Let's be honest. Going to a major sporting event isn't as easy as it used to be.
But, for those of us who love sports, there are few things better than going to see the game live. For every 50 mediocre, unmemorable games, there's that one that you'll talk about for years. They're the games that days, weeks and months later seem to have had a bigger attendance than what actually was announced in the stadium.
Those are the games that make sports so addictive. You can never really know when those games will happen. You just have to be there.
But the best part of these games is that they aren't the same for everyone. That's the nature of sports. There are winners and losers. One fan's great game is another fan's nightmare.
Below is a list of the four best games I've ever attended. They're listed in chronological order because I couldn't possibly think up an objective way to rank them.
And away we go...
2001: Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox at Wrigley Field
I was in eighth grade, or had just graduated, when I went to the game with two friends. We bought some terrible tickets and then bounced around the stadium getting kicked out of seats – that were empty – by ushers. This is what happened at many Cubs game I went to as a youngster.
In the bottom of the eight inning, Ricky Gutierrez hit a grand slam off Bob Howry. The Cubs won 5-1. As that ball was making its way into the bleachers, half the crowd jumped to its feet. I knocked the glasses off my friend in all the commotion, and once we found them intact, we got back to celebrating.
It was that single home run, and the maybe 5 minutes after, that make this one of my best games. Not to mentioned the bitter, and often ugly, rivalry atmosphere.
2005: University of Illinois vs. University of Arizona at Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena)
Now, before you say anything, yes, I was actually at this game. It was during the NCAA tournament and Bruce Weber's team, led by Deron Williams, Luther Head and Dee Brown, would eventually lose in the national championship game.
I'm not an Illinois fan, so I had no real rooting interest in this game. With the Illini trailing by 15 points and just 4 minutes left, the stadium was nearly silent. Even the Arizona fans weren't making much noise. It was as quiet as I can remember a stadium being.
But then Williams and Head brought Illinois back into the game. The Fighting Illini went on a 20-5 run that ended with Williams hitting a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. Within a matter of 4 minutes, the stadium went from one of the quietest I can remember to the loudest.
Illinois won 90-89 in overtime.
The way Illinois slowly got back into it, and the way the Illinois fans slowly began to believe again, is something I'm glad I witnessed in person.
2009: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets at United Center
This was Marian Hossa's first game in Chicago as a member of the Blackhawks. That's the reason I was at the game. What happened in the game was just an unexpected bonus.
The Blackhawks scored a short-handed goal in the first period and Hossa had an assist in the second and third.
Great game already, right? Well, it gets better.
The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets were tied at 3 at the end of regularion. And at the end of a 5-minute sudden death overtime, they still were tied at 3.
Hossa was the fourth player to take his shootout attempt, and he was the first to score, putting the Blackhawks in the lead. But he wasn't the last to score.
The very next Blue Jackets player also scored, and then it took a while for the game to come to an end.
After Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet had stopped eight shots, defenseman Brent Seabrook – the 22nd shooter – scored, giving the Blackhawks a 4-3 win.
The goal horn sounded a little louder than usual after Seabrook's goal.
2011: University of Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt University at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
There was a lot riding on this game. It was the senior night. The Volunteers needed to win to keep their slim bowl game chances alive. And it was a rivalry game.
In the fourth quarter, Tennessee scored 10 unanswered points to send the game to overtime.
In Neyland Stadium, which seats a little more than 102,000 people wearing orange, the Tennessee student section is behind one of the end zones. That's where my seats were.
As the teams met for the overtime coin toss, all hope for those of us sitting in the Tennessee student section was on Vandy winning, picking to start on defense and Tennessee choosing the direction.
The exact opposite of that happened. But it worked out for the best.
Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon intercepted a pass and ran it 90 yards to the closest corner of my end zone.
For Gordon's 90-yard sprint and the minutes after, there's only one word I can think of to describe the atmosphere: bonkers.
So these are the best four games I've attended. What are yours?