2010 was another great year in the world of sports. The World Cup was played in South Africa, Manny Pacquio proved he is the best pound for pound fighter (still waiting for that Floyd Mayweather matchup), and the Texas Rangers finally beat the New York Yankees in a playoff series to earn their first World Series berth. While these are a few of the many great stories of the year these ten topped them all in my humble opinion:
10. Tiger Woods goes winless in 2010
While this is not a moment per se, this is still a huge story. After a tumultuous end to 2009, the seemingly impenetrable focus (Gatorade named their Tiger-inspired beverage “Focus”) was shaken by the dissolution of his marriage and the loss of endorsements. Tiger also lost his spot as the #1 golfer in the world for the first time in five years. In April he missed qualifying in a major tournament for only the sixth time in his 14-year professional career. In the final tournament of 2010 he held the lead throughout, but lost in a playoff, otherwise he would be higher on this list.
9. Amar’e Stoudemire signs with the New York Knicks
“The Knicks are back” is the first statement new Knick Amar’e Stoudemire spoke into a microphone after signing a 5 year $100 million deal to take his talents to Broadway. Although New York whiffed on the big prize of LeBron James, Stoudemire is arguably the biggest superstar the Knicks have had since they traded Patrick Ewing to Seattle in 2000. Stoudemire embraced his new city and is currently playing like an MVP candidate, carrying the Knicks to a 16-11 record the latest in the season that they have been this many games over .500 in ten years.
8. San Fransisco Giants win their first World Series
The Giants rise to prominence in 2010 was just as improbable as their playoff run. Lacking the household names of the Yankees and Phillies, the Giants beat the All-Star squad from Philly to earn their trip to the Fall Classic, their first appearance since 2002 when a certain controversial slugger was their star player. Barry Bonds was not in the 2010 lineup, however, replaced by names such as Buster Posey, Cody Ross and Pablo Sandoval. Powered by Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and closer Brian Wilson, SanFransisco, who won titles as the New York Giants in the 50′s, won their first Series as a Golden State franchise.
7. Jimmie Johnson wins 5th straight Nascar title
Not Richard Petty, not even Dale Earnhardt, Sr. accomplished half of what Jimmie Johnson has in his career. While the aforementioned drivers are all-time greats in the stock car circuit (both have 7 championships each), none of them have ever won five Nascar championships in a row as Johnson did when he clinched the crown on the last race of the 2010 season. What makes this year’s feat more spectacular is that Johnson started the day in second place in the standings, the first time ever a driver won the championship when not leading the standings going into the final race.
He may not be Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. the more popular drivers on the circuit but, like it or not, Jimmie Johnson has overtaken those guys as the premier driver in NASCAR today.
6. Armando Galaragga’s perfect game denied
It was the blown call heard ’round the baseball world. 2010 was the “year of the pitcher” as heightened drug testing in major league baseball sucked the air out of makeshift power hitters’ balloons and moved the pitcher back to the forefront of America’s past time. Evidence of this came in the form of two perfect games hurled by Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay and Oakland A’s starter Dallas Braden.
In what was a forgettable year for umpires (there were repeated calls for instant replay to be instituted for close plays on the basepaths and ball and strikes calls) this was the most glaring missed call. Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galaragga had gotten 26 consecutive outs without walking or hitting a batter when Cleveland Indians shortstop Jason Donald grounded harmlessly to the first base side. As the Tigers began to celebrate, their joy was stopped by First base umpire Jim Joyce who called Donald safe at first. The problem was Donald was clearly out. It wasn’t even close. Galaragga was stunned, but could only smile as he walked back to the mound. Joyce stood steadfast on his call and the game continued. Galaragga would get the next batter out to end the game, but the damage was done. Joyce tearfully apologized for his gaffe and Galaragga took the missed perfecto like a champ.
The two parties met again in another game that week as Joyce, this time the home plate umpire received the lineup card from Galaragga, a custom usually left to the manager. Joyce could not stop the waterworks. It was a touching moment as a sobbing Joyce gave Galaragga a pat on the back and all was forgiven.
