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Abby Wambach, Derek Jeter -- and a fan for the ages

July 11, 2011 |  2:01 pm

Solo Hollywood endings.  That's what we specialize in here in La La Land.

But over the weekend, sports produced the real thing -- and isn't that always better?

First came Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit.  And not just any hit but one befitting the Yankee captain: a home run.

As dramatic as that was, what followed was almost as special:  The fan who caught the ball, Christian Lopez, a 23-year-old cellphone salesman from Highland Mills, N.Y., gave it to Jeter.

That's right: He just gave it to him

"Mr. Jeter deserved it. I'm not gonna take it away from him," Lopez said. "Money's cool and all, but I'm 23 years old, I've got a lot of time to make that. It was never about the money, it was about the milestone."

Of course, there's no stopping the Yankees from being the Yankees. Lopez got "four Champions suite season tickets to every home game for the rest of the season and through the playoffs."

Which, sadly, served to remind Dodgers fans how nice it is to root for a team that actually has money.

And as in every good Hollywood ending, there's a girl in the Yankees story. As Jeter said after the game, Lopez will have his own debt to settle:

"I had an opportunity to meet him just a little while ago.... He got his ticket from his girlfriend, so he owes her something big after this one. So he's going to be paying her back for quite some time."

Yep, turned out it was Lopez's birthday, so his girlfriend, 22-year-old Tara Johnson, spent $325 for five tickets so he could go to the game. 

I'm not sure even Hollywood would dare write that.

The Jeter story was heartwarming, but it turned out it was just a pleasant warm-up to the real drama: The United States' dramatic victory over Brazil on Sunday in their women's World Cup soccer match.  

Down 2-1 with seconds to go in extra time, Abby Wambach's goal to tie and force penalty kicks -– in which the U.S.  prevailed -- was one for the ages.

And as with every good Hollywood tale, there must be a dramatic call by an announcer. As time wound down, ESPN's Ian Darke and Julie Foudy were sounding increasingly desperate. Then lightning struck.  

Darke's  British accent lent an air of authenticity to the moment as Wambach's header hit the back of the net:  "Oh can you believe this! Abby Wambach has saved the USA's life in this World Cup!"

Will it become a signature call in sports, like Al Michaels in 1980 at Lake Placid, N.Y., as the U.S. men's hockey team defeated Russia?  "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

Or Vin Scully's classic as the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson homered to beat Oakland in the 1988 World Series? "High fly ball into rightfield ... she is gone! In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!"

Or perhaps the most famous of all, Russ Hodges' call on Bobby Thompson's "shot heard 'round the world" in 1951 as the Giants beat the Dodgers for the National League pennant? "There's a long drive. It's gonna be, I believe -- the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"

Who knows.  But while Washington wallows in partisan bickering over the debt, and Los Angeles prepares for "Carmageddon" over this weekend's shutdown of the 405 Freeway, sports did what sports does best:  It reminded us of the greatness in people.


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-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: U.S. forward Abby Wambach, left, and goalkeeper Hope Solo embrace after defeating Brazil on penalty kicks following a 2-2 tie in overtime on Sunday in a Women's World Cup quarterfinal in Dresden, Germany. Credit: Odd Andersen / AFP / Getty Images

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