Top Ten Sports Moments: Four Personal Stories

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Different kinds of heartbreak
We've identified the absolute, unarguable Top 10 Sports Moments (and five worst) in Houston history. Everyone has at least some personal stories connected to events on the list. I have four.

1. UH-Louisville
I was the quintessential cub reporter, having lucked into a job with the Dallas Morning News' Houston bureau while at UH. After graduation, I moved to Dallas for a fulltime gig covering the suburbs.

The Morning News was in a terrific newspaper war with the Times Herald; slacking wasn't tolerated. Coming to work late was unthinkable.

But the UH-Louisville game was on a Saturday afternoon, and I had the Saturday night shift downtown. There was no way I was missing the game, but it looked like I could catch at least most of it and get to the newsroom on time.

The game, though, turned out to be so compelling I had to watch every second. I rushed out as the final buzzer sounded, but as I pulled into the parking lot I was obviously very late.

My plan was to slide casually into the newsroom, as if I'd been there a while and had just gone to the bathroom or something. The key was to walk in unnoticed.

Unfortunately, one of the copy editors was also a UH grad. As soon as she saw me enter the newsroom, she let out a whoop, ran over, gave me a shout and a high-five.

She didn't quite say "HE'S LATE, EVERYONE, IF YOU HADN'T NOTICED!!!" but she might as well have.

2. The 16-Inning Gut Punch

A couple of years later, I had the Dallas school board beat. And there was yet another of the interminable committee meetings the DISD trustees loved to have, and loved to stretch out as long as possible.

Keeping up with Game Six of the 1986 Astros-Mets series was impossible during the meeting, but after it we rushed to an administrator's office and turned on the TV. The game had gone into extra innings, and was shaping up to be an all-time classic.

But I had a looming deadline. And no portable computer -- not even the hated Trash-80 -- so I had to get back to the office to file.

I lasted to the 14th inning, when the Mets took the lead, with their ace reliever coming in to protect it. I headed for the office.

The game wasn't on the radio, so I blissfully assumed the Mets had won. An assumption that Billy Hatcher had completely fucked with in the meantime.

Luckily for me, there were enough Astro and Mets fans in the newsroom, all hanging on every pitch, that I didn't have to file right away and got to suffer/exult through that last tortuous inning.

But I'll never forget the feeling of walking in the newsroom and seeing the goddamn game was still on.

3. UH-Notre Dame Cotton Bowl

This game -- the Joe Montana comeback -- officially didn't make the rankings, but it was on the shortlist.

I was attending UH; my Dad was a Notre Dame fan. I was home for Christmas, and gave him a t-shirt UH was selling for the game.

He was pretty much in the process of dying, we all pretty much knew, even if we didn't talk about it. So naturally, I would savor a chance to spend a few hours with him watching the game and playfully arguing back and forth about it, right?

Nah. I was an idiot. Or a college student home for Christmas, which is often the same thing. There was a New Year's Eve party down at Rutgers that promised to be amazing, and a dorm room to crash in and sleep the whole thing off.

So that's the option I took. Regrets, I've had a few.

4. The Comeback
I was back in Houston; along with a regular day job, I was writing what was ostensibly a sports column for the Public News. On the weeks I actually discussed sports, a constant theme was my hatred for the run-and-shoot offense of the Oilers.

PN publisher (and friend) Bert Woodall, on the other hand, was an Oiler diehard, convinced that I was completely wrong when I predicted playoff doom for the team.

When they went up early against the Buffalo Bills, he called gleefully to rub it in. When they went up 35-3, he called again, cackling maniacally, taunting me about what I'd be writing in next week's column.

I forget what happened after that, but he didn't call again.

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