Updated: Sep 18
By Danny Cohen
Sports Editor/Layout Editor
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the whole world has been forced to shut down, including all competitive sports. We have been without sports for around three months now, missing out on a third of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season, the rest of the regular seasons for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL), a live National Football League (NFL) draft with fans in attendance, and March Madness. For Philly sports fans, in particular, this is a major disappointment, as the flaming-hot Flyers were in contention for the Stanley Cup for the first time in a decade, winning nine of their last 10 games before the hiatus, and sitting one point behind the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan division. Additionally, while the 76ers struggled for most of the season with injuries and inconsistency, the team was beginning to build chemistry and gain momentum for the playoffs. Many fans were also excited for the Phillies season to start, with new manager Joe Girardi, shortstop Didi Gregorius and pitcher Zack Wheeler. However, while everyone is eagerly anticipating the return of live sports action, the hiatus offers an opportunity to reminisce about all the incredible sports moments that have taken place in the past 15 years. To assess this, The Cougar Chronicle interviewed 25 Barrack students, asking them a simple question: “What is your favorite sports memory?”
#5 Tiger Woods and His Spectacular Journey
While it may come as a surprise, a fair number of Barrack students watch golf. Therefore, Tiger Woods’ recent Masters Tournament victory qualified for this survey with a top-five finish. Before 2019, Tiger Woods had won 14 major championships, his last win coming in 2008. After a number of injuries, including an Achilles tear, an elbow strain, and more recently, a fragmented disc in his back, forcing him to have multiple surgeries, mostly everybody counted Woods out. In 2017, Tiger hit an all-time low, as he was arrested in Florida for driving while intoxicated. By January 2018, Woods hadn’t won a major in over a decade, and it didn’t look like he was ever going to compete at the highest level again. However, a few months later, Woods finished 6th in the US Open Championship and 2nd in the PGA Championship. Finally, the next year, Woods put on an astonishing performance at the 2019 Masters Tournament, finishing 13 shots under par, defeating Dustin Justin, Xander Schauffele, and Brooks Koepka.
Zach Ufberg ‘21 recalls watching with his grandpa who is also a huge golf fan, and says it was “special because it was an amazing comeback from his injuries, which is incredibly hard in such a mentally challenging game.” Noah Joffe ‘22 remembers watching with his father in the Dominican Republic, and says, “Seeing him win was almost unreal because everyone doubted that it was possible because he was too old, but obviously he proved them wrong.” Woods’ triumph was the culmination of years of hard work as he battled both injuries and personal struggles, “so his winning proved that not only was he still the great player he used to be, he also proved that anything is possible.”
#4 New York Magic
Since Barrack is located outside of Philadelphia, the majority of students are Philly sports fans, but a minority roots for the New York teams.
In 2015, the New York Mets finished the season 90-72, and hoped to bring home their 3rd World Series Title. Ben Beal ‘21 remembers being a 6th grader at the time. Beal had recently moved to Philadelphia, and decided to use his knowledge of sports to make new friends. He increasingly became more interested in Philadelphia sports. As the Mets began their playoff winning streak, however, Ben became more comfortable wearing his New York gear to school. While the Mets ended up losing in the World Series, Beal says, [their postseason run] “was something that I really needed to break the ice in a new environment, and I can’t bring myself to cheer for any other baseball team than my Mets.”
Roni Cohen ‘22 has been a Giants football fan his whole life, and he is lucky enough to have watched two Super Bowl wins for his favorite team. The first one came in 2008, when David Tyree made the famous “helmet catch” to keep the Giants’ season alive, and eventually win the Super Bowl. Roni was five at the time, and recalls that on that play, “I thought for sure Manning was going to get sacked because he’s not a mobile QB.” But Manning escaped the pocket because, according to Cohen, “big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games.” When Manning finally threw the ball downfield, nobody thought Tyree was going to catch it, as there were multiple defenders around him and he only had one hand available to make a contested catch. Like everybody else at the time, Roni “thought for sure that David Tyree wouldn’t catch the ball, considering he only had 4 catches for 45 yards in the regular season.” He describes the few seconds the ball was in the air as “an hour.” When Cohen heard the announcers scream with excitement that Tyree caught the ball, he could hardly contain himself. “I jumped out of my seat and have never been happier in my life!”
To his delight, Roni’s favorite moment lasted only for four years, as the Giants won the Super Bowl again in 2012! Although there wasn’t a defining play like in the 2008 Super Bowl, Roni says, “I will never forget the emotion that came to me when we raised the Lombardi Trophy,” and it was the new “greatest moment of my life.”
Arielle Zabusky ‘22, a huge New York Rangers hockey fan, remembers going to see Game 6 of the playoff series between the Rangers and the Canadiens in 2017. As most hockey playoff games tend to be, it was intense and thrilling, but for Arielle, it was even more special because it was her first playoff game. She says, “I always love watching my team play live, and playoff games are even more fun.” The Rangers won that game by a score of 3-1, and Zabusky exclaimed, “The crowd was so excited, I remember people breaking out into a cheer when we were leaving the building.” Even though the Rangers eventually lost the next round, this was Arielle’s most memorable sports moment because of the exhilarating playoff environment.
#3 Wildcat Spirit
Coming in at number three is Villanova’s 2016 National Championship victory in men’s college basketball. Prior to this, the Wildcats had not won the National Championship since 1985, when they upset heavily-favored Georgetown in the championship game. In 2016, Jacob Erlbaum ‘22 traveled to Houston for the Final Four, and as fortune would have it, Villanova, his favorite team, was there, too. After Nova’s blowout win over Oklahoma in the semi-finals, they faced North Carolina, a very talented team that many believed would beat the Wildcats. After a back-and-forth affair, the Wildcats found themselves up three points, with under 30 seconds to go. After a wild sequence, Marcus Paige, UNC’s point guard, hit a circus-shot to tie the game with 4.7 seconds. Jacob describes the play as “crushing,” and said, “it made me feel like we lost even though it tied the game.” However, on the final play of the game, Villanova point guard Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled up the court, and flipped it to Kris Jenkins, who nailed the long-range 3-pointer for the win at the buzzer. “The Jenkins shot felt like going from being crushed to completely rejuvenated in a split second,” Erlbaum remarked. “I couldn’t believe it!”
