A leading motorsports reporter posed the question to me Sunday after the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Talladega: If a race was boring but the finish was a classic, was it a bad race?
First, I thought Talladega was breathtakingly intriguing. A memorable moment like the 190 mph save by Ryan Newman that defied the laws of physics is something I won't soon forget. For that matter, a second save moments later by Newman and a late-race save by Dave Blaney also added spice. The race was extremely memorable. When you add the eight-car photo finish, well, wow!
But let's examine the premise. What if a race is boring but the finish is a thriller. Or the game offers nothing memorable except a classic finish.
Was that a good race or bad race? A good game or bad game?
The Ice Bowl. New Year's Eve, 1967. Perhaps THE classic, most memorable football game of all time. Almost 30-below-zero temperatures. Lombardi. Landry. Starr. Meredith. Was the game a good game or is it a classic because of Starr's winning quarterback sneak with only 16 seconds left?
The Immaculate Reception. Dec. 23, 1972. Pittsburgh vs. Oakland. Franco Harris comes out of nowhere to catch a batted ball on fourth down with only a minute, 13 seconds left in the game. Controversy reigns over whether Harris snatched the ball after it had bounced off a teammate first, which wasn't legal then (the rule has since changed). Great game or a classic, controversial ending?
The Catch. Jan. 11, 1982. San Francisco vs. Dallas. Off-balance, Joe Montana throws a pass that appears set to sail out of the back of the end zone. But Dwight Clark stretches to make "The Catch," winning the game with only 51 seconds left. Great game or a classic moment in time that signaled the end of one dynasty and the start of another?
Hail Flutie. November 23, 1984. Boston College vs. University of Miami. Pint-sized Doug Flutie slings the ball and Gerald Phelan comes down with the it in the midst of a host of Miami defenders with two minutes, 30 seconds to play. BC's David overcomes Miami's Goliath. Great game or classic finish?
So ... was Talladega a great race or a classic moment?
The answer is: Yes.