When people prepare to leave things for different experiences, often the mind wanders and thinks back, taking memories with you. Some are good. Some are bad. Some, through the combined force of aging and time, become hazy at best. Yet in my four years covering Notre Dame and other things around Fort Wayne, I was lucky enough to see a bunch of amazing events that will stick with me for a long time. And as those who read Insights know, I'm somewhat of a sucker for lists, so here's a Top 10 Games/Moments I saw in four years here, in reverse order (My note: Most of these will be Notre Dame related. A few won't be):
10. A split-second decides a state championship: On the day Charlie Weis was awarded a massive contract extension of unknown gargantuan numbers in 2005, Insights was in Indianapolis, covering the Indiana state high school girls soccer finals. And as the time crept closer to deadline, Bishop Dwenger and Zionsville remained tied. As time ran out, Zionsville appeared to have scored on Dwenger goalie Erin Jacobson. She collapsed. Zionsville celebrated. Five minutes later, the officials ruled time had expired, sending the state title game into penalty kicks, which Dwenger won, 3-1. 9. A Garden Party With A Quick Knockout: Tom Zbikowski had never been in a pro fight. A decorated amateur and Notre Dame safety, he had name recognition. In the program and on the media credential, he was listed as "All-American Tommy Zbikowski." In the middle of a boxing ring in Madison Square Garden, Zbikowski knocked out Ohio State-jersey wearing tomato can Robert Bell in 49 seconds to win his pro debut. He eventually put boxing on hold to concentrate on the NFL, where he's a second-year safety with the Baltimore Ravens. But that June night in New York in 2006 was something different.
8. Gody Goes For 40: Luke Harangody had already emerged as something of a phenomenon by the middle of his sophomore year at Notre Dame. The kid from Schererville with the crew cut and odd shot finish appeared almost out of nowhere to help lead the Irish. By February of his sophomore year, he had become a dominant inside force in helping lead Notre Dame into contention for the 2007-08 Big East regular-season title. Yet on a late February night in Louisville, Harangody became a multi-dimensional star. Notre Dame may have lost to the Cardinals, 90-85, but Gody scored 40 -- including three three-pointers late in the game that gave both himself and Notre Dame coach Mike Brey a new dimension to think about. It also may have locked up his eventual Big East Player of the Year selection.
7. The Worst Race Ever: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the most famous track in American racing. Yet in the 2008 Brickyard 400, it turned into the Long Island Expressway during rush hour on a Friday in the summer. Tires were being destroyed at record paces and turned the race into a bunch of short sprints. Drivers complained. Fans complained. The media became annoyed. Goodyear held an impromptu press conference in the IMS media center before the race ended to address the problem. It was, for NASCAR, a total disaster.
6. The Emergence Of A College Superstar: Brady Quinn had the looks, the talent and the glitzy position of Notre Dame quarterback. Yet once Charlie Weis arrived at Notre Dame, Quinn had something else -- a teacher. The two combined for a magical first two seasons in South Bend for Weis, with Quinn twice finishing in the top 5 in the Heisman Trophy voting, Notre Dame going to two BCS games and almost constant fawning over the Irish's latest Golden Boy. Quinn rewrote the Notre Dame passing record book and is still revered in South Bend more than two years after he departed.
5. Passing At The Last Second: The Andrettis, seemingly, are cursed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Indianpolis 500. One of the biggest families in American racing, Mario Andretti won the race 40 years ago in 1969. Since then, his son, Michael, and his grandson, Marco, both have come close to winning. In 2006, it was Marco's turn. He led on the final lap and into the final turn, only to have Sam Hornish Jr. pass him on the inside on the final straightaway right in front of where I had been standing.
4. The Hall, The Hummer, The Hot Recruit: His parents tried being economical and easy about it. Instead, it became a sign of the excess of Jimmy Clausen before he even arrived at Notre Dame. The Clausen family had rented a Hummer limousine to take his family and friends to the College Football Hall of Fame on the morning of the 2006 Blue-Gold Game to announce Clausen's decision to attend Notre Dame. During the press conference, he flashed his high school championship rings, spikey hair and a big smile as almost 200 fans allowed into the event hooted and hollered as Clausen said he wanted to try and win four national championships. Still, over three years later, that scene was one of the most bizarre I've ever witnessed over an 18-year-old kid.
3. The Streak Is Over: The streak had gone on for 43 years -- over four decades of futility for the Naval Academy against Notre Dame in a rivalry that more often than not resembled a butt kicking. Yet in 2007, in the midst of Notre Dame's worst season in 40 years, if not ever, Navy sunk the Irish led by a long-named quarterback (Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada) and a linebacker named Ram Vela flying through the air. After the win, the Naval Academy canceled Monday classes and the party in Annapolis is still being talked about a year and a half later. It isn't often you know you're witnessing a historical moment as it happens -- but that was one of three.
2. 4th And Nine And A Push: Less than two months had passed since Insights had arrived in Fort Wayne to cover Notre Dame. Yet on this early evening in mid-October, I looked up and saw Bob Kraft to one side of me and Andy Reid on the other. One of these things didn't belong, at least monetarily. Meanwhile, on the field, Notre Dame and USC engaged in the best football game of the 2005 season and one still remembered in both South Bend and Southern California. The Irish looked like they might win after Brady Quinn scored to give Notre Dame a 31-28 lead with 2:04 left. And they looked like they might win again when the Irish forced USC into 4th-and-9 on the Trojans' last possession. Then Matt Leinart found Dwayne Jarrett for a first down. It wasn't done. The Irish looked like they might have won again, as it appeared Leinart might have fumbled the ball out of bounds in the end zone, giving the Irish the ball and the win as the clock hit 0:00. Students rushed the field. On advice from a journalist, I booked for midfield as to not be run over. Then the officials put seven seconds back on the clock. Leinart lunged for the end zone. Reggie Bush gave some help behind him and USC scored with three seconds remaining. Still the most memorable football game I've seen, even though the luster was a little lost after USC fell to Texas in the national title game.
1. A Six Pack: Being on press row for Syracuse-Connecticut in the 2009 Big East tournament quarterfinals was an experience I'll never forget. Six overtimes. Two of the top teams in the country playing in the nation's best basketball arena, Madison Square Garden. The game went past midnight, past 1 a.m. and combined for 244 points, 209 shots, 143 rebounds, a waved-off buzzer beater in regulation and a 127-117 Syracuse win at 1:22 a.m., three hours and 46 minutes after it started. Within 24 hours, enterprising vendors were selling "Marathon Men" T-shirts on the streets of New York City commemorating the game. In Indianapolis, at least one friend and Syracuse grad had hotel staff come to his room to ask him to be quiet because of the emotion and tension of the game. You knew then, during the game, that you were watching history -- perhaps one of the top 5 college basketball games ever played. The next day, the game was on ESPN Classic, in its entirety.
So it's been a wild four years. Think I left anything out, talk about it in the comments below.