Monday, May 12, 2008

Great Moments in Sports: One-athlete teams

Most of the time, an athlete being called a one-man or a one-woman team is pure hyperbole; a compliment to the superstar player, but an insult to their teammates and an exaggeration of their role. It's extremely rare to actually see one person win a game in a team sport by themselves. Even some of the best athletic performances of all time that come close to this status eventually fall short: the example that comes to mind is Diego Maradona's performance against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, where he scored possibly the greatest goal of all time (slo-mo version with classical musichere) as well as the most controversial one (consider yourself lucky if the words "Hand of God" don't evoke sporting memories). Maradona needed very little help on either goal, as it was a mishit clearing attempt from England's Steve Hodge that produced his "divine intervention" rather than a pass from a teammate, and he dribbled through most of the England team on his second and greatest goal (which, unfortunately, has been overshadowed by the Hand of God). However, even though Argentina won 2-1 over a great England side on the strength of Maradona's play, it wasn't a true one-man performance: the rest of the team turned in a solid defensive effort and created their own chances, and it took an 87th minute save from Julio Olarticoechea to put Argentina through.

In the last couple weeks, however, two performances worthy of the one-athlete team label were recorded. Jobi Wall of Faith Christian High School pitched a perfect game (over five innings) and hit for the cycle (in only four innings) in the same game, an 18-0 victory over Coal Ridge. Wall's performance literally was enough on its own to win, as his home run supplied the only run his team would have needed with his pitching. Neate also found an amazing story about Bonnie Richardson, a Texas high-school track and field athlete who was the only member of her school's team to qualify for the state championships, but yet wound up taking home the team title.

Sure, both only happened at the high school level, but those are incredible feats. Even Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game wasn't enough to beat the Knicks: the Philadelphia Warriors won that one 169-147 (aside: wouldn't it be something to see an NBA game like that again!). Are there any athletes I haven't thought of who really have singlehandedly won a match for their teams?

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