The NFL has had some indelible moments throughout its nearly 100-year existence. The Immaculate Reception. The Music City Miracle. The Minnesota Miracle. David Tyree’s Super Bowl catch. Wide Right. The Catch. Kevin Dyson coming up a yard short. The Butt Fumble.
We’ve seen many of them live, either on television or in person. But for others, it only feels that way because they’re such a familiar part of sports lore. Maybe we weren’t born yet or were too young to remember. Or maybe we first caught the clip on Twitter or SportsCenter. But those plays were spoiled for us: we knew ahead of time that we were about see something special.
For some of us, we saw it on TV, but we wish we could have been there in the stadium and shared that experience with a large group of our fellow slack-jawed fans who were feeling the exact same amazement as we were.
Either way, you never forget what it’s like to watch something like that unfold in real time, transitioning from that “what just happened?” shock to the realization that what you just witnessed will go down into NFL history.
Here are nine moments — on the field and off, live on TV or in person — we wish we had seen when they happened:
We wish we had been there in person
2016 NFC Championship Game
Even though it ended in catastrophe, the 2016 season was the most fun I’ve ever had watching the Atlanta Falcons. They could score at will, play great defense in spurts, and were just a thoroughly entertaining team to watch.
I wish I was at this game just for one specific play.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that play. It was a pure display of physical dominance by Julio Jones, a perfect throw by Matt Ryan, and a great play call by Kyle Shanahan.
There are few times when one football player is clearly one step ahead of his competition. This was absolutely one of those instances on one of the biggest stages the NFL has to offer. As the CEO of the Julio Jones Fan Club, I really wish I was there for this moment. - Charles McDonald
The real appeal of seeing something live, in my opinion, is soaking in the moment with the crowd. There’s just nothing quite like over 60,000 people losing their shit simultaneously.
Probably my favorite NFL video of the last calendar year was the sideline view of Stefon Diggs’ miracle touchdown against the Saints in the playoffs. If a crowd going that bananas doesn’t give you chills or goosebumps or, at the very least, a smile, you’re just not enjoying sports right.
So with that said, I’m flying my time machine to Seattle in January 2011 when Marshawn Lynch ran through approximately 87 Saints tacklers on his way to a 67-yard touchdown that clinched the Seahawks an unlikely playoff win. It has since been dubbed “Beast Quake” because the crowd noise literally caused a small tremor that was recorded on nearby seismographs.
Watching videos online of that kind of collective explosion is fun, but I can only imagine how incredible it must’ve been like to take in the moment with Seahawks faithful. — Adam Stites
Randy Moss fake-moons Lambeau Field
“That is a disgusting act by Randy Moss,” Joe Buck said.
Actually, it was an amazing act. I yearn to have been there. — Alex Kirshner
The Minneapolis Miracle
This is such an easy choice for so many reasons. We can start off with the fact that I’m a Falcons fan that enjoys Saints pain. The other thing here that really anybody that’s not a Saints fan can enjoy, is that this was an absolutely ridiculous ending to a football game.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that nobody thought the Vikings were going to be able to pull that off. If you know somebody that claims otherwise, they’re lying.
Plus, if you could get Joe Buck to lose his mind like that without Randy Moss pretending to show his ass, you’ve really done something. Not to mention the range of emotions it put everyone else through. — Harry Lyles Jr.
Some plays are indelibly burned in your mind and feel recent, even though they were forever ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since the Carolina Panthers went to double overtime against the Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, but this feels like yesterday.
The game was a complete slugfest, and at the time the game was billed as the Panthers’ grinding run game vs. Marc Bulger and the Rams’ astounding air attack — but in the end it was Steve Smith’s walk-off touchdown that took it all home.
This play was so damn disrespectful for the time, and it was beautiful. Jake Delhomme was never an amazing quarterback — but he had this knack for making big time throws when it counted. Hitting Smitty in stride after the pump fake was pure beauty, and I lost it in the basement of my parents’ house when it happened. I wish I could have been there live. — James Dator
We wish we had been alive for — or old enough to appreciate
The Ice Bowl
There are approximately one thousand incredible moments that make up the Packers’ storied history, but few can match the rarified air of the 1967 NFL Championship Game — better known as the Ice Bowl. It was a balmy negative-15 degrees when the Packers and Cowboys took the field in Green Bay, and wind chill made it feel as awful as negative-48 as Lambeau Field’s broken heating system left a slippery sheen of ice atop the turf.
What happened next was football as performance art. Neither team gained more than 200 yards, leading to 16 combined punts that kept the crowd wondering which would shatter first: the ball itself or Donny Anderson’s foot. The Packers trailed 17-14 with 16 seconds on the clock and no timeouts remaining when Vince Lombardi got bold, dialed up a quarterback sneak for Bart Starr, and punched his team’s ticket to a second straight Super Bowl.
