Dubsism

What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

Dubsism’s 15 Most Important Sports Stories of 2016

15) Dustin Johnson Gets The Monkey Off His Back

dustin-johnson

Part of this story is the emergence of the crew who propels golf in the “post-Tiger” world.  The guys who grab a lot of the spotlight are the names that trip off your tongue first…names like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Bubba Watson to name just a few.

But the other part of this story is about overcoming odds and hitting that watered-down sports version of what we call “redemption.”  Dustin Johnson is a guy who had been flirting with being one of those aforementioned names.  He was at the gates of of golf’s “Promised Land” walking on to the course for the fourth round of the 2015 U.S. Open.  At the time, he was in a four-way tie at the top of the leader board, until he yipped two putts on the final hole allowing Jordan Spieth to win by one stroke.

That could have been the kind of loss that crushed his spirit, and it could have been even worse considering what happened at this year’s U.S. Open.  Five holes into the final round, Johnson is addressing the ball, put his club down behind it when it moved slightly.  In an NFL-like inability to decide a penalty, an official informed Johnson a few holes later he might be penalized one stroke for that movement.  Now, when you stop to consider the screw-job Johnson got at the 2010 PGA Championship when he grounded his club is an area determined after the fact by a rules official to be a bunker even though it didn’t appear to be the usual “bunker” one thinks of on a golf course.

“Johnson’s tee shot on No. 18 sailed wide right of the fairway and into the gallery. Whistling Straits, crafted by renowned designer Pete Dye, features 1,200 bunkers. Johnson found one of them. He just didn’t know it.

Trampled by fans walking the grounds throughout the week, Johnson figured his ball had settled on a worn-out area of land. That’s why, Johnson said, he didn’t have a problem grounding his club.

“I just thought I was on a piece of dirt that the crowd had trampled down,” Johnson said. “I never thought I was in a sand trap. It never once crossed my mind that I was in a bunker. Obviously I know the Rules of Golf, and I can’t ground my club in a bunker, but that was just one situation I guess.”

Ultimately, Johnson was issued a one-stroke penalty, but he overcame that to capture his first major tournament win.  Once you win a major in golf, you become part of an elite class where amongst other things, the sins of the past are forgiven (just ask John Daly).  In Johnson’s case, that was a lot of forgiveness, considering he failed three drug tests in five years, including two for cocaine, while rumors flew about him “playing a few holes” with  some other tour player’s wives.  That made him persona non grata on the PGA Tour for quite some time, including what was politely called a “leave of absence” (there were serious measure taken not to call it a suspension) to allow Johnson to address his “personal problems.”

14) Lilly King Taunts Yulia Efimova, Then Backs It Up

There’s three things Americans love; underdogs, talking smack, and demonizing the Russians.  Admit it, you cheered when Rocky Balboa flattened Ivan “I must break you” Drago.  That’s why when an aquatic version of “Rocky IV” broke out at the Rio Olympics, we were fascinated.

American swimmer Lilly King didn’t hide her disdain for her Russian rival after Yulia Efimova was suspended for performance enhancing drug (PED) use.  She was reinstated allowing her to compete in the Rio games; a decision with which King clearly did not agree.  The American swimmer was caught on camera doing a Dikembe Mutuombo-esque finger-wag at a television showing Efimova celebrating her semifinal win in the 100-meter breaststroke.

King added the comment “You’ve been caught for drug cheating. I’m just not a fan.” She didn’t back off, even when seated near Efimova at a press conference. To top it off, King gave Efimova the death stare before the final race, in which King backed it all up by winning the gold medal with an Olympic record time of 1:04.93.

13) NBA and MLB Continue Labor Peace, NFL Not So Much

The NBA and its players have agreed to keep the most lucrative era in league history rolling. Major League Baseball and its players’ union have kept their 21-year streak of labor peace intact for another five years. Meanwhile, in yet another example of what a clown show the Goodell-led National Football League is, the relationship between the NFL and the player’s union is right up there with that of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in May 1941. There’s no open hostility yet, but the storm clouds are definitely brewing on the horizon.  This story is still developing, but you can pretty much count on a labor problem in the NFL at the end of the current collective bargaining agreement.

12) John Scott Becomes the NHL All-Star Weekend

john-scott

If it weren’t for the NFL, the NHL would be the most-tone deaf league out there when it comes to it’s fans.  John Scott’s path to the 2016 NHL All-Star game was the shining example of that. For one weekend in February, the NHL’s All-Star Weekend became the John Scott Show…and the NHL wasn’t smart enough to embrace it.

