April 8 - Being There: Midwest Edition
In honor of Eric Mirlis’s new book "Being There: 100 Sports Pros Talk About the Best Sporting Events
They Ever Witnessed Firsthand", I present to you the five best games I’ve ever watched in person.
There’s going to be a big difference between the types of games on this list and the list presented in
the book by personalities such as Keith Olbermann and Bill Conlin. I’m far from a nationally
respected journalist. In fact, the five games I’ve picked maybe wouldn’t crack most people’s top 1000.
But I personally consider this little list a tribute to every kid that’s grown up in the Midwest, particularly
Wisconsin. For a child that grew up in a middle class family in the heart of America’s dairy land, I
consider myself lucky. I’ve seen way more sporting contests than any other person of my age ever
It is thanks to the hard work and dedication to my mother and father that made going to all these
games possible. Most of these games were attended during my adolescent years with tickets that
my mother and father bought for me. Without them, I never would have witnessed so many great
games and lived such an enriched life because of that.
As for the games, #5 – Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers Sunday June 15, 1997 on Father’s
Day. Growing up in Wisconsin, I am a Brewers fan first and foremost. But I always idolized Hall of
Fame second baseman Ryne Sanderberg as a child making the Chicago Cubs kind of an adopted
team to root for. So getting to go to Wrigley Field to see my two favorite baseball teams play was a
The ivy and Wrigleyville location make a Cubs game of any kind an extraordinary experience for any
person. This game took on an added significance in that it was part of the first series of games in
which American League teams would take on National League teams during the regular season
when Major League Baseball introduced interleague play.
Game #4 – Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Week 3 of the NFL season in 1992. Brett
Favre came in the game off the bench in relief of injured starting quarterback Don Majkowski. Favre
would go on to throw the game winning touchdown to little known wide receiver Kitrick Taylor with
mere seconds remaining in the game for a come from behind victory.
That game, itself, nearly started a turnaround for the Green Bay Packer franchise. The Packers would
go on to see success that they hadn’t seen since the 1960s Vince Lombardi glory years. The futility of
the 1970s and 1980s in which the Packers were doormat of the NFL had ended.
The game that Favre started the following week would start a streak of consecutive starts that is still
continuing to this day. Favre gets a lot of flak from the national media nowadays, but it shouldn’t
diminish what he’s done in the past. I’ll never forget the 15 or so years of watching his amazing
playmaking ability and childlike exuberance for the game.
Game #3 – Duke vs. Cal, March 20, 1993, second round of the NCAA tournament at the Rosemont
Horizon in Illinois
My father just so happened to know someone working for CBS, and was able to get us press passes
to the game. To be 14 years old and sitting in press row and getting to go in the locker rooms after
the game is unbelievable.
The game was Jason Kidd’s coming out party as he led Cal, as a freshman, and ended Duke’s
streak of two straight national titles with an amazing win in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The week following the game the cover of Sports Illustrated featured Duke’s Bobby Hurley guarding
Kidd. I still have that magazine framed on a plaque along with the press pass from that game with
both Hurley’s and Kidd’s autographs. It’s hanging on my wall.
Game #2 – Wisconsin vs. Iowa football, November 13, 1999
I was lucky enough to attend the University of Wisconsin in college, and thus get cheap season
tickets for four years. That just might have been the best four year span in the history of Wisconsin
Wisconsin would not only annihilate Iowa 41-3, but running back Ron Dayne would break the NCAA’s
all-time rushing record of 6,397 yards at the time. Perhaps forgotten in the spectacle would be the
streaker that ran the length of the field of the field the moment Dayne broke the record.
The Badgers would go on to win the Rose Bowl, and Dayne would go on to win the Heisman trophy
that year. Most people around the nation know Dayne to be a flop in the NFL. Regardless, he was
one heck of a college player that would make my own collegiate career one to remember.
After all, how many Wisconsin fans does it take to screw in a light bulb? 1,001. One to screw in the
light bulb, and 1,000 to tell you how great Ron Dayne was.
Game #1 – Green Bay Packers vs. Carolina Panthers, 1996 NFC Championship Game
If you’re part of Generation X and live in Wisconsin, the only professional championship that you’ve
witnessed is the 1996 Green Bay Packers as Super Bowl champions.
My parents are among those lucky Green Bay Packer season ticket holders, of which there are 70,000
more on the waiting list. My father and two brothers would attend the game with me. Somewhere in
my closet is a picture of the four of us at Lambeau Field in January wearing our winter parkas, wool
hats, and insulated boots.
I’ll never forget the Reggie White running around Lambeau Field with the NFC championship trophy
hoisted over his head. He would end up leading the Packers in defeating the Patriots in the Super
Bowl two weeks later.
Thanks for the memories, Reggie.