Time Wrap: Center of the Ripple Layer

During our life on this Earth, what most people hope to do is make an impact. Whether it is for your family each day or with millions in mind, many people will live to see what they can do for others. There are moments in any industry — military warfare, industrial business, boy band anthology — that alter it moving forward.

In the sports world, one of those moments happened nearly two months ago. The night that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the outlook of sports started to shift. Currently, as we all know, the shift showed in the form of a flipped-off switch. Even though sparks can be seen from various spots in the dark, we're not sure when the light will come back on, at what strength it will, and if it will ever reach again full glow.

Games, as a whole, may very well be changed from now on. But what other events led to alteration? What are the most impactful moments in sports since November 10th, 1979?

June 28, 1984: The Ultimate "Go" Route

Like anything, the world of college sports has evolved over time. Whether it was Title IX or expanded Olympic sports programs, the NCAA's umbrella has ballooned through the years. That includes the financial coffers of the organization. One big reason for the increased bankroll actually came from a loss. When the NCAA lost their control over televised college football games, I can't imagine they believed the boon that was coming.

The rise of cable sports channels, especially ESPN, expedited the rise in money spent on television packages for conferences. But that was more the immediate circumstance. Eventually, clamoring to determine national champions created the Bowl Championship Series and College Football Playoff. The biggest change, in efforts to improve national contention standing, forced the massive league expansions and realignments that exploded around ten years ago.

March 1st, 1994: A Cap Fitted For Financial Expansion

The NFL has built itself into the biggest sports entity in North America. However, it hasn't always been at the forefront of game-changing ideas. Prior to the early-1990s, teams could financially stockpile their way to dynasty status. A series of lawsuits regarding free agency around the league ended up in negotiations that resulted with the first salary cap among the Big Four sports leagues.

Now, more than 25 years into the era, you can't help but say that the ideal goal of parity and competitive balance has pretty much been met. Former woe-be-gone franchises (Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Arizona) have been able to get to (if not win) a Super Bowl since 2000. The process of managing the cap means drafting, scouting, and free agent signings take on a whole lot of weight during the offseason. That has helped to make the sport much more of a 365-day-a-year presence than any other league on this continent.

July 24, 1995: Sports to the Extreme

Some may consider them hobbies. Some may consider them insane. Others may consider them a nuisance. Whatever we may see them as, many consider the extreme as sports. In several forms of athletics, there are ways to deviate from the norm. But when in comparison to other games of play, skateboarding, sky diving, and BMX biking themselves are out of the norm.

The first X-Games provided an outlet for these athletes to compete. Using hills, ramps, halfpipes, and street courses as their venues, a new kind of competitor began to form for a generation that embraced them. Now, 25 years later, this phenomenon has enveloped the globe, interacted with all seasons, and established an Olympic presence. As much as this has become the "Age of the Geek," we can also establish this time period as the "Age of the Skater."

April 13th, 1997: Roars from Tiger and the Patrons Fill Augusta

Maybe it wasn't a matter of "if," but "when." Tiger Woods wasn't an unknown commodity. He already won three straight U.S. Amateur titles, preceded by three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur crowns. The calling card to greatness, though, came forward at the 1997 Masters. When he completed his bum-rushing of the field that year, the turning point for the PGA Tour finished moving. Don't take my word for it. The money spoke for itself.

In terms of reach, Woods did for golf what Michael Jordan did for basketball. And Tiger could connect with an audience the late Arnold Palmer couldn't in the late '50s and '60s (through no fault of his own). The impact only reintroduced itself when Woods won the 2019 Masters, stamping a comeback that might not be done just yet.

July 10, 1999: A Women's Revolution Gets Kick-Started

This wasn't the first salvo in the fight for equality regarding women's sports. At the time, Title IX was law for more than 25 years. The 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match brought millions of eyes to the issue. In my estimation, though, the loudest thunder clap in the industry's struggle for viability came on this date at the Rose Bowl. The US Women's National Soccer Team rode a wave of fan support to a shootout victory for the World Cup.

Yes, this country tends to get behind its national teams. Yes, this is a marquee event that comes around once every four years ... and probably once a generation in a certain country. But to go from relative obscurity eight years before to filling out a 90-thousand seat stadium showed progress. There are still a lot of bumps in the road. However, the recognition is making some gains, and, in my mind, the 1999 USWNT created the "hop-on" point.

February 18, 2001: Death of a Legend at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt was the major bridge between the old-school racing world and the modern era of NASCAR. The seven-time series champion became a dominant force in the main stock car circuit from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. However, it took him nearly 20 years in the game to finally win that ultimate race, the Daytona 500. Shockingly, three years after that 1998 victory, the circuit's most famous track was the venue for the unthinkable. Earnhardt crashed on the final lap of the race, later succumbing to his serious injuries.

Earnhardt's death was one of a few during a 12-month span, which led to a more serious look at safety enhancements for all motor sports. As the last 18 years have flown by, NASCAR continues to ingratiate more safety into the sport, including the use of the HANS (Head and Neck Support) device that was mandated later in 2001. While no system will completely eliminate the danger from this activity, you have to wonder how much these improvements have been life-saving (possibly, in the case of Ryan Newman surviving his jaw-dropping crash at this year's Daytona 500).

July 8th, 2010: The Special that Launched a New NBA

Free agency has been around my entire life. It didn't happen in all sports at once. From Curt Flood's fight against baseball's Reserve Clause in the early 1970s to the fervor of annual markets, this concept continues to evolve. That took another step at the beginning of the last decade. Professional basketball has always had super teams. Up to that time, though, they had mainly been built through trades or drafts.

When LeBron James held a televised, hour-long special (that, reminder, was also a charitable benefit), most every hoops fan was glued to their monitors. Would he return to the throne he knew? Would he bolt for another kingdom? Once the phrase "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" came across everyone's ears, the tenor of the league began to shift. Within days, the Miami Heat shored up their dynamic trio by trading for Toronto star Chris Bosh. But it was James' decision that laid the groundwork for NBA players taking more control over their careers, especially over the last 5-6 seasons.

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