You should’ve been there. The atmosphere was electric. I still get chills. Isn’t that what we say when we witness the improbable? Isn’t that what we say when an athlete or team does something that brings euphoria or sudden existential distress?

To fans of the Toronto Blue Jays, Joe Carter’s World Series ending home run in 1993 is still cause for a parade. For fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s always going to be nightmare fuel. Despite all the success the Boston Red Sox have enjoyed over the last 15 years, Bucky Dent is still the monster under the bed for a generation of fans.

If you’re an Oakland A’s fan who was in Dodger Stadium the moment Kirk Gibson hit the home run over Dennis Eckersly in game one of the 1988 World Series, you’re memory of the event doesn’t involve giving a high five to a stranger. Today, we’re going to ignore the lousy memories and focus on the good. The times when you were in the crowd and you saw something so amazing, so affirming, when you talk about it to this day, you end your story with that caveat.

 

You should’ve been there.

I’m lucky to have witnessed sports history great and small. Here are my top 10 you should’ve been there moments:

No. 10. Rafael Devers starts a triple play against the St. Louis Cardinals

August 15, 2017. I went to Fenway Park with my buddy Jeff, a Cardinals fan. At the time, Devers was considered a liability at third base. Witnessing a triple play was like hitting the baseball fan lottery.

No. 9. Joe Campbell’s tip-in

The 2001 state basketball tournament was the first I covered. The night of the Class A state games at the Bangor Auditorium, I finished my story on the girls game in time to just watch the boys game between Deering and Bangor.

The Auditorium was packed and loud, and it looked like Deering was going to escape with a one-point win when Bangor’s Zak Ray missed a shot in the closing seconds. But there was Campbell for the tip-in as time expired. Bangor 57, Deering 56. The Bangor side of the arena went bonkers. The Deering side fell silent. I was glad I didn’t have to write it on deadline.

Years later, when Hampden’s Nick Gilpin hit a ridiculously long 3-pointer to beat Lawrence at the buzzer in the Class A East boys championship game, I did have to make deadline.

No. 8. UMaine football’s first home playoff win

It’s still too early to determine if the success of the 2018 season jump starts a new era for Black Bears football, but the 55-27 win over Jacksonville State last December was impressive. The game was only the second home playoff game for the Black Bears. In the first one in 2013, Maine looked flat against rival University of New Hampshire. This time against Jacksonville State, the Black Bears were control the entire game. The 28-point margin of victory is an illusion. It never felt that close.

No. 7. Foxboro

January 10, 2004. The New England Patriots hosted the Tennessee Titans in an AFC divisional round playoff game. It was a Saturday night, and the windchill was a brisk minus-12.

It’s not the coldest I’ve felt, but it’s in the team picture. Hand and feet warmers were a placebo. While tailgating, our beers froze.

One of the best nights of my life.

No. 6. UMaine women’s basketball wins the conference title in Cindy Blodgett’s freshman season

All season, the crowds filled Alfond Arena to watch Lawrence High grad Cindy Blodgett excel for the Black Bears. It all came to a loud crescendo in the conference championship game. The Alfond was jammed, and Maine beat Northeastern, 70-59.

I was courtside working for UMaine sports information, and I swear the table shook due to the noise.

No. 5. Quoth the Raven, wide left

January 22, 2012. The AFC championship game between the Patriots and Baltimore Ravens was the final game I attended as a Patriots season ticket holder, and it was a great game on which to go out.

The Patriots took a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter on a Tom Brady quarterback sneak, then held on for dear life. The Ravens final drive set up a 32-yard field goal try for Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff in the final minute. It wasn’t close.

This is one of those times you hug and high five a lot of strangers.

No. 4. Derek Lowe’s no hitter

Here’s the thing about this game. I almost didn’t go. I was given tickets by a friend who couldn’t use them, and I had a hard time convincing my friend Bob to go with me. It was a late April game against Tampa Bay. The Bruins had a playoff game against Montreal at the same time. It wasn’t a must-see game.

Then Derek Lowe goes out and throws a no hitter. Lowe’s one mistake was a walk to Brent Abernathy (Brent Abernathy!) to lead off the third inning. Around the sixth inning, the Red Sox had a huge lead and al of us in the center field bleachers had forgotten what was going on crosstown at the Garden and were focused on Lowe.

Ricky Henderson hit leadoff for the Sox that day, and Rey Sanchez drove in two runs, because the 2002 season was weird, man.

No. 3. MCI-Lisbon Class D state championship game

This play needs a nickname. The Snap Decision, something like that. We can brainstorm later. The point is, the finish to the 2016 Class D state championship football game at Fitzpatrick Stadium was the wildest one ever.

Lisbon led Maine Central Institute 14-0 at the half, but the Huskies fought back to tie the game in the fourth quarter, and mounted a drive deep into Greyhounds territory in the final minute. MCI set up for the winning field goal try with three seconds left.

Then Eli Bussell mishandled the snap, and made one of the most heads up plays in Maine high school football history. Bussell picked up the ball, found a blocker, and ran. There was no time on the clock when he scored the winning touchdown. I quickly processed what I just saw, and deleted approximately 400 words of a column I was writing in the Fitzpatrick Stadium press box.

No. 2. UMaine men’s ice hockey wins first national championship

In early July I visited a friend in Milwaukee. We rented an Air BNB with a deck that overlooked the pile of rubble that used to be the Bradley Center. Milwaukee recently opened Fiserv Forum, a shiny new arena next door.

“It was there,” I said, pointing at the pile of rock walled off by chain link. “It was there I saw Jim Montgomery score a natural hat trick in the third period to lead Maine to a 5-4 victory over Lake Superior State and the 1993 NCAA ice hockey championship.”

Now it’s gone. I tried to find the bar that gave us free beer in 1993 for singing the Maine Stein Song, but it was gone, too.

No. 1. The Snow Bowl

Here in New England, we call it in the Snow Bowl. In other parts of the country, especially the Oakland, California area, they call it the Tuck Rule Game. Call it whatever you want, because after further review, the quarterback’s arm was going forward.

The thing I remember most about that game is Adam Vinatieri’s game-tying field goal. It was snowing so hard, I couldn’t see the ball once it was kicked. I had to wait for the officials signal to know whether or not it was good.

Pandemonium. Feral joy. You should’ve been there.


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