Usually, the best sports weekends happen in October. A few days of dramatic playoff baseball, a good old-fashioned upset Saturday in college football followed by a championship bout, and then a dizzying Redzone Witching Hour on Sunday.
Labor Day weekend is usually a tune-up before the sports calendar is off to the races once the NFL season begins. College football gets to be the featured pigskin product for the weekend and it’s also Week 1 for the U.S. Open. With some people taking that final vacation before the end of summer, it’s better to get sports fans back into the teeth of the sports calendar the following week.
But those who took in some athletic competition over the weekend received a treat. Memorable sports moments played out from Friday-Monday. Yes, college football played a big part in it, but so did what happened at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, and also overtime at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Sports fans were treated to classic after classic, and left a lot for the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams to live up to on Thursday night.
Overtime basketball in Seattle, don’t mind if I do
The first game of the WNBA Game 3 semi-final doubleheader was a rock fight. The Chicago Sky and Connecticut Sun were rolling and squeezing the toothpaste tube for dear life trying to squirt out some points. However, the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm went shot for shot in a fourth quarter that had basketball Twitter on fire.
At the three-minute mark, the score was tied at 78, and the quarter would conclude with the game still tied at 92-all. After Stephanie Talbot made her third 3-pointer of the quarter, Breanna Stewart traded three-consecutive baskets with the Aces to keep the Storm up by two. Then Kelsey Plum missed a three with under 20 seconds remaining, and Jewell Loyd made two free throws to seemingly put the game out of reach, and then the pace of the game turned frenzied.
Riquana Williams buried a three to bring the Aces within one point, and then when Tina Charles was intentionally fouled she bricked both free throws. Of course, the Aces came down the court and took the lead when their MVP candidate, A’Ja Wilson, bullied her way to the rim for a score — yes she traveled but come on, that extra step has been forgiven many times in basketball, especially in the forever Euro stepping NBA. The Storm had time for one final shot with two seconds remaining, and right on cue, ageless Sue Bird buried the corner three. Two-point lead for the Storm and the game is now over, right?
Wrong! There are still .8 seconds remaining on the clock and the Aces execute a perfect out-of-bounds play for the score to send the game to overtime. The Aces made six consecutive baskets in overtime to run away with the victory, but the end of that fourth quarter was as wild as anything you’ll see in basketball.
Chaotic College Football, oh how we missed you
All three main windows on Sunday had a game that was dripping with drama. North Carolina and Appalachian State played in the early window and scored a combined 124 points. That’s a common over/under for a college basketball game. With a chance to tie the game late in the fourth, Appalachian State went for a two-point conversion and failed, then its onside-kick attempt was returned for a touchdown by North Carolina. The game seemed over with 19 seconds left but Appalachian State returned the ensuing kickoff to the UNC 48, and scored two plays later. Another failed two-point conversion sealed their fate.
UTSA and Houston may not have been on most sports fans’ radar — but the game should’ve been. Both teams were 12-2 last season. This was another contest with a thrilling ending. The game went to three overtimes, and those last two were wild. Houston’s quarterback, Clayton Tune, scrambled his way down the field, eventually scoring a touchdown, and then threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass for the two-point conversion. Not to be outdone UTSA’s Frank Harris threw a dart into the end zone for a touchdown and ran the two-point conversion in himself. Then the final score. In the dueling two-point conversion section of overtime, Tune scored what would be the winning touchdown in Reggie Bush fashion by somersaulting past the pylon.
Then in the evening game, the fans at The Swamp were hype. Utah took the long trip to Gainesville as the No. 7 team in the country, and hoped to start the year with a signature win. The Utes battled Florida all night, and at one point in the second half, four consecutive drives ended with touchdowns. After Florida’s last score, Utah only had to kick a field goal to tie the game, but it ended up marching down the field to Florida’s six-yard line. Then with 22 seconds left, Cameron Rising threw an interception dead in the middle of the end zone to lose that No. 7 ranking. The Swamp was howling.
And of course, there is what happened at the Superdome on Sunday. The pro-LSU crowd was so loud following LSU’s final touchdown to bring the score to 24-23, that the cheers were still echoing throughout the building as Florida State ran off the field in celebration after blocking the extra point to seal an important victory to try and get that program back to its winning ways.
It came full circle at the U.S. Open
We knew that we were saying goodbye to Serena Williams, but fortunately, her outstanding play let us say goodbye for the entire week. That final match against Aija Tomljanovic was one for the ages. The second set even went to a tiebreak that Williams dominated. But that was all she had left for the young Tomljanovic who roared past the roaring pro-Serena crowd to victory. A thudding finality to one of the greatest careers in professional sports. However, after the final twirl, and the tears, the rest of the weekend bore Serena’s mark. Coco Gauff, who first burst onto the scene in her loss to Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open in 2019 at 15 years old, is now taking aim at the top spot. She played on Sunday with a City Girl intensity as she rolled Shuai Zhang in straight sets. Then on Monday, a young Black American man knocked off a legend. Francis Tiafoe defeated Rafael Nadal in four sets. He said after the match that watching Serena and Venus Williams is why he told his dad he wanted to be a professional tennis player.
The GOAT didn’t get to leave with one more trophy, but she can leave knowing that what she has done for more than two decades has an impact on how tennis will look not just for the rest of this week, but until the end of time.