Sports always have a narrative. Sure, the table can sometimes turn, and yes, I believe in miracles. But often, upsets can be felt coming from a mile away. There may be a simple play, where something doesn’t go as expected, where all of a sudden, the energy changes. One play, chaos reigns supreme, and you’re left breathless because you don’t know what you expected. Today we discuss those plays in sports that make you jump out of your seat. The ones where everything gets pushed into sixth gear and you can’t quite believe what you just saw. These plays are really what make sports so exciting, and why live sports will always be the one thing that can’t be captured on DVR. You just have to be there.
Ho hum, the defense makes the stop on 3rd down and out trots the kicking team. A field goal is the football equivalent of the participation trophy everyone gets in Little League. Every time a field goal is kicked, the football gods shed a single tear. But wait, what’s going on? Why is the kicker running? Run, you skinny white bastard! Wooooooooo!
The fake field goal that turns into a touchdown instantly pulls any game up to must-watch status. Guaranteed that you’ll be talking about this game with your coworkers on Monday, and furiously texting your friends to make sure that you didn’t eat expired bean dip and are hallucinating, again.
Everyone knows kicker touchdowns are the second highest tier of enjoyable football touchdowns, after fat guy touchdowns. The fact that kicker touchdowns are even more rare vaults them up onto the list.
Penalty Shot Goal
Listen, I’m not going to go into my deep-seeded hatred of the shootout as a means of determining the outcome of an NHL game. Any self-respecting hockey fan should be bombarding Gary Bettman with hate mail until he repeals the shootout, brings back the tie, and eliminates the “Bettman” point that rewards teams for almost winning. I’m against rewarding close calls. You win, lose or tie, you don’t almost win.
Anyway, whenever a player gets tripped up on the breakaway and the whistle sounds and the ref points to the center circle, immediately it’s like all the air gets sucked out of the rink. There’s a reason why it’s called the most exciting play in sports. Just one skater and the goalie, with thousands holding their collective breath, someone is coming away the hero, the other disappointed. When the player scores, it’s like he’s back in Pee-Wee again, I’ve never seen a player score on a penalty shot nonchalantly.
Bicycle Kick Goal
The common link between all these things is that they all come off rather routine plays. These plays are like a 100MPH gust of wind on a cloudless day. All of a sudden, in the middle of a common play in a regular game, someone elevates above the fray, whips his feet over his head and slams the ball into the back of the net, and then everyone watching loses their minds for 30 seconds.
The bicycle kick is one of those things that, if you stop and think about, is completely unnecessary. It’s flashy and dangerous, and doesn’t usually work out too well. But nobody remembers the failures, only the amazing successes. Add to that the Spanish speaking announcers speaking 5,000 words a minute describing the play, only to scream out “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!” until his lungs explode, and you’ve got one damned exciting moment.
Buzzer-Beating 3-Pointer to Win
I’ll grant you that this play has a lot more build-up to it than the other plays. But this one makes up for the lack of random chance by being the most explosive outpouring of emotion afterwards. Have you ever watched a buzzer beater go in where the guy didn’t jump around like an idiot while being mobbed by his teammates, coaches, and possibly 8,000 fans? The explosion of cheering when the ball rips through the net probably registers on some seismologist’s readings and causes momentary panic.
While NBA buzzer-beaters are fun, nothing can beat a high school or college game where the home fans immediately go temporarily insane and bum-rush the court like wildebeests. My personal favorite celebration is like the one in the video above, where the guy hits the shot and just runs right through the tunnel into the locker room, happily screaming like a kid chasing the ice cream truck. Unbridled exuberance is the best kind of exuberance.
The most exciting under 10 seconds in sports, the 100 meters is always a breathtaking display of athleticism that makes you feel bad for eating the 4 slices of deep dish pizza while watching ribbon dancing earlier in the day. Like the others, it seems to arise out of a period of unusual calm, only to come along so violently that everyone is stunned when it’s all over.
Watching someone like Usain Bolt run, you feel like all the cheering and the applause seems to hit like a sonic boom when they cross the finish line. The ability of these guys just to captivate with pure speed is unheard of in other sports. There is an almost violent beauty to it. No balls, no teammates, just someone running towards the finish line, like an avalanche of human athleticism, ready to wash in the captivated noise of the onrushing applause.
Matt Brockway is a sports nerd. If you have any questions about sports you’d like answered without the derisive comments of your buddies, please message him on twitter @subtlehyperbole.
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