Imagine @FeuxBoPelini in 1992…
I love Twitter. During big events in the U.S. I’ve discovered (and tweeted) that the worse the event, be it a presidential debate or basketball game, the funnier Twitter is. I’m on Facebook to get people to pay attention to me. I’m on Twitter to pay attention to other people.
So I also love it when a sports moment causes Twitter to explode. Like the LeBron block in the 2016 Finals. Or the last out of the Cubs World Series win. Or when Peyton Manning put Kevin Durant on blast at the ESPYs the other night1.
And I’ve been thinking about moments before 2008 that would have caused the biggest Twitter meltdowns. Jordan’s “I’m Back” in 1995 would be a huge one. Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception vs. Oakland has been replayed a billion times. Kirk Gibson’s 88 World Series Game 1 home run certainly. And the list could go on and on.
And it would be endless. So instead of trying to narrow down this list, I want to write about a similar but distinct list. I want to write about moments that were not THE story, but were a footnote in reality yet still would have trended on Twitter. For fans like me, they are unforgettable. And just imagining the tweets that would have come from them brings joy to my mind. Here are five:
The Major Story: Dallas destroys Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII 52-17, winning their first since the 70s and handing Buffalo their 3rd straight Super Bowl loss.
The Twitter Moment: Don Beebe chases Leon Lett down from behind to prevent a meaningless TD at the end.
This may be the loudest non-TD play in history for a game decided by 35 points. If you watched the game you remember it. Beebe instantaneously became a legend of team pride and hustle. He had no reason to keep running. The game was over. Lett became an instantaneous butt of jokes. He celebrated a few yards too early. The only thing it meant historically was that Dallas didn’t set the record for most points in a Super Bowl. Yet as far as fan reaction, it meant a ton. Beebe’s and Lett’s names would have been at the top of the trending list and I can see the “Hold My Beer” tweets in my head.
The Major Story: Larry Bird steals Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals from Detroit and the Celtics go on to win in 7 to set up Celtics vs. Lakers III.
The Twitter Moment: Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas say that Larry Bird would be just another player if he weren’t white.
Racial (and racist) comments are aplenty on social media and with U.S. History being as it is, that will always be the case. So I have little doubt that when Rodman made this comment that Thomas echoed that it would have caused a race war on Twitter the same way politics and athletes like Colin Kaepernick do today. The NBA in the 70s and 80s was a breeding ground for racial strife and I remember when this happened. It blew up. Thomas had to answer for it repeatedly to the national media, including to Bird’s face at an impromptu press conference. Imagine how Twitter would have reacted.
To be honest, while it was not the wisest comment to make I do believe Thomas was joking in some sense and it was completely overblown. You have to hand it to Bird, too. He told the media that he didn’t think anything of the comment and that they shouldn’t either.
The Major Story: Hakeem Olajuwon averages 32-11-5, dominates Shaq and Houston sweeps Orlando in the 1995 NBA Finals
The Twitter Moment: With under 10 seconds left in Game One and the score tied, Nick Anderson of the Magic misses 4 consecutive FTs.
Sports can make you a hero and a goat, often within the same time frame. Just a couple of weeks prior, Nick Anderson had a moment of glory, stealing the ball from Michael Jordan in a play that became an image of that series, the only one that Jordan lost as a Bull after 19902. But then Anderson had a chance to give Orlando the lead late in the first Finals game and missed two free throws, got his own miss, got fouled again and missed the the next two. My brain tells me not to feel bad for professional athletes but my heart does. I can easily envision a slew of hilarious Michael Scott gifs in response.
The Big Story: In 1998, rookie Kerry Wood for the Cubs strikes out 20 Houston Astros, an MLB record, and holds them to 1 hit in a dominant pitching performance
The Twitter Moment: The hit could have been ruled an error, giving Wood 20 K’s AND a no-hitter in the same game, a feat that has never been accomplished.
You can watch it below and make your own judgment and you can hear the announcers say it looked like an error. I agree. I was not a Cub fan yet, still 4 years away from moving to Chicago. And at the time I felt the same. I can only imagine the hours and hours of Twitter debate this would have sparked.
The Big Story: In the 1993 Sugar Bowl, underdog #2 Alabama romps defending champion #1 Miami 34-13.
The Twitter moment: With Bama fully in control, the Tide’s George Teague walks down Miami’s Lamar Thomas and strips the ball.
This is not like the Lett play to me. It is in some ways: the game was a blowout and a player got caught from behind. But it was the inverse of the play above and more than that, it was a statement. Alabama was given very little chance in this game. Miami was a 4-time champ and cocky. And Bama’s defense destroyed them and their Heisman QB Gino Torretta. Here it finally looked like Miami would break the invincible Bama D and score a TD. And then Teague emasculated Thomas. The next we saw of Miami’s trash-talking receiver, he was on the bench with a towel on his head. The play didn’t even count but it absolutely encapsulates what happened that night. It would have brought a feast of tweets in reaction.
So, that’s my list. What are some that I missed that you would have included?