Without games to write about, Star Tribune writers and editors have been thinking back on the best games they've covered. Ever. Maybe it was for the Star Tribune, maybe it was from high school or college. The only requirement was that it be something they attended as a journalist.
We'll be publishing our memories this week, and we hope you share some of the things you've seen in the comments.
Here, Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and our columnists write about their favorite famous football games.
Jim Souhan on the noise during the Vikings' overtime loss at New Orleans to end the 2009 season.
Beyond the 12th man in the huddle, Brett Favre’s grotesquely swollen ankle and wrenching interception, the questionable call on Ben Leber and all of those fumbles, what remains stuck in your head is what the Superdome sounded like that day.
It was was loud in a uniquely New Orleans way:volume mixed with rhythm and not a little blues, with funk and soul and jazz.
The New Orleans Saints were trying to beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 24, 2010, to go to the Super Bowl for the first time. In New Orleans’ way stood another franchise that had never won a Super Bowl, and a Mississippi boy named Favre who grew up cheering for the Saints.
Two days earlier, Favre’s mother, Bonita, had hosted a party in her son’s honor in a gas station parking lot in Kiln, Miss., in front of a mural depicting Favre in all of the football jerseys he had worn. A cooler of light beer and a boom box was all that Bonita required.
In New Orleans, the partying was wilder, and continued as the game began.
In the history of sports teams and theme songs, perhaps no combination worked as effectively as "Halftime (Stand up & Get Krunk!)" As it blared over the speakers, it seemed all 71,000 fans were swaying in unison, and so were all of the extra players on the Saints’ sideline.
Hurricane Katrina had devastated New Orleans four years earlier. This was the city’s symbolic resurgence. This game would either position Brett Favre to become the first Hall of Fame quarterback to win a Super Bowl while playing for his former arch-rival, or provide emotional salve to a long-suffering fan base that had experienced real suffering when the levees broke.
So I was sitting in the press box, watching Favre lead what promised to be the most consequential game-winning drive in Vikings history, when, during a timeout, I noticed a disruption on the Vikings’ sideline. The Vikings had sent 12 men onto the field.
The resulting penalty led to Favre trying to pass for a first down, and throwing the interception that led to the Saints’ overtime victory. At the end of the night’s long duel between Favre and Drew Brees, Favre limped through the locker room on an improbably round ankle as, outside, the city of New Orleans thumped like a stand-up bass.
Goessling on what it was like to cover the Minneapolis Miracle in January 2018.
The three contenders for the title of “Best Game I Ever Covered” -- the Vikings’ win over the Saints in the NFC divisional playoffs, Super Bowl LII and the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball championship game -- all happened within a 16-month time frame at U.S. Bank Stadium. Two of them took place three weeks apart.
If the Metrodome left a legacy as the site of some remarkable events during its 31-year history, its successor has capably carried on that tradition. But what separates the “Minneapolis Miracle” from the two championship thrillers, for me, was the feeling that pervaded the stadium, the locker rooms and the postgame news conferences after Stefon Diggs’ 61-yard touchdown.
No one, not even those who’d made the moment happen, could fully comprehend that it was real.
During the extended review of the touchdown, Vikings players wandered around the field in a kind of dazed euphoria, hugging each other and professing speechlessness. Mike Zimmer -- who conducts his postgame news conferences on the other side of a wall from a field-level club -- ordered the curtains raised for the first (and, in my recollection, only) time at the stadium.
The coach is not usually one to linger at the podium, but that day, he paused repeatedly in the middle of his answers to pump his fist or start a “Skol” chant with the fans who cheered from behind the glass panes.
Diggs brought the game ball with him to the podium during his media session, strolled back to the locker room after taking his last question from reporters -- and sprinted back through the door to the interview room seconds later, once he’d realized he’d left one of the most prized pieces of memorabilia in Vikings history at a podium.
When I got back up to the U.S. Bank Stadium press box, I remember sitting down in front of my laptop and thinking to myself, “I’m the Vikings beat writer for the paper of record in Minnesota. I’m about to sit down and write for a section that will be reprinted in bars and basements all over the state. This is so much fun.”
I’ve never had a feeling quite like that in my 15 years as a sportswriter. The game story I wrote that day remains my favorite piece I’ve ever done. And what made that day so unique, I believe, is the thing that keeps us coming back to sports: The fact that you have a chance, on any day, in any stadium, of seeing something you’ll never forget.
