As we bring 2011 to a close, we’ve got to take a moment to remember some of the great sports stories of the year. Now I took close inventory and these are in no particular order, because really how could you say one story is better than another…that’s just my personal opinion! Let’s get it moving, we have A LOT to cover.
Green Bay Packers winning Super Bowl XLV. After a great 2010-11 season QB Aaron Rodgers took the Green Bay Packers to the big dance in an icy Dallas, Texas, to win over the Pittsburg Steelers. Unfortunately the 1,250 temporary seats that were deemed unsafe and the 400 misplaced fans that were forced to watch from standing-room only sections took a little wind out of the Super Bowl sail. Jerry Jones may not be seeing a Super Bowl in his house any time soon.
Danica Patrick trades it all in for NASCAR. This was the last season we would see race car driver Danica Patrick behind the wheel of an Indy car. Patrick announced earlier this year that she would be trading it all in to become a full-time NASCAR driver. Jersey Girls Sports has had the opportunity to interview Danica and see her race on both the Indy & NASCAR levels, and I tell you this woman is awesome. Good luck in February at Daytona!
NFL Lock-Out Imprisoned Fans. After 18 weeks and 4 days of back and forth from the NFL and the Players Association, an agreeable decision was finally made that would allow the NFL season to resume. Although it initially threatened to postpone or cancel the 2011 season, the only game that was called off was the August 7th Pro Football Hall of Fame Game because of the lack time the teams needed to prepare for that game. Could you even imagine the winter with no football? It’s still makes my head hurt just thinking about it.
Legendary Boxer Joe Frazier’s Death. After a short battle with liver cancer, Joe Frazier passed away on November 7th. Smokin’ Joe Frazier won a gold medal in 1964, but will forever be remembered for his three fights against Muhammad Ali. Frazier defeated Ali in 1971 during “The Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden, and lost to him in 1974 and 1975.
Dallas Mavericks Maneuver to Win the NBA Championship. After sweeping the LA Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat to give Mark Cuban and the city of Dallas it’s 1st NBA Championship. Who would have thought that the Mavericks would be the team to beat, I thought Miami had the ‘Dream Team’.
Serena Williams treated for pulmonary embolism. The 13-time Grand Slam winner underwent emergency treatment after doctors found a blood clot in her lungs. Serena called the near-death experience “extremely hard, scary, and disappointing.” She made her return to the court in late spring, advancing to the fourth round at Wimbledon before losing to Marion Bartoli.
Rory McIlory Wins US Open. Tiger who? This 22-year-old Rory McIlroy led the U.S. Open from start to finish, setting a new course record and establishing himself as one of the premier golfers in the world. The Ireland native shot a 268, four shots better than the previous U.S. Open record. He finished 16-under par. McIlroy’s dominant victory was especially sweet after his dramatic collapse at Augusta National two months earlier. Rory be on the lookout because I hear Tiger is coming for you.
VCU Gets The Glass Slipper. No one knew what VCU stood for at the beginning of March Madness, but by the time the Final Four rolled around Virginia Commonwealth University was a household name and dubbed the ‘Cinderella Team’. Even though they lost in the national semifinal against Butler, we’re looking forward to some great basketball from these guys this season and hopefully a return to the Final Four.
A Manning-less NFL Season. If someone would have told me that Payton Manning was not going to suit up for one game this season, I would have said they were crazy. After a neck surgery, the Indianapolis QB has been sidelined, and so has his team by only winning one game (so far) this season in week 15. It was sad to find out the Colts was a one-man team; maybe with Manning back in the driver’s seat next season the team can rebound. One can only hope.
St. Louis Wins an Unlikely World Series. Let’s get all the facts straight…the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t win their division, they needed a complete meltdown from the Atlanta Braves just to get into the playoffs, were down 3-2 in the World Series, trailed the Texas Rangers 6-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 6, were down to their last strike – twice – and STILL were crowned world champions. Wow…talk about persistence.
Indy Racer Dan Wheldon’s Death. The two-time and reigning Indy 500 Champion was part of a 15-car crash on the 11th lap of the Las Vegas Indy 300 as thousands witnessed. He sustained unsurvivable injuries and was pronounced dead a couple hours later. Wheldon left behind a wife and two children.
Penn State Sex-Abuse Scandal. I really don’t know how to sum this up. In November, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse on young boys over a 15-year period. Some of the alleged abuse was said to have taken place in Penn State’s football locker room. The immediate fallout was the firing of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, who’d been on the Penn State staff since 1950. The aftershock from the Sandusky case will be heard for years, even as more victims continue to come forward.
Tebowing! Not really sure what the draw is here, because players have been praying for years, but like anything in grand fashion the media has created this phenomenon called Tim Tebow. The former Florida QB finally got an opportunity to start this season for the Denver Broncos and has been on a roll. With kneeling before, after and during each game, people have joked that Tebow has Jesus on the mainline that’s why he wins. Now Tebow is not a great QB by any definition, but lets hope by him bringing his religious beliefs mainstream it will allow others to believe in something more powerful than themselves.
Another Lockout with the NBA. The NBA lockout didn’t leave us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside after a deal was reached. On Thanksgiving Day, the two sides agreed to terms and set forth the motions for a 66-game schedule, with the first games set for Christmas Day. Unfortunately before we got here many games were canceled, people lost their jobs and players resorted to working at Home Depot, but who could enjoy Christmas was no NBA?
Just Win, Baby! Those words were spoken by legendary Raiders owner, Al Davis who died at age 82 after over 60 years of having a unique impact on pro football, including three Super Bowls and an AFL title in Oakland. Roger Goodell called Davis a “true legend,” and it’s hard to dispute the Hall of Famer’s place among the most influential of the sport’s history-makers. Davis was controversial, but was a gift to the game.
With so many great stories in 2011, I can’t wait to see what 2012 holds!