If you don’t know, John Scott was the definition of “journeyman NHL player;” and he got that far largely on the fact that he had fists like bone and flesh sledgehammers.   Little more than a designated goon, Scott became the focus of a fan effort to vote a less-than-talented player into the All-Star Game as a joke at the league’s expense.  What started as a harmless prank quickly became a tale of assholery overcome by the power of the common man.

The fans do their part by voting Scott into the All-Star Game.  Then the tone-deaf NHL ignores the fans by trying to force Scott out on the bullshit excuse that his presence “would ruin the sanctity of the All-Star game.”

Puh-leeze.  It’s an exhibition game FOR THE FANS!  And it was those very fans who created such a backlash, which set the stage for Scott to become the story of the entire NHL season.   It became clear once Scott arrived in Nashville for the All-Star weekend who was the main attraction.  Scott was continually showered with cheers and ovations during the skills competition.  The entire experience would have been an incredible one if it stopped there, but it didn’t.

As the leading vote-getter, Scott served as the captain of the Pacific Division All-Star team.  Scott was clearly enjoying every second of it, and the journeyman enforcer rose to the occasion.  He earned the respect of the fans by being the star of the show.  From laughing at Patrick Kane getting booed, to staging a mock fight with Kane during the game, to taking a shot in at Jeremy Roenick who criticized Scott’s inclusion in the game, and topping it off by scoring a pair of goals, that’s what pushed the raucous cheers for Scott all weekend long.

It’s what caused the near-riot when, after his two-goal performance in the game, the NHL picked Roberto Luongo, Taylor Hall, and Johnny Gaudreau as the three finalists for the game’s MVP.  Scott’s Pacific  team went on to win the tournament to take home the $1 million grand prize.   His performance was nothing short of miraculous when you consider Scott had a single multi-goal game in his entire career.   That’s why the NHL had to do a quick “about face” and name Scott the MVP even though they didn’t name him as a finalist.

Another part of the problem was part of the process was a fan vote on Twitter.  Somehow, the NHL seemed surprised that an internet-based campaign designed to get Scott into the game in the first fucking place might result in another to get him the MVP award he deserved.  Naturally, the Twitter votes became a John Scott landslide, one aided by the fact that a number of NHL teams got into the act by flooding the internet flooding support, just as they had done get him in the game initially.

11) Cristian Ronaldo Finally Wins an International Trophy

America is a country where soccer has limited popularity, yet it shares the love of debate with those soccer-loving nations.  In world football, fans love to argue which player is better, Cristian Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Translated for Americans, picture the debate being about basketball and the contestants being Steph Curry and LeBron James and you get the idea.

The general argument for the Argentinian Messi was that he had far more success playing with his national team, making it all the way to a World Cup final.  The opposite was the knock on the Portuguese Ronaldo; having no real success with his national side.  Sure they’ve both had plenty of club football success, but Americans don’t realize the importance of national rivalries outside of the Olympics.

That all changed this past summer during UEFA European Championships.  Ronaldo led the Portuguese team to the finals where they faced host nation France. Twenty-five minutes into the match Ronaldo had to leave with a knee injury suffered on a hard tackle. The 31-year-old stood on the sidelines bandaged acting as a hybrid of cheerleader and coach.  Portugal won 1-0., and Ronaldo finally became an international champion.

10) Marcus Willis Makes a Run at Wimbledon

marcus-willis

This isn’t the first “Rocky” analogy in this article, and it won’t be the last.  There’s also another tale of “redemption” here.  That’s because as I’ve said, America loves an underdog, no matter what the sport.  The popularity of men’s tennis in the U.S. waned with the loss of larger-than-life figures like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, but that shouldn’t get in the way of the appreciation of the Marcus Willis story.

Granted, Willis made himself an underdog by being lazy and getting fat, but there’s a reason why every American sport gives a post-season “Comeback Player of the Year” award, hence the “redemption” angle.   There’s was a time when Willis was the 15th-ranked junior tennis player in the world, but the combination of a “pizza and beer” style diet along with a negative attitude led to the squandering of whatever natural talent he had.  Things got so bad that by 2016 he had only earned a little over $300 as a professional.   It’s not hard to see why he thought he thought he tennis career had gone the way of the Great Auk.   Keeping that in mind, it’s is also not hard to understand why he had already concocted a “Plan B;” he was on his way to Philadelphia to become a coach until his girlfriend  convinced the self-proclaimed “fat boy” not to abandon professional tennis.

He took her advice and made some changes.  He started going to the gym, got back into shape, and eventually landed a spot in a pre-qualifying tournament for Wimbledon.   After winning six matches, Willis was ranked 772nd in the world.  He had also snagged a chance to play in the main tournament.  He faced the 54th-ranked Ricardas Berankis and won in three sets, whom he beat in three sets.

