Monday, March 27, 2006

Cinderella Story

Michael Wilbon has a pretty good piece on the GMU-UConn upset, with this great moment:
Of all the people in the building, including Larranaga, Calhoun probably had a better handle than anybody on what George Mason has accomplished in getting to the Final Four. Calhoun, in defeat, was almost proud of George Mason, mostly because Calhoun coached at Northeastern for 14 years, which coincidentally is a Colonial Athletic Association colleague of George Mason.

"I can only imagine, and probably better than most, the feeling they must have on that campus and in that locker room," Calhoun said. "Those kids, many of whom were passed over by the Big East schools and others . . . I tip my hat to their conviction, to staying with what they have, to the incredible coaching job that [Larranaga] did. I feel a great deal of inner joy, honestly, about what they must be going through right now, something they probably never could have imagined. We have imagined it, and we've done it. But they could never have imagined that."

This has to be one of the great sports upsets in modern history. What else even comes close?

NC State beats Houston? Maybe. It was a title game, which makes it a bigger stage; but the Wolfpack was an ACC school.

Jets beat Indy? No way. They're both professional teams. At the professional level, any team should have at least a theoretical chance at beating any other. I don't know that that's true at the individual level. Which brings us to . . .

Buster Douglas beats Mike Tyson? Maybe. As they noted on ESPN this morning, Tyson has become such a clown that it's hard to remember that before Douglas knocked him out, we all assumed he would be heavyweight champion of the world for years and years and years. He was invincible.

Villanova beats Georgetown? My pick, if only because of what Villanova had to do to win that game. Remember, if Nova had shot only 75% from the field for the night, they would have lost! They shot 78.6% from the freakin' floor. And the game was still whisker-close. And it was a title game. That's pretty hard to top.

Red Sox beat Yankees? I include this in the discussion only because the Sox were down 0 games to 3 and no matter how evenly matched the two teams were, a 4-game comeback had never been done before. That's enough to put it on the short list.


Anonymous said...

As impressive as GMU's win (and run) is, nothing has yet approached the US defeat of the USSR in the 1980 olympics.

The proper analogy to understand the diparity between the US and USSR in 1980 is to imagine a division III college football team beating an NFL team.

Anonymous said...

oops disparity

Anonymous said...

Great sports upsets: Jets over Colts in Super Bowl III; Mets over Orioles, 4 games to 1, in the 1969 World Series. In both, the Baltimore team was heavily favored. The Mets' win was probably the bigger upset, as it wasn't a single game (where "anything can happen") but a best-of-seven series.

In fairness, the George Mason win shouldn't come as a shock: GMU had already beaten Michigan State and North Carolina, so they had no fear in playing UConn. (Not to mention nothing to lose, as they weren't supposed to be there in the first place.) By contrast, the Huskies hadn't overachieved their way through the tournament: Albany had them down by 12 at one point, and both Kentucky and Washington nearly beat them as well.

arrScott said...

Red Sox over Yankees in 2004 and US over USSR in 1980 are bigger upsets, by perhaps an order of magnitude. But it's hard to call Villanova over Georgetown a bigger upset just because it was a title game; if you're GMU and you've made it past the first round, every game is to you what a title game is to Duke.

Important distinction: "upset" vs. "fluke". Any side can win any contest on the day. Buster Douglas over Tyson still feels more like a fluke than an upset. GMU has clearly transcended fluke status.

Anonymous said...

arrscott, just a moment:

I watched that fight in 1990 with, among others, a guy who trained at the Kronk gym....his impression was that Douglas took Tyson apart with a great jab/right hand combination, wearing him out before taking him out in the 10th.

Also recall that Tyson hit Douglas with an uppercut that might have knocked a horse down, and Buster made it back to his corner.

Not exactly a fluke.

Anonymous said...

When you say -- Jets beat Indy, are you forgetting that the 1969 Colts were playing in Baltimore?

Anonymous said...

None of the upsets you listed compares to the 1980 U.S. Hockey defeat of the Red Menace.

Greatest. Upset. Ever.