January 15, 2013
Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.
To read part one, click here.
July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.
July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.
July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.
August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.
August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.
August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.
August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.
August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.
August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.
September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.
September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.
September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.
October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.
October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.
October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.
October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.
October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.
October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.
October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS
November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.
November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.
November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.
December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.
December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.
June 13, 2011
Tiger Woods put the sports world on notice with his record-breaking Masters performance in 1997. Since then, the now 35-year old Woods has won a total of 14 majors and is threatening Jack Nicklaus’ all-time total of 18. Despite his recent struggles, he should have a good chance of getting there, simply because he still has put together solid efforts in the aforementioned Masters.
Beginning in 2000, when Woods won three of golf’s four major championships, he was sports’ most dominant athlete. The popular question became ‘Tiger or the field.’ And while the field came out on top more often, Tiger’s ten titles from 2000 – 2006 was one of golf’s greatest strings of brilliance and proved that it wasn’t such a silly question. But Woods has since fallen in the golf rankings and hasn’t won one of those coveted majors since the 2007 PGA Championship nearly four years ago. Because of that, a new athlete has taken over as the most dominant athlete on the planet:
With victories in the 2010 French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon tournament, and the 2011 French a few weeks ago, Nadal is clearly the class of all of tennis. He’s now won four of the past five major championships and at the age of 25, is clearly in his prime.
The knock on Nadal in the past has been that while he is an amazing player on a clay court, he couldn’t match Roger Federer on grass. But winning two of the past three Wimbledon’s has squelched that notion and while Nadal isn’t quite as dominant there as he is on clay, it’s quite clear that he is top tennis player regardless.
The thing about Rafa is that he’s not only the most dominant player in sports today, but he could wind up as the greatest tennis player of all-time. I’m not quite ready to give him that crown just yet, but with ten Grand Slam championships already, Nadal has a good chance of surpassing Federer’s all-time record of 16. As the years go by, like all great athletes, there will be a decline in his game. But Nadal is so good on the clay court (since 2005, he’s won the French Open every year except 2009), that he could win that championship for several more years.
Part of the reason he’s sports’ most dominant athlete is there just aren’t a bevy of great ones around ruling their respective games right now. Think of baseball – is any one player all that dominant? Albert Pujols may come the closest and he’s hardly as overachieving the way Nadal is. Football? I don’t know, Peyton Manning? Even in a one-on-one sport such as basketball, it’s hard to say that Kobe Bryant or Lebron James is as dominant as Rafael Nadal is. Bryant may have approached that level winning the past two NBA titles, but even on a good Lakers team, he couldn’t guide them out of the second round of the playoffs this season.
Note that most dominant is a different thing entirely from ‘best.’ Though Nadal dominates his sport like no other athlete, he may not be the top athlete. When comparing sports, it’s obviously extremely difficult to label a current No. 1 and to name one the clear best is virtually impossible to do. Nadal may be up there, but it’s not realistic to compare him to someone like Lebron James.
Still, it’s time to start recognizing Nadal as not only the world’s most dominant tennis player, but its most dominant athlete in all of sports.