Chip Scoggins knocked the Rose Bowl off his bucket list, and gets an epic game in the process.
My mind was racing at warp speed when the shuttle bus arrived sometime past midnight. Covering a big game has that effect. As I found a seat on the media bus and stared out the window, I remember thinking, That was the best game I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget this one.
I still feel that way about 2006 Rose Bowl. In fact, many consider that Texas-USC thriller to be one of the greatest college football games ever. No argument here, though trying to encapsulate the back-and-forth momentum swings, questionable coaching decisions and Vince Young’s epic performance under tight deadline made whatever I wrote feel wholly inadequate.
Young played the role of Superman as Texas ended USC’s 34-game winning streak and two-year championship supremacy. His 8-yard touchdown run in the final 20 seconds gave Texas a 41-38 win.
I’ve been fortunate to cover some instant classics throughout my 20-plus years at the Star Tribune, a list that includes the Minneapolis Miracle, Team Shuster’s Olympic miracle, KG’s epic Game 7 performance against Sacramento with scorer’s table celebration, and Andrew Brunette’s jaw-dropper for the Wild at Colorado in Game 7.
That Rose Bowl still tops my list.
College football has been my favorite sport since childhood. Covering the Rose Bowl went to the top of my bucket list early in my career. Watching the game on TV doesn’t do justice to the splendor of being there in person to witness the San Gabriel Mountains changing colors at sunset in the background. It’s magical. If you’re lucky, the game matches that beauty.
My one and only Rose Bowl trip certainly did. The Trojans were kings of college football at that time. They had two Heisman Trophy winners in Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. A third consecutive national championship felt inevitable when the Trojans took a 12-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.
One problem: Texas had the best player on the field, and he could not be stopped. Young scored twice in the final five minutes and posted 467 total yards (267 passing and 200 rushing) and three touchdowns overall in one of the greatest individual performances I’ve ever witnessed.
Afterward, USC coach Pete Carroll described Young as “extraordinary.” Perfect adjective for my entire Rose Bowl experience.
Patrick Reusse covered the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 1984, a game that was expected to crown Nebraska as college football's national champion.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers arrived for final Orange Bowl preparations late in 1983 with a 27-game winning streak. They had been No. 1 in preseason polls, confirmed that by thrashing Penn State 44-6 in an August opener, and were 12-0 with 624 points scored.
Required note: 84-13 vs. Gophers on Sept. 17 in the Metrodome.
Howard Schnellenberger, with great pipes both for smoking and speaking, was in his fifth season as the coach of the Miami Hurricanes. They had opened 1983 with a disappointing 28-3 loss to Florida, then followed with 10 straight wins. Miami was No. 5 at regular season’s end, and invited to the hometown Orange Bowl for the first time since defeating Holy Cross 13-6 on Jan. 1, 1946.
Schnellenberger had decided to fight the dominance of Florida and Florida State in statewide interest by declaring that all lands from Orlando to the south were part of the “State of Miami.’’
The coach wasn't blowing smoke out of his pipe in praising Nebraska, not with Turner Gill, Mike Rozier and Irving Fryar to light the torch for that amazing offense. Schnellenberger also spent preview week with superlatives for his team, including Bernie Kosar, an unflappable freshman quarterback.
The Orange Bowl was true insanity that night, as 20,000 Nebraska hardcores in red at one end and 52,000 State of Miamians saw my best game ever. The rabid Hurricanes burst to a 17-0 lead. Nebraska got back in it, even with the great running back Rozier leaving early in the fourth.
On fourth-and-8 from Miami’s 24, quarterback Gill executed a perfect option, allowing backup running back Jeff Smith to cruise into the end zone.
Miami 31, Nebraska 30, 48 seconds left.
The Huskers could kick for a tie and get voted the national champs for the first time in 11 years.
“The idea of kicking the point never crossed my mind,’’ Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. “We came here to win.’’
The run-heavy Huskers went with a pass on the two-point conversion try, with Smith and Fryar crossing in the end zone. It looked as if Smith had popped free, before Miami’s Kenny Calhoun managed to tip the ball away with a couple of fingers. The ‘Canes ran out the clock and were voted as national champion a few hours later by the wire services.
It was 1:30 a.m. in Miami, with the celebration still going on around the Orange Bowl, when Schnellenberger was asked about Osborne’s call.
“Coach Osborne knew and I knew and his players knew and my players knew and everyone in the Orange Bowl knew and the whole state of Nebraska knew they were going to go for two and the win.’’