My Moments – Matt Sottile
MLB: Yankees-Red Sox 2018 ALDS Game 1
Red Sox. Yankees. Playoffs. Fenway Park. Does it get any better than that? I bought standing room only tickets prior to the New York-Oakland Wild Card game, hoping the Yankees would prevail and give me the chance to see the best rivalry in sports on the game’s biggest stage. Coming off a 108-54 season, the Sox were prepped to take on their hated archrival in the postseason for the first time since 2004, a series that exists in Boston sports lore. At six years old, I was just old enough to remember parts of that season, including my first trip to Fenway Park in May, as well as going to bed on the night of Game 7 in the ALCS with a Sox cap on. Fast forward 14 years later, when I took the T to the game alone and waited for my friend, who worked Gate A security, to finish his shift and join me at the top row of the lower bowl between home plate and first base. We could barely see enough sky above the overhang to track JD Martinez’s 1st inning 3-run home run off Ja Happ that just cleared the Monster in left field. Chris Sale was dominant on the mound, and the Red Sox salvaged a 5-4 win despite their bullpen struggles, a common theme that season. I was on top of the world as “Dirty Water” rang through the ballpark at game’s end. Following the postseason opener, Boston reeled off 10 more postseason wins en route to an eighth World Series crown, arguably the most dominant season in team history.
NFL: Packers-Seahawks 2015 NFC Championship
This one took a great deal of consideration. As a diehard Green Bay Packers fan, there have been many moments of jubilation and success. Two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Favre and Rodgers, miracle Hail Mary’s, a Super Bowl title in 2011, continued regular season success for upwards of a decade, etc. However, any Packers fan can attest to the multitude of heartbreaks and “what if’s” throughout the Aaron Rodgers era. A 51-45 overtime loss to the Cardinals in the 2009 Wild Card (his playoff debut), a 15-1 season that ended in a one-and-done loss to the Giants at home, back-to-back exits thanks to Kaepernick and the Niners, ANOTHER overtime loss to the Cardinals where Rodgers did not touch the ball in the extra frame, and more recently, blowout NFC championship loses to Atlanta and San Francisco. Also, the constant punchlines that Joe Flacco has as many rings as A-Rod and that the Packers’ management wasted the prime of a top-10 all-time QB. My blood boils just thinking about how many times number 12 has sat on the bench in overtime only to watch his defense surrender an opening drive touchdown and watch another season end in misery. But this game, this was absolutely gut-wrenching, and I will never live it down. It was a chance to see Rodgers take on Brady in the Super Bowl, a matchup that we will probably never see. Much needed revenge for the Fail Mary game that forced the league to rid themselves of the god-awful replacement referees. A coronation for Rodgers after battling through a nasty calf injury since mid-December. Everyone can recall the Brandon Bostick botched onside kick, but there were countless other head scratchers and downright nauseating plays. The Jon Ryan fake field-goal touchdown pass, Mike McCarthy refusing to go for a touchdown two separate times on fourth down from the 2-yard line, the Russell Wilson prayer of a 2-point conversion, Julius Peppers sliding prematurely by 20 yards after a pick that should have sealed the game. And of course, the Jermaine Kearse touchdown catch on the first drive of overtime that is forever seared in my brain. It was a collapse of epic proportions, and it is sadly my most memorable Packers game. Can someone write to Roger Goodell and request college overtime rules? Please?
NCAAB: Villanova-West Virginia 2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen
Growing up in Connecticut, I was instantly entrenched in the college basketball scene and became a massive UConn Huskies fan. In a state divided by New York and Boston fandoms, UConn is the great unifier. Unless your parents were obsessed with their alma mater’s athletics, which mine were not, you became a Huskies fan by default. The beauty, purity and passion of college basketball, and more specifically, March Madness, has always been a special part of my own sports fandom (see: Kemba Walker, circa 2011). My sophomore year, TD Garden played host to the East Regional in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and BC was the designated host school. At the time, the WZBC Sports executive directors informed me that applications were open for media credentials, and I instantly expressed my interest in covering this event. I submitted my application and said a prayer that the NCAA would consider me for the credential. No less than 15 minutes later, I received an email informing me I would have a spot reserved to cover the three contests. I was ecstatic to say the least. The first Sweet Sixteen contest featured two former Big East heavyweights: Villanova, a team that set the NCAA record for most three pointers in a season, pitted against West Virginia, a gritty defensive force led by their senior point guard, Jevon Carter. The arena was electric, and there was nearly an even split achieved between the two fan sections. I arrived HOURS before tip-off, and during the first half, I furiously typed game notes. But as the game progressed, I slowly lifted my head away from my screen and just soaked in the atmosphere. A rim-rattling Omari Spellman dunk following a steal in the second half set the decibel meter to a record level. I was starstruck and perfectly at home standing courtside during warmups, attending the press conferences, and ultimately, watching ‘Nova cut the nets two days later from the hardwood in an Elite Eight win over Texas Tech. I gathered up a handful of the royal blue and white confetti on the floor, which now lives with my most cherished press credential to date, amongst hundreds of game tickets and press passes from over the years.