Another committed Wildcat fan, Yoni Webner ‘22, remembers watching the game in his living room, and when Jenkins hit the shot, Yoni was in disbelief. “I didn’t feel like it was real. I thought it was a dream since I had never experienced a championship before.” Webner went on to say, “I sat there on the couch in shock for over 10 minutes just trying to comprehend what just happened.” It truly was a dream come true for Yoni and every Wildcat fan across the country.
#2 The World Series Dream
Although many Barrack students were younger than six at the time, the Philadelphia Phillies 2008 World Series win and Roy Halladay’s perfect game both received several votes and combined to serve as runner-up in our poll. After many up and down seasons since the Phillies’ first World Series win in 1980, 2008 finally seemed like the year the Phillies would win it all. Philadelphia finished 92-70, good for first place in the division and second in the National League. After going a combined 7-2 in their first two playoff series against the Brewers and Dodgers, the Phillies had a great deal of momentum moving onto the World Series and they ultimately triumphed over the Rays in 5 games, including a suspended final contest which took place over a three-day period due to inclement weather. When Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to win it all, Aaron Heller ‘22 remembers “jumping up and down, extremely happy.” While Aaron was just four years old, he describes the win as “special,” and 12 years later, he appreciates it even more, given the team’s recent struggles. Ilan Gordon ‘21 recalls watching the game with his family, “going absolutely crazy,” and as for many, it was a dream come true. Gordon says he gets “the chills” every time he watches the final pitch.
Two seasons later, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired star pitcher, Roy Halladay. That year, he led the league in wins, complete games, and shutouts, and won the coveted Cy Young award. While Halladay accomplished so many great things that year, Adam Maman ‘20 vividly remembers one -- the perfect game. Maman says, “I remember Roy Halladay’s perfect game like it was yesterday.” Like many other families, the Mamans were at the beach for Memorial Day. “We were all running around or swimming, until my Abba said that Roy Halladay had a perfect game through six innings.” By the time the game got to the 8th inning, Adam and his family ran up into the hotel to watch the last few innings. After an 11 pitch 8th inning, the Phillies ace took the mound again in the 9th to try to complete the perfect game. After a warning track scare and a strikeout, Halladay only needed to retire one more batter. Ronny Paulino was the batter, as the count quickly went to 1-2, Paulino hit a hard ground-ball to Juan Castro at third base. Castro moved to his left, spun around, set his feet, and made the throw. He did it! A perfect game! Maman remarks, “I was honestly just shocked, if anything. I had just started playing baseball at the time, and so for one of my heroes to pull that off was just unbelievable. It felt larger than life.”
#1 Philly’s Super Bowl -- the Pride and Joy of Our Hometown
As expected, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl victory won our poll in a landslide. Before 2018, the Eagles had won three NFL Championships, but never a Super Bowl. As of Week 13, the Birds were first in the NFC with a 10-2 record. At the time, they were clear Super Bowl favorites, led by the MVP-level play of Carson Wentz. Suddenly, however, the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes were in serious jeopardy, after Wentz dove for a touchdown (on a play that was called back) and ended up tearing his ACL. Although the Eagles still finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC, everyone, including many experts, counted the Eagles out. Instead, led by Nick Foles, the Eagles surprised everyone, narrowly beating Atlanta, and blowing out the Vikings 38-7 to get to the Super Bowl.
Again, the Eagles were underdogs to the vaunted Patriots. The defining moment of the game came with 1:30 left in the first half and the Birds sitting at the 1-yard line, on fourth down. When everybody thought the Eagles were going to kick the field goal, they kept the offense on the field. Nick Foles motioned to the right, and the ball was snapped to Corey Clement, who flipped it to Trey Burton who threw it to… Nick Foles! Touchdown Eagles! Dylan Mandel ‘21 remembers “jumping and dancing” after the touchdown, while Jacob Kopelman ‘22 got to watch the “Philly Special” live, calling it “an incredible experience.” After trading points the whole second half, Zach Ertz caught a late touchdown from Nick Foles, opening up a 38-33 lead for Philadelphia. When the Patriots got the ball back, the Eagles sacked Brady and caused a fumble which was recovered by Brandon Graham! A few plays later, Jake Elliott made a field goal with 1:05 to go, putting the Eagles up 41-33. On the last play of the game, Tom Brady threw up a Hail Mary, and after a few seconds, which felt like years, the ball fell harmlessly to the ground. Longtime play-by-play announcer, Merrill Reese, then declared those words that Eagle fans had longed to hear for more than half a century, “The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions!”
“It was very fun to celebrate,” Talia Hirshman ‘22 said. “It was their first Super Bowl, so to witness team history is really cool.” Benji Axelrod ‘22 emphasizes, “[The Eagles are] my life-long favorite team; being able to appreciate the Super Bowl win at that time was something special that I will remember for the rest of my life.” Noah Cohen ‘26 and Jacob Hare ‘22 both appreciated the fact that “even though they were underdogs, they figured out a way to win it all.” And they both commented on the unifying impact of sports success in a community: “It was just special [to see] how quickly the city of Philadelphia came together over football.”
The entire Barrack community eagerly awaits the time when sports return and provide us with new moments to cherish. In the meantime, it is important to celebrate our memories and know that even the coronavirus can’t take those away from us.