The X Games concluded on Sunday, and this week the Twins will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 1987 title.
Since Gary Gaetti threw to Kent Hrbek to clinch the first major professional sports championship in Minnesota history, the Twin Cities have hosted a Super Bowl, Final Fours, another World Series, the Stanley Cup Final, conference championship series in the NHL and NBA, a U.S. Open, two PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, five WNBA Finals and a Game 163 to close the Metrodome.
Here’s my ranking of the 10 best sporting events held in the Twin Cities in the past 30 years, based on historical importance, national or international attention, degree of difficulty and all of my accumulated biases:
10. On Nov. 4, 2007, rookie running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 296 yards at the Metrodome against the Chargers. That remains the single-game NFL record.
9. On Oct. 6, 2009, the Twins closed the Metrodome with a one-game tiebreaker to decide the AL Central. They beat Detroit 6-5 in 12 innings on Alexi Casilla’s single, in one of the most emotionally draining games in the history of the old dump.
8. On Oct. 5, 2009, Brett Favre faced the Packers for the first time, as a Viking, at the Metrodome, and threw three touchdown passes in a 30-23 victory, becoming the first quarterback to defeat all 32 NFL teams. This became one of the most remarkable moments of one of America’s best rivalries.
7. In the spring of 2004, the Timberwolves brought the delicious claustrophobia of NBA playoff basketball to Target Center, winning a decisive Game 5 at home against Denver, then winning a decisive Game 7 at home against Sacramento. On his 28th birthday, Kevin Garnett amassed 32 points and 21 rebounds and then jumped on the scorer’s table to mark the best moment in franchise history.
6. The Metrodome has hosted two Final Fours. The second, in 2001, featured Duke’s thrilling rally against Maryland and a Dookie title. The first was far more epic. In 1992, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke, Bob Knight’s Indiana, Steve Fisher’s Michigan and Bob Huggins’ Cincinnati brought such players as Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Nick Van Exel, Damon Bailey and Calbert Cheaney to the Dome.
Duke would win its second national title in a row. Two of Coach K’s five titles were won at the Metrodome.
5. In 1991, the Minnesota North Stars swept to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Mario Lemieux’s Penguins. The Met Center often seemed to shake during the run, thanks to Dave Gagner, Brian Bellows, Neal Broten and a kid named Modano. This is a reminder that the State of Hockey has produced two losing efforts in the Stanley Cup Final and none since ’91.
4. Turns out 2009 was a remarkable year for sports in the Cities. Before Game 163 or Favre vs. Pack, Hazeltine National held the PGA Championship. On a gorgeous Sunday, Y.E. Yang beat Tiger Woods head-to-head in what felt like a match play event.
Woods would never again come so close to winning his 15th major, and the dramatic day would help Hazeltine land …
3. The 2016 Ryder Cup. Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy screaming. Fans berating McIlroy. Singing at the first tee. For a week, Hazeltine National shined as the focus of the sports world, and the United States recaptured the Cup.
2. The 1991 Twins were better than the ’87 team. They won 10 more regular-season games and featured more quality pitchers. You could debate whether Kirby Puckett’s Game 6 or Jack Morris’ Game 7 became the best moment in Minnesota sports history, but …
1. The first major professional sports championship came as a surprise even to its architects. Kirby & Hrbie, the Rat, the Dutchman, Sweet Music and TK brought it home with four home victories in the Series, eliciting crowd noise that would make Minnesota fans famous for something other than angst.
Please forgive the Twins if they celebrate this title every three months or so. It was kind of a big deal.