NCAAF: Boston College-Virginia Tech 2019
In October of my junior year, I got the chance to travel to, and broadcast, my first and last road football game of my WZBC Sports career. The visit to Blacksburg in the middle of October was a sports fan’s dream. I had never experienced a college football atmosphere quite like this before. The entire town shut down on gameday and upwards of 60,000 people filed into Lane Stadium to watch. I had the chance to call the game with fellow junior and board member, Andrew Linnehan. We stayed in the team hotel in Roanoke, located 45 minutes away from the stadium, and explored the quiet town the night before the game, which included burgers with the locals and hearing them recount their favorite Virginia Tech football memories. I caught up with friends who attended the school and enjoyed a world-class college football experience. From our seats in press row, we could see the rolling Virginia hills, covered with gorgeous burgundy red foliage. I will never forget seeing the line of students descending upon the stadium from the tailgate lot in the woods prior to kickoff. We walked through the Tech tunnel before warmups and got to throw a football on the field together. Having a catch in front of 66,000 seats, even if empty, is an unforgettable experience. Also, the Hokies’ tradition of taking the field to “Enter Sandman” as the enter stadium is jumping up and down? Goosebumps. Boston College pulled out a hard-fought road win in a hostile environment and ultimately clinched a visit from ESPN’s College Gameday the following week at The Heights vs. Clemson. It was a two week stretch of football that I will never forget and look back on extremely fondly. That was the reason I chose Boston College: the chance to root for my school at the highest level of college athletics, all while taking advantage of the unparalleled access that WZBC Sports Radio has graced me with over the past four years.
PGA Tour: 2017 Travelers Championship
Since being introduced to the game at a young age, golf has been my passion. For this reason, I could not omit a golf tournament from this list. It is by far my favorite sport, and it has been a huge bonding point between my dad and myself. We have woken up at 3:00 AM on two separate occasions to drive to Baltusrol Country Club in New Jersey and Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, for the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, respectively. We are both left-handed, which is a rarity in the sport, and he has given me countless great memories and hand-me-down equipment to help me out. I never grew up belonging to a private country club, and getting a chance to play was always a special treat. I have memories hitting the ball as a young kid, only to grab my bag and sprint down the fairway (or usually the rough) to hit my next shot. The only reason I will jump out of bed at the crack of dawn is for a tee time. The Travelers Championship is held in Cromwell, CT every June, and is the second-most attended event on the PGA Tour. I have volunteered as a standard bearer and scorekeeper in the past, which allowed me to follow golfers inside the ropes for 18 holes, an awesome memory in my golf fandom, that produced a coveted signed golf ball from each of the players at the end of the round. In 2017, I tore my ACL in March and waited until June to have surgery. This operation took place five days before the tournament. I had two tickets to the final round on Sunday, and although I could not physically drive a car, I had all the bait I needed to convince someone to give me a ride in exchange for a free ticket. I was on crutches, and you better believe I “walked” the whole back 9 to follow Rory McIlroy, one of my favorite players on tour. The course, TPC River Highlands, is famous for its final four holes, which are spread out over water and present a pressure-packed test for any golfer setting their sights on the trophy Sunday afternoon. The 18th hole features amphitheater-style seating, and my friends and I took our seats to watch the conclusion of the tournament (and provide myself some time off my feet). The event went to a playoff between Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger. Of course, we all wanted Spieth to take the crown, which would hopefully ensure that he came back to Connecticut to compete for years to come. What he pulled off on the second playoff hole would bring us to our feet in an uncontrollable roar. With Berger on the green and looking at a birdie putt, Spieth found himself in the bunker needing to pull off a fantastic up-and-down to give himself a chance at victory. His ball came out smoothly and slowly rolled towards the pin, before hitting the flagstick and dropping into the cup. Spieth threw his sand wedge at his caddie, Michael Greller, who simultaneously through the bunker rake into the air. The tens of thousands of fans gathered around the green roared in applause, including myself, who hoisted my crutches high into the sky. It is an event that I am so glad I decided to attend, and one of my best live sports memories to date.