That win got Willis a match on Centre Court against Roger Federer.  To truly grasp what this meant, think the Cleveland Browns in the Super Bowl.  Sorry, but there’s no “happy ending” here.  Just like Rocky Balboa loses to Apollo Creed in the first movie, Federer took down the young Briton in straight sets.  However, that isn’t to say Willis’ run didn’t have some upsides.  First of all, he netted £50,000 (about $62,000 U.S.) for his efforts, and he married the girlfriend who gave him the advice to stay in pro tennis.

9) LeBron Puts the “Beleive” in “Believeland”

Face it…even the most hardened cynic has to be happy for Cleveland fans.  A “big four” team finally brought a championship to Cleveland for the first time since the Lyndon Johnson administration.  Just like how the Cleveland Indians got good right after Hollywood made a movie about how bad they were, the Cavaliers brought home a title right after ESPN made a documentary about the city’s fifty-plus years of sporting futility.

8 ) “The Sheriff” Rides Off Into The Sunset…About Four Years Too Late

peyton-manning-super-bowl-broncos

Dubsism World Headquarters are in Indiana; a state which if it ever seceded from the union, Peyton Manning would be on it’s $100 bill. We’re also on record as saying the easiest way to spot Indianapolis Colts’ fans is to look for their Denver Bronco Peyton Manning jerseys.  Colts fans aren’t the only ones with a huge blind spot toward this guy; there are far too who think Peyton Manning is one the greatest quarterback of all time.  A while back, we here at Dubsism did a comprehensive study of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, and at that time Manning ranked #10.  But in the five years since then, Manning has certainly been passed by at least one quarterback on that list, and there a several more still playing right now who could do the same.

We all know the knock on St. Peyton…he’s a terrible “big game” quarterback. In college, he never once beat Florida; Tennessee’s main rival. In the NFL, nobody had more first-round play-off losses than Manning.  His apologists will try to sell you some bilge about always having to face the New England Patriots “juggernaut.”  That’s complete bullshit.  St. Peyton had a 3-2 play-off record (per Pro Football Reference) against the Patriots.

The real story here is how Manning’s career ended.   It’s almost as if all the commercials he’s doing are making people forget all these events occurred within the span of 40 days

  • Was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs)
  • Won his  job back from a guy who one year later would be benched in favor of someone named Randy “Macho Man” Tom Savage
  • Played horribly, including a Super Bowl performance of 141 passing yards, one interception and no touchdowns while getting sacked five times
  • Won a Super Bowl despite that Ryan Fitzpatrick-esque performance and the fact he was physically incapable of throwing the ball more than ten yards
  • Got the “John Elway Walk-Off” by retiring as a champion

It’s funny how everybody only seems to remember the last one.

7) The United States Reclaims the Ryder Cup

Back in October, the U.S. wrested the Ryder Cup away from those damn Europeans for the first time in longer than I care to remember.  But what everybody will remember is what may be the sports photo of the year…allow me to introduce golf’s next super star… Rickie Fowler.

rickie-fowler-ryder-cup

6 ) St. Louis Loses Yet Another Team

Has there been a city in America which has had a more precipitous decline over the last century than St. Louis? 100 years ago, this city hosted events like the World’s Fair and the Olympics. Now, it can’t even hang on to a shitty football team. The water in Michigan may be toxic to all life-forms except that acid-blooded space monster in “Alien,” but nobody’s leaving Detroit. With the Rams departure for Los Angeles, St. Louis pulls into the lead for cities losing franchises with four.

  • St. Louis Browns, MLB (1954, now the Baltimore Orioles)
  • St. Louis Hawks, NBA (1968, now the Atlanta Hawks)
  • St. Louis Cardinals, NFL (1988, now the Arizona Cardinals)
  • St. Louis Rams, NFL (2016, now the Los Angeles Rams again)

los-angeles-rams

St. Louis passed Cleveland’s three for this ignominious distinction

  • Cleveland Rams, NFL (1948, became the first incarnation of the Los Angeles Rams)
  • Cleveland Barons, NHL (1978, merged with the Minnesota North Stars)
  • Cleveland Browns, NFL (1995, now the Baltimore Ravens)

It could have been even worse for the Gateway City. in 1982, the NHL’s St. Louis Blues nearly moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan…a sleepy town of 200,000 people in the heart of the Canadian prairie halfway to the Arctic Circle.

5) Michael Phelps Wins Five More Gold Medals, Then Retires (Again)

michael-phelps-gold-medal

Many people didn’t believe Michael Phelps was serious when he said he was retiring after the 2012 London Olympics.  After all, we’ve all seen the athlete who retires and then goes all “Lucy holding the football” on us.  But racking up his second DUI and spending time in rehab changed him from “wanted nothing to do with swimming” to getting back into the pool.  Naturally, there were the usual doubters and nay-sayers, but he returned to the Olympics as the American flag bearer.  He left Rio with five golds and one silver medal, bringing his career total to 28.

