The state of Wisconsin takes center stage in the golf world this week when the U.S. Open descends upon the state for the first time, teeing up at Erin Hills, a rolling heartland course with 138 bunkers, snarling rough, wide fairways and a rare par of 72 (only the ninth time the U.S. Open has carried such a number since World War II). Is the 2017 Open the greatest sporting event held in the Badger State? It's certainly the most anticipated event but let's wait until Sunday night to call it the greatest. Despite not having the richest sports history, the state of Wisconsin has a few classics to its name.
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Game days at Camp Randall Stadium (University of Wisconsin football)
While Wisconsin fans can probably rattle off their favorite dozen home games, Camp Randall Stadium, the home of the Badgers, doesn't have that one signature moment that instantly evokes memories of the cardinal and white. It's reputation is far bigger than one moment - a home to some great Big Ten football, a number of upsets and much around-jumping.
Remember when crowd noise wasn't seen as a virtue but was instead viewed as an illicit advantage that harmed opposing teams and must be stopped at all consequence? At the famously loud Camp Randall, that was never more apparent than in 1986 when No. 4 Michigan came to town and its feisty quarterback - some guy named Harbaugh - became flustered by the noise and repeatedly whined to officials about it. He'd go under center, act like he was calling a play, then walk back to the ref to lodge his rational, measured complaint. This went on for 10 minutes. In other games, fans would be repeatedly warned about cheering for their teamand timeouts were taken away from the Badgers.
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1992 NCAA tournament (Georgia Tech buzzer beater)
Wisconsin has played host tod NCAA tournament games 11 times, including the 2002 Midwest Regional (won by Kansas), which included a thrilling Oregon win over Texas in the Sweet 16 that was decided in the final seconds. And while there's been some home-cooking games for the Badgers and big stars and big teams rolling through the state en route to regionals (Tim Duncan and 1999 champion Michigan State, for instance), the most memorable tourney game played in the state came in 1992 in a second-round matchup between No. 2 USC and No. 7 Georgia Tech. In that one, James Forrest hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets the upset. The ball was inbounded from mid-court with 0.8 seconds remaining, which is believed to be the quickest buzzer-beater in NCAA tournament history. (Click the link. It's great.)
NFC championship 2007 (Packers vs. Giants)
With Tom Coughlin's face a shade of red rarely seen outside angry cartoon characters, the Packers and Giants battled at a frostbitten Lambeau to see what team would be the victims of the mighty 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. New York blew opportunity after opportunity (dropping interceptions, committing needless penalties and missing two field goals that would have ended up sealing the game), things not helped by the minus-24 wind chill. But in overtime, Brett Favre did Brett Favre and threw a horrible interception to Corey Webster, thus setting up Lawrence Tynes' second chance at redemption. He'd hit the field goal and the Giants would go on to stun the undefeated Patriots two weeks later in the slightly warmer climate of Arizona.
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1982 World Series (Brewers vs. Cardinals)
The Brewers, then in the American League, played their only World Series in 1982 against the St. Louis Cardinals in what was known as the Six-Pack series because -- beer. Game 1, in St. Louis, was a glorious introduction to the World Series stage for the Brewers, as they won 10-0 behind the 1-2 punch of future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, who went 9-12 in the game. Milwaukee barely needed the three-hit shutout from Mike Caldwell. But the debut of World Series baseball in Wisconsin didn't go as well. The Cardinals won 6-2, beating Brewers pitcher Pete Vuckovich (who'd later portray the big-hitting, wife-dating Clue Haywood in Major League), though Games 4 and 5 were better: Milwaukee won both to take a 3-2 Series lead. But the Cardinals held at home to win in seven and the Brewers haven't been back to the Series.
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2010 PGA Championship (DJ in the bunker)
This isn't the first time Wisconsin has hosted a men's major. After going more than 70 years without such an event, Wisconsin was awarded the 2004 PGA at a new course named Whistling Straits (sound familiar?) It was a thrilling championship as third-round leader Vijay Singh shot a Sunday 76 to get him into a three-way playoff, which he eventually won on aggregate score. But the most memorable Whistling Straits moment (at least until it hosts the Ryder Cup in three years) came in 2010 when Dustin Johnson took a one-shot lead to the 18th tee after going birdie-birdie on Nos. 16 and 17 but grounded his club in an area he assumed to be a trampled-down portion of the rough (it was actually an unraked bunker -- which are numerous at Whistling Straits). He was assessed a two-stroke penalty that effectively ended his chances of victory.
2002 MLB All-Star game
The '02 All-Star Game was supposed to be Bud Selig's shining moment -- played at the stadium he'd fought to build in front of fans of the team he used to own. It was to be his showcase. And it was, just not in the way anyone thought. After ending nine innings tied at seven, the AL and NL teams quickly used up their 30-man rosters and, not wanting to extend the final pitchers left on the card (Freddy Garcia and Vicente Padilla), the game was called. No team won and All-Star infamy was made.
The entire mess could have been avoided, of course, if the NL could have scored a run in the bottom of the 11th. The decision to suspend the exhibition in case of a tie was actually made before the NL's final turn at the plate by a group that included Selig, umpires and mangers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly.
But the announcement of said decision came after Garcia, who later would say he could have pitched a few more innings, retired Luis Castillo for the first out. Fans booed vigorously but brightened after Mike Lowell got to second base, making a resolution appear imminent. But a failed bunt by Padilla and Benito Santiago's strikeout looking ended the game.
It was a disaster for baseball, taking place in an uncertain environment of the looming threat of players' strike and Barry Bonds still out there hitting home runs in a cap three sizes too big without anyone taking much notice. (This was the game Torii Hunter robbed him of a home run in the outfield, causing Bonds to playfully grab him in a bear hug in between innings.)
There was no MVP named in the first year the award was named after Ted Williams, who died the Friday before the game. In retrospect, since there was nothing on the line in the game (that wouldn't come until next year when Selig, still smarting from the tie, announced that the league whose team won the All-Star game would get home-field in the World Series) Garcia should have grooved a fastball like the ones thrown to Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter in their respective All-Star games.
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1971 NBA Finals (Bucks vs. Bullets)
In their third year of existence, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title with the most dominant run in playoff history. That's what happens when your two frontline stars are Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor.
The Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets in the Finals and during the playoffs outscored opponents by 14.5 point per game, the most in NBA history. Not even the recently crowned Golden State Warriors could top that (they finished the 2017 postseason second all-time at 13.5). The Bucks' win was the first for the Western Conference since 1958 and the first Finals sweep since 1959.
Then in his second season, Alcindor was named MVP after averaging 27 points and 18 rebounds. One day later, he'd announce his conversion to Islam and take the new name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
1967 NFL championship (Packers vs. Cowboys)
The Ice Bowl. In a game that helped create the legend of Lombardi, Lambeau and hearty Packers fans, Bart Starr dove over the Cowboys' defense to score a touchdown with 13 seconds left to send Green Bay to its second straight Super Bowl. The play was a surprise: two running plays to start the set of downs had been stuffed and without any timeouts left, it's doubtful the Packers could have kicked a game-tying field goal in time had Starr been stopped. But when it's 13 below zero (with a -48 wind chill), reward can outweigh risk. This stands as one of the most famous games in NFL history.