5. LeBron chooses Miami
The most coveted free agent in the history of sports had the world’s attention on July 8th 2010. A one hour program called “The Decision” is what the hopes of five NBA teams who had been courting LeBron James, including his hometown team Cleveland, had come to. And with a nine word phrase that has been used and abused to the point of cliche in the five short months since its utterance, LeBron told Jim Gray “(he) decided to take (his) talents to South Beach”, breaking the hearts of Cleveland fans as if it were “The Shot, Part III: The End” (the previous two “shots” were fired in game-winning fashion courtesy of Michael Jordan in the 1989 and 1993 playoffs respectively).
4. Michael Vick has 6 TD performance vs the Redskins on Monday Night Football
The comeback story of 2010 reached its pinnacle for Michael Vick. Rescued from career limbo by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 after serving 18 months for dog fighting, Vick worked his way from the third string quarterback to starter this season. While Vick was already dominating the NFL, this rout of the ‘Skins was his coming out party. Throwing for 4 touchdowns and running for two more, Vick showed the entire repertoire in front of a national TV audience making Washington look like a Pop Warner team in the process.
3. LeBron scores 38 in return to Cleveland
Once LeBron made his “decision” almost everyone in the mainstream media and Cavaliers fans circled December 2nd on their calender as soon as the 2010-2011 NBA schedule was released. That date would be when the “Lyin’ King” would return to Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat. When the fateful night arrived, Cleveland fans were ready with clever taunts (“Scottie Pip-pen!”), signs (“Akron Hates You!”) and T-shirts (the aforementioned “Lyin’ King”) all chiding their former franchise player. From the time James hopped and skipped onto the court he had a bounce in his step. Throwing down one-handed dunks in the lay-up line, LeBron seemed unfazed by the overwhelming display of dissension by the crowd. When the game started LeBron went to work hitting jump shot after jump shot and scoring on his signature drives to the basket, talking smack to his former teammates on the bench the entire time. He might as well have been saying ‘you guys stink, and this proves my point’. The game was over at halftime.
The final score of Miami 118 Cleveland 90 with James torching his old team for 38 points 5 rebounds and 8 assists turned the 20,000 fans in attendance against their home team for putting up such a lousy effort. As LeBron walked off the court so effortlessly carving up his hometown team one thing was clear: LeBron was never going to re-sign with Cleveland. Let’s all move on.
2. Brett Favre does not start for first time in 18 years snapping consecutive streak
On September 27, 1992 Brett Favre started his first game for the Green Bay Packers and never missed a start again until December 13th 2010, a span of 297 consecutive games. For years Favre took such a physical pounding that there were times it was certain the streak would come to an end, but number 4 was under center when the game started. In the last couple of years, since leaving Green Bay, Favre has been criticized for sacrificing his health and the team’s chances of winning in order to keep the streak going especially when he was a member of the New York Jets in 2008 and his poor play (later found to be due to an injured shoulder) led to a 1-4 record after starting 8-3.
To Favre’s credit he has said the opposite, that he only wants to help his team win. After the spectacular and career year he had in 2009 at age 40 you would be hard pressed not to believe him. However even with an extra day to rest a bruised shoulder the NFL’s toughest quarterback could not bring himself to throw on the shoulder pads against the New York Giants. While there are reports Favre will shut it down for the remaining two games of the season and ultimately his career, his run is right up there with Cal Ripken’s 2,632 straight baseball games and A.C. Green’s 1192 straight NBA games played as the most impressive iron man streaks ever.
1. The UConn women’s team dominate college basketball
They have already dominated the women’s game, breaking the consecutive record for wins when they won their 71st straight last season breaking their own school record set from 2001-2003. Now the women of the University of Connecticut basketball team have equaled a record few believed would ever be tied let alone broken: the 88-game win streak of the UCLA men’s basketball team. Coached by the legendary John Wooden, the UCLA men dominated the college game in the early 70′s like few have seen until now.
Now UConn coach Gino Auriema has his women’s team one win away from shattering the long standing record. When perfect seasons were few and far between, considered a huge feat in the men’s game, in the past three decades the UConn women have pulled off two such season’s in a row and counting. Not even in the days when Diana Turasi was running the point was the women’s team this prolific. It is par for the course that this incarnation is led by the school’s all-time scoring leader Maya Moore.
Only Florida State stand in the way of history. And if recent history repeats itself twice in the next three days, it will be a huge validation for the woman’s game if there are any doubters left.