COLUMN: historic upset not so historic after all

kyle.whitney and kyle.whitney

All-time upset.

Those two words grace the cover of the latest issue of “Sports Illustrated,” and are plastered over a photo of Appalachian State senior wide receiver Dexter Jackson on his way to the end zone during the Mountaineer’s recent game against the University of Michigan.

On Saturday afternoon-for those without television, or eyes and ears-ASU, a Division-I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team, stunned the sporting world by defeating the powerhouse No. 5 Wolverines at home, 34-32.

And while the victory was certainly the biggest upset in recent memory (No Division I-AA team has ever defeated a ranked team), I think that the sporting world-and the editors of “Sports Illustrated”-need to take a moment to remember a past that is littered with major upsets before they call this the all-time upset, which it is not.

Some others to consider:

The Miracle Mets-1969

The Mets started as an expansion franchise in 1962 and, over the next seven seasons, proceeded to win just under 35 percent of their games (394-737).

Then, in 1969, everything changed.

The team that became known as the “Miracle Mets” entered the playoffs with a 100-62 record and swept Hank Aaron and the Atlanta Braves out of the inaugural National League Championship Series in three games. This victory bought the Mets a spot against the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles in the franchise’s first World Series.

Despite losing the first game in the best-of-seven series, the Mets stormed back to take the championship, four games to one. Proving the critics wrong, the Mets became the first expansion team to win a World Series.

Villanova over Georgetown-1985

After entering the 1985 NCAA D-I Men’s Basketball Tournament as an 8-seed, the Villanova Wildcats staged what is still considered to be one of the greatest upsets of all time as they defeated the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64 to claim the school’s first, and only, NCAA Basketball title.

What makes Villanova’s triumph so impressive is the fact that they were seeded eighth-still the lowest seed to win it all-and they spent nearly a month defeating teams that were ranked higher than they were. Playing in the first year of the now-standard 64-team tournament, the Wildcats won four of their six games by fewer than five points and set the standard for shocking NCAA upsets.

Namath’s Guarantee-1969

In the third AFL-NFL Championship game-later known as Super Bowl III-AFL All-Star Joe Namath led the New York Jets into battle against the Baltimore Colts, who were 18-point favorites. After being ridiculed by media, players and coaches in the days leading up to the game, Namath made his now famous promise:

“We’ll win the game. I guarantee you.”

People were shocked at this, but not nearly as shocked as they would be just days later when the rogue quarterback and his team from the upstart AFL marched into the Orange Bowl and beat the Colts handily, 16-7.

After going 17-of-28 for 206 yards, Namath jogged off the field, immortal index finger extended high above his head. He took with him Super Bowl MVP honors and left behind a legacy that would last for decades.

The Miracle on Ice-1980

The 1980 Winter Olympics, held in Lake Placid, New York, were highlighted by what is largely considered to be the greatest upset in sports history. In group play, the U.S. hockey team played beyond expectations and advanced to the medal round with a 4-0-1 record, while the team from the USSR, on the other hand, entered the medal round undefeated.

Then, with the world still in the throes of the Cold War, the two teams met in Lake Placid for what would later be referred to as the Miracle on Ice. The U.S. team, which lost to the Soviets 10-3 in an exhibition just days before, shocked the world by downing the USSR, 4-3.

The Americans performed on the world’s largest stage (not the Big Ten Network) and won a globally-recognized contest against a team that represented an absolutely opposite worldview and was a perceived threat to international freedom.

And while the United States didn’t win the gold on that night (a later victory against Finland finally sealed the deal), it will always be viewed as one of the greatest, and most important, upsets in history.

When viewed in such a light, ASU’s victory on Saturday, while impressive and undoubtedly shocking, was clearly not the biggest ever. The Mountaineers beat a highly-ranked team in a tough road environment, but ASU is the two-time defending Division I-AA champion and the players are accustomed to both pressure and success.

The victory was a one-time event that came at the beginning of the season and resulted in no championships, no titles, no medals. It was broadcast on the Big Ten Network and while the audience was likely sizeable, it certainly didn’t near the viewership numbers-or the widespread appeal-of the 1980 Winter Olympics.

So although there is no doubt that the Appalachian State Mountaineers staged an upset of epic proportions last weekend, there is no way that it was the greatest of all time.