He swears this time he is really done.  Brett Favre on line two for you, Mr. Phelps.

4)  One Whole Team Gone In An Instant

chapecoense-2016-copa-sudamericana-champions-winners-1

A Brazilian version of the team from the movie “We Are Marshall,” or a soccer version of the tragedy which befell KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.  November 29th, 2016 is a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense as that is the the day a chartered  plane taking the team to its biggest match ever in club history – the finals in the CONMEBOL Copa Sudamericana – crashed killing 71 people, including 19 players.

Sadly, an accident involving a team flight has happened more often than we would like.

3) Chicago Cubs Win The World Series

CubsFail08

Graphics like the one above can finally be retired.  Cubs fans don’t have to listen to professional shit-flumes like Thom Brennaman keep bring up “1908” anymore.  Team president Theo Epstien cemented his place in the Hall of Fame as well as the title of “curse breaker” by being the guy to build the squads which ended the Boston Red Sox 86-year championship drought and  a similar span for the Cubs which dated back to a day when the Ottoman Empire still existed, construction of the Titanic had just begun, and Theodore Roosevelt was the President of the United States.

2) The Eternal Greatest of All Time

muhammad ali beats leon spinks

There were many legends to die this year (Arnold Palmer, Joe Garagiola, Gordie Howe just to name a few), but Ali was the most influential and important American athlete since Babe Ruth. There was as time when Ali was the most recognized person on Earth…this includes kings and queens, the Pope, and any movie star you’d care to mention. The Internet is full of tributes to the man; we need not replicate that here; suffice it to say that Muhammad Ali is the one and only “Greatest of All Time.”

1) The Greatest Underdog Story Ever Told

Leicester City winning the Premier League is the greatest underdog story of all-time.  You can give me all the static you want about the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series, but baseball fans saw that team coming.  You can’t say that about the Foxes, a club from a small, industrial town in the British Midlands who rose from the backwaters of low-level English football to the top of the biggest professional sports league in the world.

English football is structured much like American baseball; there a “big” league at the top with a series of smaller leagues subsequent to it.  However, unlike in American sports, at the end of each season, the worst three of the 20 clubs in the top league are relegated to the second tier, and the lower leagues have similar rules about which clubs get promoted and relegated.  In 2008, Leicester City found themselves at the lowest point in the clubs 132-year history; mired in the depths of the third tier of English football.

Like most failing sides, this team saw it’s share of player turnover, and matched that with a similar situation in team management.  The lowest point came when the club had no choice but to fire manager Nigel Pearson in 2014 after a scandal  which involved three players and Pearson’s own son recording a sex tape with prostitutes in Thailand.

caludio-ranieri-godfater

That incident damaged the Leicester City brand so badly they couldn’t find anybody who would take the job managing the team.  Having little other options,  the Foxes hired Claudio Ranieri.  This move was met with laughter at best as Ranieri at the time was a guy who looked to be at the end of his career.  The man that Leicester City fans would eventually dub “The Godfather” was then a manager who hadn’t lasted for more than a couple years with any club since getting sacked by the traditional “Big Four” club Chelsea in 2004.

Given all that, Leicester City found itself in the middle of the 2015 facing relegation back to the third tier until Ranieri implemented a system focusing on aggressive defense and fast breaks that lifted the club from a shot at being dropped to League 1 to a promotion to the Premier League. Upon entry to the biggest professional sports league on Earth, the Foxes were a decided underdog to win the league title at odds of 5000-1.

Not only did they beat those odds, they finished the Premier League campaign 10 points clear of serial contender Arsenal.  To top it all off, while they have not matched last season success in the Premier League, they made their introductory campaign in European competitions count by convincingly winning their group in the Champions League.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

2 comments on “Dubsism’s 15 Most Important Sports Stories of 2016

  1. sportsattitudes
    January 1, 2017

    Leicester City indeed deserves the #1 slot. Those who are not Cubs fans should agree. Now they need to stay clear of relegation…fortunately for the Foxes there is some bad football being played at the bottom of the table.

    Like

    • J-Dub
      January 1, 2017

      Not to mention…nobody was surprised by the Cubs. They’d been building toward this for some time. Meanwhile, look at where Leicester was two yeas ago. To be honest, I think Leicester’s greatest strength is they know they can’t compete in both the EPL and the Champions League. I think they know they could be the English side to go the deepest in Europe, and that’s what they are going after. They can easily avoid relegation because like you said, there’s some real crap football going on at the bottom of the league.

      Liked by 1 person

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