Watching it on TV would be cool. Watching it at Lambeau would be legendary. Look at this photo of our collective grandpas, showing up 50,000-deep for a football game in a frigid town of 75,000.
Stare at that picture and inhale deeply, through your nose. Do you smell it? It’s the smell of 150,000 brandy old fashions and stale Lucky Strike cigarettes being slowly smothered by the cold. I want in. — Christian D’Andrea
T.O. celebrating on the Dallas star
For me, a San Francisco 49ers fan, there are some obvious moments. I was born in 1990, and therefore missed some of the greatest moments in franchise history. I was alive for one that doesn’t necessarily hold up to The Catch, but is still one of my favorite moments in football history: Terrell Owens’ celebration on the Dallas Cowboys’ star.
The reason that’s my pick is twofold: I obviously would have loved to be at that game live, screaming my face off at Cowboys fans and hoping they don’t beat my obnoxious 10-year-old ass; and also I would have loved to see the reactions on social media. At that time, Facebook was still four years away, while Twitter was a further two years out.
Don’t get me wrong — social media and sports is an awful combination pretty much 95 percent of the time. But the gloriousness that would come out of the reactions to Owens’ celebration on the star, Emmitt Smith’s retaliatory celebration on the same star, and Owens’ follow-up second celebration on it would be phenomenal. Of course, if Twitter existed, it hardly would have been suitable for 10-year-old me. Or perhaps I’d fit right in. — James Brady
The “Super Bowl Shuffle” phenomenon
Whether you were alive during the ‘80s or not, it’s the Potter Stewart obscenity case: you know it when you see it.
And if you’ve seen even a glimpse of the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” it’s about as ‘80s as it gets:
The production value of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” music video. Awkward dancing. Even awkwarder rapping. Those closeups of the one guy in sunglasses. Sax solo — and, oh wait, he’s wearing sunglasses too! A COWBELL.
This wasn’t a play on the field or really even a moment: It was an actual phenomenon. The song sold more than 700,000 copies in its first year, made around $200,000 for charity, the record went gold, the video was in heavy rotation at MTV, and it lost a Grammy to Prince.
So even if today it looks more like a parody, it was a legitimate hit then and people enjoyed it for any number of reasons — because the players were having fun, because they were trying to help feed the needy, because Walter Payton’s spitting rhymes like “Well, they call me Sweetness/And I like to dance/Runnin’ the ball is like makin’ romance.”
Other NFL musical efforts like “Ram It,” “Buddy’s Watchin’ You,” and “Living the American Dream” soon followed, but none of those could top the one that paved the way in December 1985.
That’s another point that could easily be overlooked now but probably wasn’t then: It was released almost two months before the Super Bowl. Were people charmed by the cockiness of it? How much outrage was there in a world before social media and Skip Bayless types were on TV spouting exhausting nonsense on a seemingly never-ending basis? Or, hopefully, did fans understand that these larger-than-life personalities were having a blast riding this once-in-a-lifetime season?
Luckily for the Bears, they went on to win their first (and still only) Super Bowl that January. But the “Super Bowl Shuffle” had much more entertainment value than their 46-10 blowout win over the Patriots.
Unfortunately for the Bears, like most things sports fans love, controversy followed. It still lives on today, even though we know an NFL team now would never and could never replicate such an iconic, goofy-in-all-the-right-ways sensation that transcended football and even sports. And that’s why it would’ve been, like, so totally rad to experience this little piece of pop culture-meets-sports history then. — Sarah Hardy
We wish we hadn’t gone to bed and completely missed this
The Seahawks’ goal-line play in Super Bowl 49
As 100 million Americans were sitting on the edge of their seats wondering why Russell Wilson was lined up in the shotgun at the goal line during the final seconds of Super Bowl 49, I was just hitting REM sleep in a London dorm.
When I woke up the next morning and turned to Twitter, I was thinking the same thing as everyone else: “Why the hell didn’t the Seahawks give the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1-yard line?”
Except, I actively made the decision to stop watching the game after the first half 14-14 tie. I say that with great shame, especially since one of my best friends is a huge Patriots fans and was, according to my sources at the bar, crying profusely after Malcolm Butler made the pick to seal the Patriots’ Super Bowl title.
I could give you a long list of excuses (some legit and others not so much) about why I chose to leave the bar, but I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors. Just know that I’ve learned my lesson: Under no circumstance should you ever stop watching the Super Bowl in order to get sleep. Never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of Tom Brady Super Bowl comebacks! — Isaac Chipps
Which moments do you regret missing? Or which ones do you wish you had seen in person? Let us know in the comments.