Damon Hack
Monday August 10th, 2009

1. Wimbledon I don't remember my first brush with Wimbledon, but my mom does. I was 3 years old in the summer of 1975 when Arthur Ashe defeated Jimmy Connors in the men's final, a moment that she celebrated by picking me up, holding me in front of the television and telling me, "He looks like you! He looks like you!" This was my mom's way of telling me that anything in life was possible -- that I, too, could grow up and do anything I wanted. She was right. I wonder what it would be like to sit at Centre Court and see the grass and watch Federer, Nadal and the Williams sisters. I'm sure I would think about Arthur Ashe. I'm sure my mom would, too.

2. Stanley Cup Finals As a native Angelino reared on Magic Johnson and Orel Hershiser, my hockey knowledge is flimsy and weak. It can best be summed up in a long ago conversation in high school. Friend to me: "Dude, the Kings got Wayne Gretzky." Me to friend: "Cool, what time is the Laker game?" I didn't know Charlie Simmer from Charlie Brown. Then I covered an NHL All-Star Game at the Shark Tank in San Jose, watched Owen Nolan's hat trick in front of the home fans, and I saw some beauty in a sport I had long ignored. Look, I may never be a puck head, but I can see Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are special. My sports calendar is pretty full, but I could find room for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and after that, who knows? 3. The Final Four I wouldn't trade my UCLA degree for anything in the world, but I might change my graduation date. I was too late for the dominant John Wooden years and too early for Jim Harrick's one shining moment. I was at UCLA for the early Harrick years -- the losses to Penn State and Tulsa in the first round. Tough times. It's been fun watching the program thrive under Ben Howland, and I would love to attend a Final Four in person. Covering the Masters often makes that problematic, but Jim Nantz has figured out a way to do both. It's time for me to see the pageantry and school colors -- blue and gold, of course -- in person. 4. The French Open Any excuse to visit Paris, right? But seriously, I've marveled at the red clay of the French Open for years on television, watching Michael Chang slide across it and Jim Courier pound bombs off it and Pete Sampras become frustrated by it. Other than what lies between the ivy walls at Wrigley Field or the fairways of Augusta National, two places where the color green is so intense it can bring mist to a first-time visitor's eyes, is there any playing surface in sports as beautiful as that marvelous clay? Tennis becomes rugged at the French, a two-week test of stamina and strength, but I love looking at that crimson clay, cracking under the weight of sprinting feet. 5. The Little League World Series I could handle tee ball when I was a tot, but once they replaced the tee with real-life flamethrowers, I was done. I still remember this pair of pitching brothers in the San Fernando Valley, the Finefrocks. They threw gas long before any of us hit puberty. I once got hit with a fastball in the small of the back, and I was soon looking for the nearest basketball court. Even now, going to baseball games as an adult, I silently fear for batters crowding the plate. To me, baseball looks like a tough way to make a living. But maybe if I went to Williamsport, Pa., and attended the Little League World Series I could appreciate a game I have always loved but have quietly dreaded. I'm ready to make peace with the Finefrocks. Just give me a tee and I'm ready to roll.

My Favorite: The 2000 British Open at St. Andrews When I arrived in Scotland for the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews I was a Knicks beat writer. When I left, I knew I wanted to be a golf writer. Golf was still new to me when I decided to go to Scotland in the middle of July to watch history. Tiger Woods had won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots the month before, and it was inevitable by all accounts that he would win the career Grand Slam at St. Andrews. Golf just isn't supposed to be inevitable. That summer, it was. I bought a ticket, stayed at the dorms at the University of St. Andrews, brought my clubs, a backpack and a journal, and soaked in the scene. The home of golf. Jack Nicklaus crossing the Swilcan Bridge. Woods storming to an eight-shot win. I knew that my days as an NBA writer were numbered.

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