diego Padres, 1984

Even with no spring training games being played and opening day delayed indefinitely, why would anyone want to watch a random August baseball game from nearly four decades ago? Easy: this game featured one of the all-time rhubarbs America’s pastime has ever seen. Multiple brawls, in fact, broke out throughout Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium in the 8th and 9th innings: fans jumped into the fray and walked out in handcuffs; a guy named Champ Summers, ex-slow-pitch softball star, charged the Atlanta Braves dugout; and at one point San Diego Padres pitcher Ed Whiston, who had been ejected earlier in the game, emerged in the dugout, shirtless, holding a baseball bat and ready to rumble. Luckily, the wild brawl left no one seriously hurt: it was all baseball fighting at its silliest. Seventeen players were ejected. The San Diego bat boy finished the game in left field, while a peanut vendor pinch ran (OK fine, some slight embellishments, but it all felt plausible after the game’s 28th brouhaha).

Plus: Mustard. And Brown. Unis.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins, NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals, May 13, 2010

In the history of North American sports, only five teams have come back from 3-0 deficits in the playoffs. It didn’t seem like the Flyers would be one of those teams, when, after tying their 2001 series with the Bruins three straight wins, they dropped three unanswered goals in the first quarter of Game 7.

But the seventh-seeded Bruins stormed back with four goals, completing the comeback within the comeback—and one of the most unexpected wins in franchise history.

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com