Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: A Year in Review

When people who cover sports look back on the year 2010, what will they remember the most? 3 teams ending long championship droughts and lifting their respective cities in the process? Americans gravitating toward sports they never particularly liked before? July 1st becoming the most important day of the year for the NBA? Controversies, with stars falling from grace like stones? The milestones reached, and the greats we lost? All of it was amazing, but this proves a point I've been writing about all year, and will write about for years to come, you just never know what could happen.

The year had so many great things happen, I don't know where to start. We can start with the city of New Orleans, being lifted from the doldrums by one team, and one goal. Super Bowl XLIV will be one we remember for quite some time, not even for the result, but how and why it was important. An onside kick to start the 2nd half; we'll never see that again, never mind a Super Bowl. Even if the Saints don't hoist another Lombardi Trophy for 40 years, that one will always be special, and America was taken along for the ride. How could you not feel uplifted?

In Vancouver, Canadians wanted to "Own the Podium", and they sure did. As much as they love 13 of them, only 1 was of the most importance, the men's hockey gold medal. They were expected to easily take it, but along came the plucky Americans. A young fast group they were, and in their 1st game against the Canadians, in SD, they stunned us all by beating them. Canada was on the brink of missing out on their most important medal. But as with all comeback stories, they persevered, spanking the Russians, a team many thought they'd play for the gold, and it set up a matchup for the gold with the U.S. Canada had won the gold on American soil in 2002, and the Americans so wanted revenge. We all know that the Canadians won in OT, in one of the most tense hockey games you'll ever see. We'll probably never see something like that again. If something can nearly eclipse the 1980 hockey tournament, then it had to be great, and it was.

There were 2 other teams that were lifted from long championship droughts. The Chicago Blackhawks had waited 49 years for a Stanley Cup, and the San Francisco Giants waited 56 total years for a World Series. Both droughts ended with a flourish, and both cities were exiled from the long cold waits. Repeats are of course possible, but nothing will be like the ones that removed the cities from the waits for a title.

In June, eyes turned to South Africa for a World Cup, and many before hadn't the slightest bit of interest in it, except for the cult-like group of devout soccer followers. But this one was different, after the U.S's stunning job in the 2009 Confederations Cup, the country waited with baited breath. Their first opponent was England, and we know what happened in that game. A draw, but that put the U.S in the eyes of the soccer world. And with Landon Donovan's last second goal against Algeria, the U.S again had captured the imagination of the entire country. Controversies aside, and even though the U.S was eliminated in the Round of 16, soccer was back in the mainstream eyes of the country.

The controversies this year were numerous. From Cam Newton to Brett Favre and back to the old venerable Tiger Woods, 2010 wasn't without its share of controversies. The Brett Favre- Jenn Sterger case dragged on until the 29th of December, and between the start and end of the controversy Brett Favre's start streak ended, he was injured twice, and the Vikings played a home game in Detroit, outside for the first time in 30 years and on a Tuesday. Tiger Woods was in the eye of the media for a long time, until he admitted to what he had done, and it seemed like everything was about Tiger, when it probably shouldn't have been. It overshadowed Phil Mickleson winning another Masters, a European winning the U.S Open, and a club grounding that cost Dustin Johnson a chance at a PGA Championship. When those who look back on this year in golf see these events, they will remember Tiger first, and last, and it breaks the stigma that athletes may hold, that they are the best in society, and that they cannot wrong. Cam Newton's brought back the notions of the "death penalty" case to SMU, and again questioned the NCAA and its endeavors.

In between all of these events, we lost the best coach of all time in any sport, John Wooden, and he will be sorely missed, but his teachings still live on with us, as the UCONN women have won 90 in a row, eclipsing Wooden's 88. We've seen some amazing plays that we'll never see again. We've seen surprise teams surprise us, and major ones disappoint us. We saw something that only ever happened once before, a no-hitter in the postseason, and baseball had its own year of the pitcher. This was the year that had it all, and again shows that you never know what you'll see when you buy a ticket. 2011 looks to be a year of uncertainty. All 4 major leagues CBA's are expiring, and grueling talks are forthcoming. I hope none have major lockouts, but it seems as though one will. Which one, I cannot say. Some teams viabilities in their current markets may be put in question. And while next year may not have the Olympics or World Cup that this year had, it will be special in its own right. 2010 will be remembered as a year when amazing things happened, and for all of us, it was amazing to experience it all. Here's to a great 2011, and the amazing things that may come.

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