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Columbia Spectator Staff

As a sports writer and former sports editor for Spectator, I've spent much of my time here at Columbia trying to be as unbiased as possible. When you're the beat reporter for a team, that's how you have to approach the games you're covering, and when you're the sports editor for a newspaper that covers many teams, that's how you have to act at every game. Despite that inner urge that has told me to cheer for Columbia at every juncture, I've had to remain composed and impartial at most sporting events that I've attended. That hasn't been the case this semester, though, as I've attended most Columbia basketball games—men's and women's—as a fan, not a reporter. On Friday night, I enjoyed my best night as a Lions fan as part of what a Daily Pennsylvanian reporter called the "virulent and vulgar" in Levien Gym. Not only did Columbia pull out a last second win against Penn, but I was also picked as fan of the game—the Rack and Soul was delicious, by the way—and spent the final moments of the game in the front row jumping up and down and hugging Roar-ee. Even with the final weekend of basketball and the spring sports season approaching, I feel safe in saying that Friday night was the capstone on my career as a student-fan. Looking back at the past three and a half years, there are five games that stand out to me as the most memorable that I have seen while a Columbia student. I didn't get to enjoy all of them as a fan, Columbia didn't necessarily win all of them, and some of them hold more sentimental value than athletic value, but here are the top five most memorable games that I have seen as a Columbia student. Tie-5. Women's basketball—Two big wins for the Lions against Dartmouth, Feb. 15, 2008 and Feb. 19, 2010 And when I said I was going to pick the top five games, I lied and actually meant the top six. After some careful consideration, I realized that I couldn't decide between a 58-55 win by the Columbia women's basketball team over Dartmouth in 2008 and the overtime thriller between these two teams just a few weeks ago. In 2008, the Lions entered the game with a 4-2 record in the Ivy League—the four wins matched their total number of league wins from the season before—against one of the traditional dominant powers in the league. The young Lions, in a hugely important game for the program, beat the Big Green and went on to finish in the top half of the league. This season's game against the Big Green was just as exciting as the game in 2008—some would even argue it was a better game to watch. The game went back and forth, and it took all the Lions had to force overtime. At a crucial juncture of the game, senior Danielle Browne hit what might have been the best unintentional banked 3-pointer in Columbia history—unless you called it, Danielle, because if you did, mad props. In overtime, the Light Blue pulled ahead to secure its first season sweep of the Big Green since the 1990-91 season. 4. Football—Yale squeaks out a win, Oct. 31, 2009 Columbia fans thought they were in for a treat this past Halloween, as the Lions led 22-10 with 8:32 minutes left in the game despite the fact that starting quarterback Millicent Olawale and running back Ray Rangel were not available. Freshman Sean Brackett performed admirably in his first start for the Light Blue, but the Bulldogs staged a furious comeback late in the fourth quarter. After a touchdown run by Alex Thomas, it looked like the Lions were on the way to victory as running back Leon Ivery streaked toward the end zone on Columbia's next possession. In what might have been one of the best hustle plays I've seen, Yale safety Adam Money caught Ivery and tripped him up at the 2-yard line after a gain of 75 yards. On the next play the Lions fumbled and the Bulldogs recovered. Each team then had another chance with the ball before another fumble gave the Bulldogs a chance for one last drive with 2:06 left. With 58 seconds left, Yale took the lead for the first time, and left everyone at the game—including themselves—at least a little surprised. 3. Men's Basketball—On the road against Cornell, Jan. 27, 2007 Road trips are fun, with the usual exception of going to Ithaca. The trip on this dreary January day was no different, but at least the basketball game was a good one. Cornell had a strong, substantial crowd and the game was heated from start to finish. Though the Lions ultimately fell to the young, talented Big Red, the game wasn't a total loss as it gave rise to a new Spectator tradition—I won't mention it now, though I will in a column in the future. 2. Men's Basketball—Grimes' late shot helps Columbia sweep Penn, Feb. 26, 2010 On top of what I said about this game earlier, I'd like to add that it had everything. Penn brought its band and cheerleaders, the stands were packed, and Brian Grimes sent the Quakers packing with a deep fadeaway with 2.7 seconds left. Oh yeah, and it secured the Lions' first sweep of the Quakers since the 1967-68 season. 1. Football—Wait, seriously? Did that just happen? Nov. 26, 2009 This was a no-brainer. This game pitted the Columbia football team against Brown on senior day this past season with the chance to secure their best record in the Ivy League since 2003. This game had a little bit of everything, including the greatest play I've ever seen in person. As time ran out in the first half, Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero threw a pass that was intercepted by Columbia junior safety Adam Mehrer, who raced across the field. Mehrer looked like he was going to be tackled around midfield, but he alertly pitched the ball to senior safety Andy Shalbrack, and the senior finished what the junior had started to give the Lions a 21-7 lead at the half. There was a lull while the refs conferred about a flag, but when they signaled that it was against Brown, the sidelines erupted, the fans went into frenzy, and even some people in the press box broke their usual vow to stay unbiased—not me, of course. Though the game itself was great in many ways, that one play stole the show and will live on as one of the greatest in Columbia football history. Matt Velazquez is a Columbia College senior majoring in history.