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I was there: My top sports moments

Tanner Cook • Mar 25, 2020 at 6:30 PM

I think it is important to keep some degree of fandom in life even if you do have a job covering sports.

I like to experience a lot of different sports and I love seeing historic moments. That makes the game that much better knowing that you can say: “I remember that because I was there.”

• Aug. 20, 2016: The entire weekend at the New Balance Falmouth Road Race was extravagant. This isn’t necessarily my top sports moment, but it holds special meaning. I got to meet four of my running heroes — Frank Shorter, Ryan Hall, Bill Rodgers and Alan Webb — all on the same day.

Webb sticks out the most because of his prowess in the middle distance events and being a native Virginian. Webb — for those that are not familiar — holds the American overall and high school record in the 1 mile with a 3:46.91 in 2007 and 3:53.43 in 2001.

That night, I saw Andrew Hunter — who at the time was one of fewer than 10 boys ever to break four minutes for the mile in high school — run his first professional mile race, the Aetna Falmouth Mile. Strangely enough, I had competed against Hunter three years previously at Abingdon when I was a senior and he was a freshman. I went up to him afterward and he remembered me.

• May 10, 2017: There is absolutely nothing like experiencing a soccer match at the highest competitive level on European soil. I was fortunate enough to attend the very last UEFA Champions League match at Atletico de Madrid’s Vicente Calderon in Spain.

Atletico was hosting crosstown rival Real Madrid and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the second leg of the semifinals in the Champions League tournament. Atletico jumped out to a 2-0 lead and was trailing by three goals on the aggregate. After scoring the second goal, the place was loud and was ready to erupt.

Atletico did end up taking the match 2-1, but Real Madrid eventually won the finals that season. The coolest thing about the whole experience was watching Ronaldo warm up on the sidelines from less than 30 feet away. I’ll never forget that game as long as I live.

• July 21, 2018: For those that know me, I am a gigantic New York Yankees fan. I had always watched the Bronx Bombers from afar on television and had never been to a home game at Yankee Stadium. I finally got the chance to go to New York in the summer of 2018 and see my beloved Bombers play.

The Yanks played the crosstown- rival Mets that day in the second game after the All-Star break. Unfortunately, Sonny Gray started for the Yankees and I was not happy on the subway ride over to 161st Street.

Gray actually pitched decently that day and Aaron Judge hit his 26th homer of the season, a shot to deep left field in the seventh. Usually reliable closer Aroldis Chapman came in during the ninth and faced five batters without recording an out and gave up three runs. Thank goodness for Chasen Shreve saving the Yanks’ bacon for a 7-6 win.

• Nov. 7, 2010: Even though it was a blowout and still the only professional football game I have ever attended, it was pretty cool to see the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints destroy the Carolina Panthers 34-3.

Drew Brees is a magician and was on the top of his game along with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady nearly 10 years ago. The quarterback for Carolina at the time was Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen and the Panthers wound up going 2-14 that season. They then got some guy named Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

• Sept. 24, 2016: I’ve seen way more lows than highs inside Neyland Stadium in the past 10-plus years. However, on the day the Volunteers wore their “Smokey Gray” uniforms to face hated Florida, the place was electric.

ESPN’s “College Gameday” was in Knoxville and the feeling was the Vols were going to end their 11-game losing streak to the Gators. After falling behind 21-0, Tennessee scored 38 consecutive points and won 38-28.

I can still see Jauan Jennings streaking down the sideline wide open and the student section absolutely losing its mind. Having lost to Florida by one point each of the previous two years made the victory even sweeter. It is still the loudest I have ever heard “Rocky Top” being sung throughout the stadium.

Contact Tanner Cook via email at [email protected]

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