I will be spending New Year's Eve in a car. My wife's car. We will be leaving my hometown of Charlotte and head back to our home in Northern Kentucky. We will get home...rest up...and celebrate the end of 2005 in private. She may drink some Hypnotic; I may drink some Sprite or Ginger Ale [the Assassin doesn't drink]; then we will go to sleep.
Before I head out, I just wanted one more good look back at 2005.
NCAA BASKETBALL: Of course this was a great year for me. My beloved North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA Championship which marked our return to prime time. After a disasterous 8-20 season, the ugly ousting of Matt Doherty, the tougher than expected welcome of Roy Williams and watching Duke dominate while we were gone made this all the more sweeeeeeter. The odd thing was that the Heels season was title or bust. The season was worthless if it didn't end with a title. And that's a fun, yet anxious way to watch the season unfold. And the lasting memory I have of this season will be hugging my wife as the confetti flew in the air at the Edward Jones Dome in St Louis.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Personally, it is nice to actually have something to do at this time of year. One more win, and the Skins are actually in the playoffs....for the first time since 1999. So this year will be most remembered for that. However, in terms of the entire league, this may be known as the Year Of Owens. From his breathtaking play in the Super Bowl to his "holdout" to his situps in front of his house, to his being kicked off the team, to his news conference. Athletes want to know why the average fan hates athletes deep down....well there it is. It will also be known as the return of the Cincinnati Bengals....seeing the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. And living in Cincinnati, I have to deal with these nouveau riche up close. My hometown Panthers have had a roller coaster ride as well. But my favorite moment willbe watching Santana Moss hauling in those TD bombs on a Monday night in Dallas.
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION: For only the third time in my life, there was an NBA postseason with no Lakers. And let me tellyou...it was really tough to watch. Not only did the Lakers miss the playoffs...they missed them badly. From Kobe and Odom's injuries to Rudy T quitting...made it a horrible year. Of course, some new players and and new/old coach, Phil Jackson, popped the ears up some. And while the team enters 2006 around the .500 mark...it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. Non-Laker wise...while the 2005 Finals weren't breathtaking....Game 5 sure was. The nip and tuck and Robert Horry thinking he's 25 again were great. And seeing Tim Duncan choke was a bit funny as well. Of course, he's Timmy and that didn't last too long....as he had a great series otherwise. But Game 5 was awesome. My fondest NBA memory of 2005 will be Kobe Bryant scoring 62 points in three quarters to embarrass a darn good Dallas Mavericks team.
NCAA FOOTBALL: Reports of the BCS working have been greatly exaggerated. I mean, even a broken clock gets the time right twice a day. That aside, I will always remember the LSU comeback at Arizona State...a game moved to Tempe due to Hurricane Katrina's impact. I will also remember the magical USC-Notre Dame game, which the Irish probably gained more national respect with that loss than they did in any win they had. I will remember me foolishly trusting the Big Ten this year. I normally are critical of the Big Ten...but for some dumb reason...I believed in them this year. I had Michigan picked to play USC in the Rose Bowl [d'oh!]. And as I write this, the Big Ten is an awesome 0-3 in Bowl games....including to upset losses by [you guessed it] Michigan and Minnesota.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: This will be remembered as the year the White Sox ended 88 years of "wait til next year". It will also be remembered as the year the National League was swept in the Series, yet again. It was also nice to see the Yankees and Red Sox disposed of quickly, so we didn't have to hear about them as much as we normally get crammed down our throats. We saw baseball back in the District....as the Nats took off and had a surprisingly good season. And, in my Cincinnati Reds season, it was nice to see Ken Griffey Jr back to nearly his old self. But it is sad to see Sean Casey go. The saddest thing of all, is that with all that good....2005 will be remembered MOST for being the Steroid Season. The Congressional hearings, the stricter policy actually netting a few wrong doers, and the two that combined in the form of Raphael Palmeiro. Palmei-roid sat in front of Congress, pointed at them, and vehemently denied ever taking roids. Then he tests positive for them a few months later. Nice.
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE: The worst thing that could ever happen.....happened. The NHL cancelled the entire 2004-2005 season, which meant the Stanley Cup was not awarded in 2005, the first time that had happened in nearly 90 years. However, there was elation as the 2005-6 season got underway on time....and with new rules. Gone is the red line, ties, rough defense and basically cluttered play.
NASCAR: I don't really follow racing that much [see DieCast for that], but I did follow Tony Stewart all year. You see, I drafted him in a NASCAR pool, so it was nice to see my driver win the Nextel Cup. He won in his home of Indiana...in the Brickyard 500. And the nicer, more reserved Stewart showed that it's his skill...not rage...that makes him a 2-time champion.
TOUR DE FRANCE: Like I said, this is probably the last year most Americans actually follow the event, since Lance Armstrong will no longer compete. But, it was nice to see Amstrong dominate the event yet again....while the French tabloids continue to try to bring him down.
HURRICANE KATRINA: It would be naive of me to even attempt to figure out what New Orleans will look like in the future. But 2005 for New Orleans sports will be remembered disasterously. Collegiate teams were forced to move....programs eliminated...and Tulane playing football with no actually school to go to. Students left for other schools. As for the pros, well, the Saints were thrown around the NFL as if it was some foster child. They played home games in New York, Baton Rouge and San Antonio...and were a combined 1-7 at home. Also, the way the schedule was set up, they were always traveling. The team was criticized for threatening to stay in San Antonio or move to Los Angeles in the future. They apparantly will play in Louisiana in 2006...and see what happens. As for the NBA's Hornets, they moved almost exclusively to Oklahoma City and have prospered on and off the court. Of course, none of this compares to what issues the city and it's citizens face just to get back to normalcy.