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When sports (almost) made me cry: FSU, Florida, and a baseball gut punch

Thinking back on some great (and the worst) sports moments of my life.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

As we focus on SB Nation’s theme this week of sports moments that have made you cry.....well, I can’t ever remember crying at a sporting event. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been really, really close. I started watching sports back in elementary school in the mid-80s. I went to a few games as I got old enough in the late 80s, most notably games at LSU and Florida - my parents went to LSU and Florida, so don’t hold it against me. However, we mostly watched games on TV from home in east Texas. I would think that maybe this was the time I’d be most likely to cry, but I was more into it then just because my parents were excited by it, rather than having any meaning for me personally.

However, as life has gone by, stresses have increased, and I have spent decades watching teams, I’ve gotten more emotionally invested in sports. At times even irrationally so. I guess many of us are, as we look for an outlet from the difficult moments in life. So it’s really been later in life when I’ve experienced my most passionate moments as a sports fan. While I can’t recall flat-out bawling with tears pouring down my face, there have been some moments that have stuck out to me as particularly memorable where, reflecting on the moments in the immediate afterglow, I was close to seeing the tears come out. I’ll explain....

3.) Miami 24, FSU 20; 10/7/17

The previous seven years had been hell. Since escaping Tallahassee on Labor Day weekend in 2009, it had been nothing but pain against its biggest rival. After getting their guts ripped out in 2014 by Dalvin Cook after leading for most of the game, the next home tilt against the Noles was even more disgusting, with the tying extra point blocked in a rare turn of special teams fortunes in the series. It seemed Miami would never beat Jimbo Fisher.

And, even with the 13th-ranked team visiting the lowly Noles in 2017, it seemed again as though the streak of misery would continue. James Blackman found Auden Tate for a 20-yard TD with only 1:24 left, and I fell to my knees in front of the living room TV. Malik Rosier would get us all up on our feet, finding Braxton Berrios for two key third down conversions and then the throw of his life to Darrell Langham for the winner. I remember (don’t know why) as the ball floated through the air, thinking “man, he threw that up confidently”, just before Langham appeared on the screen and went up and got it. And when Langham rolled into the end zone, I didn’t move. I sat there, as fans went insane on the screen. Because I saw it was close and knew they would review it. When they went under review, I felt certain they would take it away, and the first angle from behind made it seem as though they might. Then, the goal line angle looked maybe short, but the shot cut out where his knee was, so no one could say with any certainty. My heart was pounding out of my chest.

Then, they said the play stood, and I burst up, screaming, flying out the front door and around the yard like a maniac. Back into the house, where my wife, in laws, and kids were watching me with amusement. The final gun went off (had to make sure there wouldn’t be yet another kick to the groin), and I took a knee. Watching the guys celebrate at midfield, seeing our fans dance bounce around in the stands, I felt a wave of emotion come over me, but I didn’t cry. It was the closest I had in a Miami game that I can remember though.

Thanks for the memories, Darrell, Braxton, Malik, and the rest of the 2017 Canes.

2.) Tennessee 38, Florida 28; 9/24/16

Some of you might know that I’m a graduate of the Universities of Tennessee and Miami, and my allegiances lie with both as an alum. And, as such, the most meaningful game on the Vols’ schedule for me is Florida. For many UT fans, it has been and still is Bama, but having Gator family members and living in Florida for over a decade, this is my biggest game every single year.

And it’s.......not been a good experience since 2004. From 2005 to 2015, it was a death march for Tennessee every time they faced the Gators. Horrifically-painful come-from-ahead tank job losses (2006, 2014, and 2015) mixed in with a lion’s share of blowouts. But, finally, Tennessee seemed to have the clear talent edge in 2016. Florida was starting some Purdue backup transfer named Austin Appleby, who no one has ever heard from again. But for one half of football, he looked like the reincarnation of Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel. Florida led 21-3 at the half, and I was ready to break something.

Then, a funny thing happened. Florida’s defense forgot how to play football, and Tennessee’s passing game exploded with long play after long play. I hugged my wife and lifted my kids up after each big play until my shoulders were jelly. Over and over again, the big plays happened in a manner I could never have dreamed of. When it was all said and done, UT had ripped off 35 straight points and put the game away at 38-21 with a few minutes left.

When it was over, and UT players were in the crowd with fans, singing the fight song and living it up, I was completely drained. The disappointment had slipped away, and the satisfaction and relief was so strong, I had my hands on my head, exhaling deeply. Shaking my head. My wife said, “and, my husband is about to cry over a football game.” Well, I didn’t, but it was as close as I’d been over a college football game.

1) Game 6, 2011 World Series; 10/27/11

Growing up in Texas, I watched the Rangers on TV every night. I think baseball is unique and the most intimate of all sports because, as Jimmy Fallon said in Fever Pitch, every night, there’s a game! If they lose, guess what, they make it up to you the next game.

I have been as emotionally invested in the Texas Rangers as I have in any team. Win or lose, they’re as close to anything of a favorite team I’ve had in all of sports. My dad and I watched them growing up, and that was one of our major bonds, so I guess that’s helped them stay so near and dear to my heart.

So, when the Rangers were one strike away in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Cardinals from their first ever title in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, I was shaking, on the phone with my dad, with tears at the point of showing. Waiting for the final out so I could break down. I felt like it was one of those seminal moments in my life. It was finally happening, and I wanted to share it with my dad.

And that phone call was the jinx.

New Ranger killer David Freese lifted a deep fly to right field. Nelson Cruz misplayed the ball, and turned a should-have-been catch into a game-tying triple. I was crushed, until Josh Hamilton hit a two-run bomb that had me mobbing my friend who had come over.

And that’s when I realized my ex-wife and her friend were drinking the champagne I had bought. I should’ve known what would follow. And it did. Down to their final strike yet again, Lance Berkman bled a game-tying hit through the infield. I had been standing on my living room table, and I fell on the rug face first. Of course, Freese would hit the walk-off bomb we all knew was coming in the 10th. Game. I was already defeated by that point, so it wasn’t shocking. My ex said, don’t they have another game? I said yes, but they have no chance. And I was right. Like the Cubs after the Bartman drop in Game 6, I knew the Rangers were toast in Game 7, which they dropped 6-2, finishing my misery. What were the edge of tears of joy turned to a stab in the gut. I’ve never recovered from that and won’t until the Rangers win one, which will probably be never.

What are your most three tear-worthy sports moments? Let’s hear them.