The Most Insane 24-Hours in The History of Sport: June 17, 1994

Today is June 17th.

This is no ordinary date in the history of world sport.

Back in 1994, this was as insane a day in the world of sport you could ever come across.

There have been some crazy and unthinkable scenarios not just in the world of sport but in society in general of recent, but nothing will ever compare to what unfolded 26 years ago.

It’s even been made into arguably the best ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries ever produced (in this authors eyes anyway).

“Why is it insane?” you ask dear reader?

Let us recap exactly what unfolded on June 17th, 1994

Diana Ross Missed a Penalty at Opening Ceremony of the USA’94 FIFA World Cup

America isn’t known as a nation to embrace the world game, but they did host the World Cup back in 1994.

On June 17th 1994, the Yanks opened the tournament in style at Soldier Field Stadium in Chicago.

There was much fascination as to how the Americans would handle hosting the biggest sporting event in the world (sorry Olympic movement, you know this to be true) and who better to sing at the Opening Ceremony than the iconic Diana Ross?

Performing her big hits in a very 1990s choreographed routine, Diana was required to score a penalty.

The task was simple – kick the ball straight down the middle and the keeper would get out of her way as she sang “I’m coming out” with a marching band in the background.

Was she successful?

No.

She kicked the ball but it went very, very wide.

The goals collapsed.

Being the professional she is, Ross continued on with the show. 

Arnold Palmer’s Last US Open Tee Off 

After winning the tournament some 34 years earlier, Palmer did a farewell lap of the green at Oakmont at the ripe old age of 64.

He actually hadn’t played in the US Open for 11 years prior to June 17th 1994 but was granted an exemption to play on his home turf. 

For the record, a young Ernie Els won the tournament for the very first time.

New York Was in Full Party Mode After The Rangers Won The Stanley Cup

After a 54-year drought, the New York Rangers finally broke through to win the biggest prize in Ice Hockey – the Stanley Cup.

Absolute scenes erupted as the victorious Rangers side were paraded through the streets of Manhattan to celebrate their team’s triumph with one of the greatest ticker-tape parades you will ever see.

Some estimate that up to 1.5 million fans packed the city that day to get a glimpse of their heroes. 

The outpouring of emotion was real, the city was ready to party and Rangers fans could die happy. 

 

Game 5 of the NBA Playoffs Got Underway 

It was a busy day in sports in the Big Apple and there’s no doubt that most of the city called in sick/missed school.

At Madison Square Garden that night, the Knicks faced the Rockets for game 5 of the NBA Playoffs.

The match itself wasn’t that memorable but what was memorable was what the US broadcaster NBC interrupted programming for

For the record, the Knicks won 91-84. 

OJ and His Mate AC Took The Ford Bronco Out For A Drive 

48 hours prior to June 17, 1994, OJ Simpson was just known as “The Juice”

The NBC NFL commentator, Heisman Trophy-winning, Pro-Football hall of fame member, Naked Gun actor was a much loved American identity.

Australian sports fans even knew who OJ was, mostly thanks to Don Lane’s coverage of the NFL on the ABC at the time.

Not OJ Simpson, the suspect in the murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson or Ron Goldman.

We’ve seen some memorable car racing down the mountain at Bathurst or at the Grand Prix in Monaco over the years but nothing caught the imagination quite like Al Cowlings taking OJ for a drive down the Freeway in LA.

The infamous car chase resulted in NBA cutting their NBA coverage and going to breaking news that the cops were chasing OJ down the Freeway.

An estimated 95 million viewers tuned in the US to see this and Pizza stores around the country recorded record sales.

The OJ car chase out-rated the Super Bowl.

This was original and actual reality TV and it actually did involve a Kardashian.

Where Does Australia Fit into This? 

The insane sports/news events of June 17, 1994, actually occurred on June 18th, 1994 which was a Saturday. 

It’s unknown if Australian networks broke out of normal programming to cover the OJ Chase when it was occurring on Saturday afternoon (AU time) but we’d love your recollections in our comments section.

Sports wise, the AFL had four games being played on a Saturday afternoon.

Carlton easily accounted for the Saints by 80 points at Princes Park, Fitzroy upset Hawthorn by 13 points at Waverley, Footscray thrashed the Sydney Swans by 74 points at the Western Oval and Richmond fought out a thrilling five-point win over North Melbourne.

In Rugby League, only the one game was played in the Winfield Cup on the day – Newcastle getting the job done over Easts by six points in the split Round 13 during the State of Origin period.

In an era when most footy was played at the same time, we were in the age of “Around the Grounds” 

One can only assume updates of the OJ Simpson car chase were posted on the venues scoreboards.