By Samantha Thompson
City on a Hill Press Columnist

It was one for the record books.

On Sunday, the two powerhouses of their sport battled back and forth for hours, giving SportsCenter more than enough Top 10 highlights to last the rest of the week.

But unless you skipped out on the Super Bowl or decided against sleep on Sunday morning, you probably missed it.

From 12:30 a.m. until almost 5 a.m. on Sunday, Roger Federer, the No.2-ranked player in the world, and Rafael Nadal, the reigning No.1, duked it out in the finals of the Australian Open, one of the four major tournaments in professional tennis.

It was everything that the finals are supposed to be: Federer was reaching for his 14th Grand Slam title, a win that would have tied him with Pete Sampras for the most titles in tennis history; and Nadal, the Olympic gold medalist who recently claimed the No.1 spot after Federer’s four-year run at the top, was out to get his first Australian Open title, a first for any Spaniard.

But even for me, a sports fan and tennis player, the timing of the event started to take its toll. I slowly started to feel myself sliding down my pillow and under the covers around the three-hour mark of the marathon match. Shuteye finally came over me sometime after 3 a.m., and I gave up around the beginning of the fourth set.

Determined to watch the whole match without seeing the outcome on ESPN’s incessant crawl — that Fox News-style ticker at the bottom of the screen — I turned on the taped replay of the match the next afternoon.

Before I could get back to where I had left off, I was yanked from the screen and rushed to a much bigger, prettier high-definition one a few blocks away in the land of endless chips and dip — the quintessential American Super Bowl party. We all piled in to watch the kickoff, which was followed by ridiculous 100-yard runs, unbelievable comebacks and of course, Bruce Springsteen’s crowd-pleasing crotch shots.

But throughout it all, I kept wondering to myself when an appropriate time to ask for a channel change might be, to at least check the score of Sunday’s other biggest match. Turns out, on the most sacred of unofficial American holidays, there is no right time. The Super Bowl must be the only show on TV for which commercials are actually part of the charm. People don’t change the channel for fear they might miss the comeback of the Budweiser frogs, the one-second spots for Miller High-Life or some 3-D commercial for the newest cartoon movie. God forbid.

Don’t get me wrong, the Super Bowl turned out to be a great game, and watching it with friends makes it better. But truth be told, I could have cared less about either of the teams involved, and the amount of news about the field conditions, the humidity in the air, and Kurt Warner’s wife’s new haircut wore me down pretty quickly.

But that’s what took precedence on Sunday, even over a match between two of the greatest rivals in the world of sports — a match that didn’t just crown a winner, but may prove to have been a turning point in the careers of two of the greatest tennis giants who have ever played.

My beer buzz had nearly died by the time I was able to even find out what ultimately happened in the final two sets of the Open. It was only after watching dozens of highlights of the Steelers taking down the Cardinals that I was able to catch a minute-long wrap-up of the match on ESPN, tucked into the middle of the show.

In that minute, I saw a great athlete fall in defeat, the younger generation grab the proverbial torch, and the best show of sportsmanship I’ve seen in years. There was no celebratory dancing and no “I’m going to Disneyland” announcements. There was simply an acknowledgement of each other’s greatness and their abilities to push each other to the limits of the sport. There was respect, appreciation and sportsmanship — something we can lose track of when we’re trying harder to keep track of the betting line.

This is what so many Americans, myself included, missed on Sunday. Our obscene obsession with the Super Bowl — an American holy day with as much food, football, booze and bellowing as Thanksgiving itself — completely took the cake over the real competition that day. As a sports fan, I felt robbed when I found out what I missed because I couldn’t find my way out of the Bowl bubble. I guess I just hope that sports fans in this country will wake up someday to something other than the sound of John Madden’s voice.

But in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to resort to YouTube for the real monumental moments in sports history.