Forget the Super Bowl. Forget the NBA finals. Forget the World Series. The U.S. women's World Cup victory over Brazil on Sunday was easily the most entertaining game in the past year. This game had it all: an impossible comeback, controversy, a formidable opponent, dubious officiating, nerve-wracking penalty kicks, and a whole lot of heart.
One year ago, Landon Donovan scored the shot seen round the world, a late-minute goal to keep the U.S. men's hopes alive. The women's game had that and more.
The Americans were given a raw deal 70 minutes into the game when the referee handed out a questionable red card and awarded a penalty kick. The referee then compounded her mistake, giving Brazil a second chance on the penalty kick after another dubious call.
Brazil held onto a 2-1 lead into the late minutes and the game looked all but over. American star Abby Wambach couldn't seem to slip one past the Brazilian goalkeeper. ESPN's Bill Simmons tweeted the sentiments of millions of American viewers: "Damn -- that Wambach shot was USA's big chance. This game is over. There's no way Brazil will blow this now."
But Wambach screamed at her teammates to keep fighting until the very end. They rose to the occasion, serving her up a golden opportunity that she seized, delivering a picture-perfect header into the net and sending the game into penalty kicks, where the Americans triumphed.
Against all odds. Against the officials. Against the best female soccer player in the world.
This game is why we watch sports. The feeling of being dragged into the depths of misery only to be redeemed with a miracle shot "in the death" as they say.
What was this game missing?
Commercialism. Greed. Labor disputes. Enormous egos.
These are difficult times to be a sports fan. For the first time in history, two major American sports are in lockout and two others may soon be. Suddenly, sports news is dominated with talk of salary caps, rookie wage scales, and revenue sharing. And this temporary escape from the ugly business of sports will no doubt end too quickly.
But for one Sunday, the American women have reminded us all why we are sports fans in the first place -- the thrill of victory.
Too bad they don't play the World Cup every year.