December 31, 2010

Our favourite moments of the year

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Ice Hockey, Olympics, Soccer

Like any year in sports, a lot has happened in 2010. Since everybody else has chimed in with their two cents about what they liked and what mattered most, why not cop out for once — OK, maybe more than once — and throw down a list of my own favourite moments of the year.

Now, this is favourite here, not best moments or worst moments, but they’re what I’ll remember first and foremost from the year that was. In chronological order:

Feb 12 — Nodar Kumaritashvili dies at the Olympics.
It happened before the Games even opened; a Georgian luger couldn’t handle the intense speeds of the Whistler track, lost control and hit a poll, killing him. It was a terrible story to start the Games and while Sidney Crosby’s golden goal to close the event is a nice, bright note, Nodar’s death was far more memorable.

Feb. 7 — Manning getting picked off to seal the Super Bowl.
Let’s face it, the number of people who don’t like Peyton Manning probably vastly outnumber the people who do. So when the feisty underdog Saints upset him and the Colts in the Super Bowl, the world cheered them on. To cap it all off, when the Colts were trailing to charge down the field late in the game, Manning was threw a pick six for the icing on the Saints’ cake.

April 5 — Butler’s halfcourt shot.
The Butler Bulldogs were longshots to even make the Final Four, let alone the championship game on their home turf in Indianapolis. But what happened throughout the title game with Duke was phenomenal as they hung tough and the game came down to one play: A halfcourt shot that just barely missed. It would have been the greatest shot in NCAA history and even though it missed, it was one hell of a memory.

May 9 & May 29 — The Perfect Games.
The rarest feat in baseball was accomplished a mere 20 days apart. First, Oakland’s Dallas Braden shut down the Tampa Bay Rays, then the Phillies’ Roy Halladay obliterated the Florida Marlins. To see two marvelous games thrown in such a short period of time was simply stunning and both were stunning on their own levels. Braden was essentially a nobody when he threw his perfecto and Halladay had come close to a few no-nos with the Jays, but could never nail them down.

June 2 — The Imperfect Game.
Armando Gallaraga’s gem was every bit as nice as Braden’s and Halladay’s, right up until the point where umpire Jim Joyce smashed it. A massively blown call at first base cost the Tigers’ pitcher what would have been the third perfecto in less than a month. While the first two pieces of perfection were amazing, this one was even more memorable, as Joyce apologized for getting it wrong the next day.

June 9 — The Hawks halt the streak and leave the Leafs behind.
Ice hockey’s longest Cup-less streak was snapped this summer thanks to some amazing play from the Chicago Blackhawks young guns and their superb goalie, Antti Neimi, who was the backup for most of the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs now own the longest title drought, having not even been to the Cup finals since the NHL expanded from six teams in 1967.

June 17 — Lakers win title despite trailing and Kobe going 6-24.
The Sports Guy Bill Simmons on ESPN.com has brought up Kobe Bryant going 6-for-24 in the Lakers’ Game 7 win over the Celtics a lot as a way of trying to diminish Bryant’s accomplishment. I think it should upset him and all Celtics fans that their opponent’s best player had a bad game and his team still won the title. It’s always nice to see a team repeat too, in an era where it’s so uncommon.

July 8 — The Decision.
While the outcome may have been foreshadowed by media reports, the impact of a superstar plunging a knife into the back of and entire city was almost too brutal to be real. Did LeBron James actually just hold an hour-long TV special to tell Cleveland he’s leaving, then never thank his teammates or the city? It made one of the NBA’s biggest stars into one of sports biggest pariahs and should be on everyone’s list.

July 11 — Spain wins the World Cup.
They didn’t win pretty — in any game — but wins are wins and Spain was the class of the World Cup. Their efficient defence, incredible passing and David Villa’s goal-scoring acumen, the Spanish won their well-deserved first World Cup title over a rough-and-tumble Dutch side that should have lost a few men to red cards.

Oct. 23 — Lesnar gets owned.
Seriously, when Brock took to the ring against Cain Velasquez, it looked like the only thing that the champ did to prepare for the fight was grow a beard. The Monster was absolutely dominated by the challenger and the UFC got to see what a specimen Velasquez is.

Nov 1— The Giants win the World Series.
In a season dominated by pitchers, it made sense that the team with the best rotation there was won it all. But, the most memorable thing about the Giants run to the World Series was closer Brian Wilson’s incredible facial hair. A thick, black beard made their ninth-inning man look crazier than he already is and watching him take the mound to win it all was an astoundingly memorable for me.

Honourable mentions: Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal; The Tiger Woods comeback saga; Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech; the “Hand of Clod”; the Leafs ending up giving away No. 2 overall pick for Phil Kessel; the Yankees missing out on everyone in free agency; the Champions League final being widely televised in North America.

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