Since I will be leaving in a week for a vacation…I’m going to go ahead and do my 2004 Wrap Up. For me, personally, it has been a fantastic year. My wife and I bought our first home…the biggest achievement in our 5+ years of marriage. There is nothing better to have all of those things you’ve spent dreaming up with each other actually come to fruition. He all have our health. We’ve had tons of help along the way from family and friends…and I thank everyone for their help. And thank God for her.
But, let’s talk sports. The Year 2004 has had quite a ride. Sure, most years have their great sporting moments and their sad sporting events. But, this year has had quite an array of weird and wild occurrences….not to mention some very historical events.
Year 2004 will mostly be remembered for the Boston Red Sox breaking “The Curse” and winning its first World Series in 86 years. I’m not a Red Sox fan….nor did I buy into curses or the “woe is us” feeling of the Sox Nation…but what this team in itself did was quite amazing. This team was DEAD. Completely dead. Down 0-3 to the Mighty Hated Yankees and down in the bottom of the 9th. Marino Rivera on the hill. Magically, Boston pulls out that game. But, how could they pull off the series?? Combining the greatest comeback in sports history with the greatest choke job [never forget A-Rod’s slap down the first base line], the Red Sox did it. After those 4 wins….the Red Sox went on to win 4 more and the World Series over St. Louis. Simply amazing! So, now instead of futility…all of sports will now point to the Red Sox as evidence that, in fittingly Yanks Yogi Berra’s words, it ain’t over til it’s over! So, while I didn’t buy into the Curse…I did buy into the love that the New Englanders have for their team. Quite rare in sports.
This was quite a year for sports champions. The Detroit Pistons surprised everyone outside the Great Lakes by smacking the Lakers so easily. Or the amazing feats of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Finals. We had the New England Patriots winning their second Super Bowl in three years. Or the Connecticut hoops teams winning the men’s and women’s titles.
How about Lance Armstrong winning a SIXTH Tour De France?? Or Phil Mickelson winning the Masters?? Kurt Busch coming back and winning the reformatted Nextel Cup?? Smarty Jones captured the hearts of everyone in and out of the horse racing industry.
Or the Athens Olympics?? In what was looking like one of the biggest mistakes in sporting history…the Athens Games did surprisingly well. LeBron James is showing why he may be better than Jordan. Roger Clemons, Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson did their thing after age 40. How about Freddy Adu, 14, trying to single-handedly save soccer in America. Big Ben winning 20 straight games [and counting] at Miami-OH and for the Steelers. Michelle Wie’s 68 at the PGA’s Sony Open.
Personally, for my teams…I had a pretty good year. Joe Gibbs returning the Redskins….though it didn‘t work out as well as hoped. The Lakers, despite the hate, did get to the NBA Finals by upsetting the Spurs [on a shot with 0.4 seconds left] and the Wolves. My Tar Heels made a surprising football run into the Continental Tire Bowl while the hoops team got back into the NCAA tournament and this year are a legit title contender. The NBA came back to Charlotte in the form of Bobcats.
Numbers?? Barry Bonds getting to 700 HR. Manning chasing Marino’s TD record. Ichiro broke the all time single season hits record which stood for 84 years. Streaks?? How about the Patriots record 21-game winning streak?? Or Payton Manning throwing at least 2 TD in 13 straight games. Eric Gagne reeled off 84 straight saves. Greg Maddux has won at least 15 games in 16 straight seasons. Or De La Salle’s football team losing a game which broke their 151 straight winning streak for high school football. The longest current streak is currently owned by my alma mater…Independence High School in Charlotte, NC [the Pats just won their 5th straight state title].
How about the heart warming story of the Iraqi Olympic soccer team??
For every great event…there are the bad ones. The sight of Ron Artest running up into the stands to fight all of the Pistons fans [except the ones that actually threw something at him] will live on for quite a while. I hope those 1,200 albums he’s sold will help deal with the pain. That followed the Lakers Breakup that sent Shaq to Miami, Phil to Montana, Payton to Boston and Karl to wherever….yet everyone still is talking smack. That all happened as Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault trial was suddenly dropped…right before it was set to happen. We had Breast-gate after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime performance which has had MAJOR repercussions across all of the media across the board. Ricky Williams decided to sit home and toke up instead of showing up for work. Oh, and Jamal Lewis’ suspension for drug trafficking. We had chairs thrown in Oakland…and bottles flying at Dodger Stadium. Or our USA Olympic basketball team coming up short.
We’ve had Armageddon in the NHL….and it doesn’t seem to be ending soon. Of course, the NHL and the players are finding out that no one cares if they are not playing. We’ve had a BCS controversy at the beginning of 2004 [Oklahoma, USC, LSU]...and now at the end [Oklahoma, USC, Auburn]. We had the whole Maurice Clarett/Ohio State crap come back up…only after he tried, and failed, to fight the NFL. Colorado was accused of providing alcohol and women as recruiting tools…and rape allegations followed. Pete Rose finally admitted he bet on baseball…but only after deciding to sell books to do it. How about the dumb fluff over the TO/Desperate Housewives intro??
The worst event [which will spill into 2005] could be the outing of many athletes in the BALCO [BALCO] case. It has already claimed Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds. There will be others [namely Marion Jones] that will be thrown in front of the bus. But, there will be a chain reaction due to testing and witch hunts that may claim quite a few others.
There were sad events….like Pat Tillman killed in action in Afghanistan. The plane crash that killed four members of the Hendrick family. The Expos were dragged and killed in Montreal so everyone could cash in on quickly selling them to a DC market. Hurricanes unmercifully ravaged the state of Florida…which [not as importantly] played havoc with sports schedules all over the gulf states.
Amazing all of that…plus so much morehappened in just 366 days [yep, leap year] in sports.