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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Upset specials



Joe_3 So the Giants come into the Super Bowl nearly two-touchdown underdogs against the Patriots. In fact, they're one of the biggest underdogs in the championship of any sport. But they do have tales of inspiration to draw upon. We could include some of the biggest upsets in sports history, but upsets could happen anywhere, especially when the favorite is looking past its opponent to another game. The pressure of pulling off an upset is at its highest when you're playing for all the marbles. So let's look at the greatest upsets in championship history. That means the 1980 U.S. hockey team doesn't count. Yes, it beat the Soviets in perhaps sports' greatest upset, but it didn't happen in a championship game. Same with Duke's big upset over UNLV in the 1990 Final Four and Man o' War's loss to a 100-to-1 shot in the Sanford Memorial Stakes in 1919. By the way, do you know the name of the horse that handed Man o' War his only loss? Upset. That's believed to be where the term comes from. Anyway, here's our take on the 10 greatest upsets in championship history. And you might not even know No. 1.

1.Rulon Gardner over Alexander Karelin
2000 Olympics
You don't have to follow Greco-Roman wrestling to understand what a major upset this was. Russian Alexander Karelin was the Michael Jordan/Babe Ruth/Tiger Woods of his sport. Simply the best. Going into the gold-medal match of the 2000 Olympics, Karelin hadn't lost in 13 years and had not even given up a point in 10 years. But Gardner won 1-0. To this day, Karelin, known as "The Russian Bear,'' "The Experiment'' and "The Meanest Man in the World,'' won't even talk about Gardner or the famous super-heavyweight match.

2. New York Jets over Baltimore Colts
Super Bowl III
People sometimes forget how improbable it was for a team from the old AFL to beat an NFL team. And not just any NFL team, but one that went 13-1 and beat the Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game. In fact, if the Colts had beaten the Jets, they might be considered one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Behind the guarantee of quarterback Joe Namath, above,  and Matt Snell's 121 rushing yards, the Jets stunned Don Shula's Colts 16-7.

Buster 3. Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson
1990 heavyweight fight
Iron Mike Tyson was 37-0 with 33 knockouts, easily the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and on his way to becoming, perhaps, the greatest heavyweight ever when he climbed into the ring in Tokyo to face Buster Douglas an okay boxer who had lost four times. Oddsmakers made Tyson a 42-1 to favorite, but Douglas scored an upset for the ages by knocking out Tyson in the 10th round.

4. Villanova over Georgetown
1985 NCAA championship
Georgetown, with legendary center Patrick Ewing, was the defending NCAA champ. Villanova was a No. 8 seed and a 10-point underdog going into the final. But the Wildcats of Rollie Massimino shot 79 percent for the game, including an incredible 90 percent in the second half to pull off a 66-64 shocker. By the way, the basketball game was played on April Fools' Day. The 1985 Villanova team is still the lowest seed to ever win the NCAA men’s tournament.

1972 Olympics (basketball)
We have the Miracle on Ice. The Russians have the 1972 Olympic basketball tournament. Sure, the game ended in controversy and maybe the USSR had help from the referees, who added seconds to the clock that allowed it to win the gold  51-50. Still, it was an upset that the Soviets even had a chance late in the game, considering the USA was 63-0 in Olympic basketball competition. The U.S. players have never accepted their silver medals, but the Soviets did accept the gold because, well, officially they won.

Jim 6. North Carolina State over Houston
1983 NCAA championship
The only reason N.C. State, which had lost 10 regular-season games, made the NCAA Tournament was because it won the ACC tournament. Meantime, Houston's Phi Slama Jama, led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, entered the final with a 26-game winning streak and looked invincible. But a desperation shot followed by Lorenzo Charles' dunk gave N.C. State a 54-52 victory that was so shocking coach Jim Valvano raced around the court not believing what had just happened.

7. New York Mets over Baltimore Orioles
1969 World Series
There is a reason they were called the Miracle Mets. Just seven years earlier, the expansion Mets might have been the worst team in baseball history. Even in 1969, the Mets needed the Cubs to choke away a 9 1/2-game lead on Aug. 13 to get into the playoffs. Few gave them a chance against a Baltimore team that had won 109 games in the regular season and a pitching staff that had two 20-game winners, plus Jim Palmer. The Mets not only won, but they needed just five games to take the best-of-seven series.

Gibson 8. Los Angeles Dodgers over Oakland A's
1988 World Series
The Dodgers only won 94 games that season and didn't have one players hit 30 homers or bat .300. The mighty A's won 104 games, led by Bash Brothers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and a pitching staff that was first in the American League in ERA, wins and saves. But thanks to the "I don't believe what I just saw'' homer by Kirk Gibson in Game 1, the Dodgers rolled to a shocking five-game upset of Oakland.

9. Jack Fleck over Ben Hogan
1955 U.S. Open
Jack Fleck was a virtual unknown in golf, having joined the PGA Tour full time just six months earlier. Ben Hogan was a legend, having won nine majors. Yet Fleck, in the biggest round of his life, shot 69 to beat Hogan in an 18-hole playoff by three strokes. Fleck would win only twice more on the PGA Tour. Neither he nor Hogan would win another major.

Hooisers_2 10. Hickory over South Bend
Indiana high school basketball championship
See, you thought we were going to say the 1954 Milan basketball team that was the inspiration for the movie Hoosiers. Yes, it's true the Milan team that was from a 161-student school beat a Muncie Central school that had an enrollment of 2,200. But you might not know that Milan had reached the state semifinals the year before and, with four returning starters, was picked by many to win the title. So that's why we go here with Hickory. Besides, if Coach Dale, Shooter, Ollie and Jimmy can't inspire the Giants then no one can.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 2:41pm]


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