The idea I had for the Rangers/Giants series preview was to ask if we should stop living in the past. If it's time to stop posting .gifs of Brian Wilson striking out Nelson Cruz, or if we should get over the Cody Ross fetish already. I had this whole idea fleshed out. Then I checked my e-mail, and it turns out that I forgot to do a sponsored campaign for SB Nation. The subject: Favorite sports highlights.
Welp. Goodbye, self-control. Hellllo, living in the past.
The obvious answer is Wilson striking out Cruz, but I'm going to go contrarian here. That was more of an out-of-body experience; I remember shock and disbelief more than coursing and electric jubilation. Plus, after the season of close, taut games, races, and series, the World Series was a little lopsided by the time that pitch was thrown. The Giants were up by two, and there wasn't anyone on base. It felt more inevitable than any of us would have admitted at the time.
Aw, hell, let's just take a look at the final out of the 2010 World Series again:
After watching that 65 times just now, I can confirm it is one of my favorite sports highlights. They say that you can't truly judge a highlight until you watch it 129 times, so I will be right back. I am now back and I can confirm that the highlight holds up as one of my favorites.
But it's not my favorite. And I know that's like preferring the Smile demos to the finished product, or not liking a band after they sign with a major label, which I'm not even sure people do anymore.
I think the Ryan Howard strikeout is my favorite sports highlight.
I've watched it several times on my Samsung Galaxy SII, which is a superb, sleek machine that I heartily recommend you purchase, for I would be lost without mine. Here is the Ryan Howard strikeout for your edification:
Yup. Yup. That's the one. It didn't win the World Series. It merely won a pennant, which is something that I had already lived through as an obsessive Giants fan. It should be tied with David Bell sliding into home on a Kenny Lofton single.
But my argument for Howard:
1. The situation. It was runners at first and second in a one-run game. A broken-bat single would have tied it. A double would have won it for the Phillies. Ryan Howard is a fearsome, powerful dude. If the Giants would have lost that game, it would have been another Game 6 story, like that thing with those guys and the monkey, and that other one with that guy who slid for a ball.
Aw, hell. We're in a dark place now. Let's think about happier times. Here's my second-favorite sports highlight:
There we go. Back on track. If we had one with Maldonado playing catch with Smacky the Frog, that might be #1.
Back to the Howard strikeout. If Brian Wilson failed, I'm not saying the Giants were going to lose Game 7. It sure as hell wouldn't have helped the cause, though. It was a tense, tense, tense situation.
2. It was the perfect pitch. Movement. Velocity. Location. Location. Location. The best pitch I've ever seen. Phillies fans were angry with Howard, and I don't really blame them. But I certainly can't fault Howard for that split-second thought of "Outsi…oh jeez" that froze him.
Perfect pitch in the perfect situation.
3. It led to the World Series win. So it's a vote for the Cruz strikeout by proxy. Without this highlight, the final-out highlight doesn't exist as you know it. Which I guess is an argument for anything up to and including Aaron Rowand's walk-off infield single on Opening Day, 2010. But it's possible to prefer the Howard strikeout without neglecting the final out of the World Series.
4. The Phillies were annoying.
5. Tom Hallion goes full Frank Drebin. Ker-boooom! A fiery bolt of strike three, shot from an invisible umpire-bow into the sun! Coming for you, Helios! Coming for you!
Your mileage may vary. But of the 3,392 different highlights that popped into my head when I first thought of the topic, the one I kept coming back to was Brian Wilson striking out Ryan Howard. You're free to disagree, but unless you're thinking about the end of the World Series, you're probably wrong.