The Top Five Christmas Day Sports Moments
As you've probably figured our by now, Christmas Day is not just for opening presents and spreading the love. It's also about parking yourself in front of a television and watching sports. It's part of what it makes the day so unique, especially for men -- they get to do something they rarely experience the rest of the year.
Playing in a Christmas Day game can be a pain, we're sure; but watching them is no problem at all. There have been some highlights through the years. Here we count down our Top Five.
5. A woman plays in a Division 1-A football game.
You thought this week's Las Vegas Bowl was strange, with 45 mph winds that blew punts into the stands? It wasn't as unique as the 2002 edition of the game, when Katie Hnida became the first female to play in a major-division college football game.
Hnida was a place-kicker, and her debut for the University of New Mexico didn't go well -- her point-after attempt was blocked. Hnida was luckier the next year, when she became the first female to score points during a major-division game -- against Texas State, in a 72-8 blowout.
Hnida went on to make headlines when she accused players at the school she went to before UNM -- Colorado -- of sexually harassing her, and accused one of raping her. CU's coach was suspended for making snarky comments about her claims. No criminal charges were ever filed. These days Hnida speaks to groups around the country about sexual assault.
4. The Knicks' Bernard King drops 60 points on the Nets.
It's hard to imagine a Knicks-Nets game being a marquee match-up lately, but in 1984 everyone was watching. Brooklyn-born King went nuts, setting a Madison Square Garden record for points scored that stood until Kobe Bryant decided to break it.
We have no idea what language this highlight reel is in, so we don't know if it mentions that just five years earlier, King had been arrested for drug possession after being found passed out behind the wheel of his car in a New York intersection.
3. The nation gets introduced to Jerry Rice.
NFL legend Jerry Rice played his college ball at Mississippi Valley State -- in the days before ESPN2 or ESPNU or regional sports networks -- so no one had ever heard of him. That changed on Christmas Day 1984 (same day as King's feat), when he won the MVP award for the Blue-Gray Classic.
The Classic used to be a Christmas staple -- a football game featuring mostly unknown names playing in a small Alabama stadium, with crazy rules to keep TV happy (shorter periods, teams down by double digits would get the ball back after scoring) -- but it was a football game, which is all that counted in those prehistoric days.
No footage of the game seems to exist on the net.
2. Michael Jordan vs. Patrick Ewing
The future of the NBA was on display Christmas Day 1986. Michael Jordan had not yet won any championships, but he had set a playoff scoring record the year before, with 63 against the Celtics. Ewing was fresh out of Georgetown, and Knick fans were expecting championship rings.
Again, this was a time when it wasn't easy to see a lot of out-of-town NBA games on TV, so the showdown between the two rising stars was hotly anticipated. The game lived up to the hype, with the Knicks winning on Ewing's last-second tip-in.
The gods smiled on football fans in 1971: Christmas fell on a weekend, and the NFL had playoff games scheduled. In one, the Kansas City Chiefs faced the Miami Dolphins; 11 future Hall of Famers were on the field.
The game was exciting throughout, but it is remembered mostly for its length -- no NFL game has gone longer. After 82 minutes, in the double-overtime period, Garo Yepremian -- who'd had a 42-yard FG attempt blocked in the first overtime -- lined up for a 37-yard attempt. It sailed through, and the Dolphins won 27-24.
They went on to lose the Super Bowl to some team north of here.
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