What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
As we enter a new year, once more we find ourselves having just completed what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months. That makes this the perfect time to take a look back at the biggest sports stories of such a year. After all, I’m pretty sure nobody else does these sort of retrospectives…well, at least not quite like Dubsism does. That’s why it’s an annual tradition here to run down 15 stories in sport we think mattered the most. No all of them are positive stories, but not every movie has a happy ending. In other worlds, it’s our list, so if you don’t like it, go make your own.
15) LeBron James Becomes a Los Angeles Laker
In what was arguably the worst-kept secret in NBA history, LeBron James made his second exit from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unlike the first time when there was much speculation, and a one-hour television special dedicated to the announcement, when the second departure was imminent, everybody knew LeBron to the Lakers was a foregone conclusion. It made sense on so many levels, not the least of which is putting the biggest basketball celebrity of his era on the league’s flagship franchise, which just so happens to be in the media capital of the world.
14) The Rise of the Vegas Golden Knights
Being an expansion team, the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights weren’t supposed to be any good. Expansion teams aren’t really ever expected to be good. They are usually comprised of a combination of first-time professional and veteran players cast-off from other teams. When the Knights started the season winning seven of their first eight games, hockey fans across North America (myself included) had a collective, head-scratching “WTF” moment.
At first, this early success was dismissed as a novelty, but the winning days of the Knights continued. At the end of the regular season, Vegas found themselves atop the NHL Western Conference with a record of 51 wins, 24 losses, and 7 ties.
13) France Wins World Cup
France is home to one of the biggest professional leagues in the world, and France produces more than its fair share of world-class players. That’s how French soccer went from an unmitigated disaster in 2010 to the top of the world in 2018.
12) The Humboldt Broncos Tragedy
On April 6, 2018, sixteen members of the Humboldt Broncos were killed and thirteen more injured when a bus carrying the team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) collided with a semi at an intersection Armley, Saskatchewan, Canada. All across the hockey world, the crash prompted an outpouring from celebrities, politicians, athletes, and fans. A GoFundMe campaign raised over $15 million.
11) Shohei Ohtani
The latest “phenom” from the Land of the Rising Sun to reach baseball’s Major Leagues, Ohtani became the first player to notch multiple home ruins and pitching wins in the same season since a guy you may have heard of…Babe Ruth.
10) Loyola-Chicago’s Turn as “Cinderella”
Every year, the NCAA Basketball Tournament brings us a “Cinderella,” and while this one was the first bracket to bring us a #16 seed downing a #1, there was no bigger star in this year’s rendition of “March Madness” than Loyola-Chicago, largely thanks to Sister Jean. The team chaplain and de facto mascot, Sister Jean became the most famous nun in America who doesn’t fly or shows up in “The Sound of Music.”
9) Washington Capitals Win First Stanley Cup
Across their 43 seasons of existence, the Washington Capitals have ranged from boring and hapless to exquisite and effective. But never were they called “champions.” That changed in 2018. That was the year a team known for spectacular, recent post-season failures finally took it all the way through four play-off series. The Capitals used a combination of crippling neutral-zone defense led by Nicklas Backstrom, outstanding goal-tending by Braden Hotlby, and line-depth on the offensive end featuring stars like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
8) Justify Wins Triple Crown
Called a “late bloomer” because he never raced at age two, Justify became only the second horse to capture the Triple Crown while not losing a race in it’s three-year-old season; Seattle Slew being the other in 1977. This win also marks trainer Bob Baffert’s second Triple Crown win in three years, and joins him with “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons ans the only trainers to take down the Triple Crown twice.
7) Mexico Beats Germany in the World Cup
Germany losing to Mexico at any point in international competition would be a stunner in all but the most casual “friendly,” but when such a tectonic upset also ensures this would be the first time in the entire history of the World Cup that the defending champion didn’t advance out of the group stage. That’s “Buster Douglas knocks out Mike Tyson”-level stuff.
6) Unified Korean Team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics
Even a largely symbolic and essentially pointless gesture gets a lot of attention if it the first time it happens. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, the politically-divided Koreas marched together under a single flag, and the world made a lot of noise about hope for a re-unification of the two countries. Of course, nobody bother to pay attention to the fact that North and south Korea also agreed to form a unified Korea team at the 2018 East Asian Judo Championships in Mongolia, but that fell apart when they couldn’t even agree on the flag. That tells me we aren’t anywhere near re-unification.
5) Larry Nassar Goes To Prison and the Crumbling of USA Gymnastics
The depths of Larry Nassar’s depravity began to come out well before before the calendar flipped to 2018 when reports of his sexual abuse first appeared in newspaper stories. Those stories would lead to an investigation which culminated in formal charges and a trial. That trial ended with Nassar’s conviction and and, ultimately, to the doctor’s imprisonment for up to 160 years.
The finding of guilt against Nassar started a chain reaction which led to a housecleaning amongst the leadership at Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and USA Gymnastics. The bottom line is those who failed to uphold their responsibilities paid a hefty price, and there’s likely a decades-overdue reformation coming for the entire United States Olympic movement.
4) United States Men’s Curling Wins Gold
In terms of being known as a curling “powerhouse,” the world’s opinion of the United States might rank right behind what we get for soccer. We’ve never won anything in either, although we did take England out of the 1950 World Cup when they were a dominant power in the world. Then again, we have a tendency for upsetting the Brits when they are ranked #1 (see the American Revolution).
“Skip” John Shuster has been the face of American curling for the past four Winter Olympiads, which means he’s lived through two decades of varying levels of promise and disappointment. Things looked to be more on the “disappointment” side after a loss to Norway which left the Americans on the brink of elimination, but then five straight wins brought the Americans the gold.
3) #16 UMBC Knocks Off #1 Virginia
Ever since the NCAA Basketball Tournament expanded to 64 teams in the 1980s, the proverbial “other shoe to drop” was waiting for the eventual #16 seed to beat a #1. It had to happen at some point; it was just a matter of when. Without getting into a collegiate-level “Prob & Stat” discussion on the innate difference between “probability” and “possibility,” from a pure statistical standpoint, even the most remote “1-in-whatever” by definition means that the occurrence of even the most unlikely event is within the realm of possibility. Now that University of Maryland-Baltimore County took down Virginia, we can all get on with our lives.
2) Supreme Court Legalizes Sports Gambling
To be specific, in a 6-3 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court struck down The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. This federal law barred state-authorized sports gambling, with the exception being Nevada as the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game, as they had already legalized sports betting. The state of New Jersey also legalized gambling, but the 1992 federal precluded sports betting in the Garden State. New Jersey took the matter to court, and all four major sports leagues and the NCAA threw in behind opposing giving states the ability to legalize sports betting. But the court ruled in favor of New Jersey and against the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, capping a nearly six-year legal battle and overturning a federal statute that the sports leagues had adamantly stood by for more than 20 years.
1) Philadelphia Eagles Win First Super Bowl
As this was described in the opening paragraph, this is my list, and nothing was more important in my sports-fan world than my fifty years of Philadelphia Eagles fandom futility finally came to an end. I described that in great deal in the run up to last year’s Super Bowl, and the Eagles have been a subject on this blog more than a few times. But it’s all over now; the Eagles have won a championship, which means I’ve lived to see each of the teams I support climb the mountain.
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