This year has been a year full of two extremes. There has been deep sorrow and pure elation. There has been sobering moments and celebrations that will last for all eternity. Some of the greatest in the sports world have passed while comebacks have proven to be championship worthy.
Alabama proved that the SEC might be having a down year, but they are still the best that college football has to offer. They played in a nip and tuck championship game with Clemson that changed on a pivotal onside kick in the fourth quarter. Alabama recovered it and went on to win in a shootout 45-40. This gave Coach Nick Saban his fourth title with the team in seven seasons.
Superbowl 50 provided the perfect ending to Peyton Manning’s career. He and the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10. This would give Manning two championships and separate himself from the Trent Dilfer’s of the world, who have one. He can now show up to the family dinner and not endure the grief from little brother Eli and his two rings. It was the Broncos’ defense, led by MVP Von Miller, which really dominated Cam Newton and the Panthers. Miller had six tackles, two and a half sacks, and two forced fumbles. One fumble lead to a touchdown and the other setup a touchdown. Peyton retired and rode off into the sunset.
The NCCA men’s basketball championship was one of the greatest games in history since 1983. That year, the North Carolina State Wolfpack were highly underrated against the #1 Houston Cougars. Dereck Whittenburg shot an air ball that allowed a game winning dunk by Lorenzo Charles, giving the Wolfpack a 54-52 win. This year featured historic North Carolina verse giant killers Villanova. With four seconds left in the game, Ryan Arcidiacono raced up the floor and made the perfect pass to Kris Jenkins, who caught the ball in stride and hoisted a game winning three-pointer. Villanova would win the game 77-74 and provide the school “One Shining Moment”.
It was no doubt who would be this year’s women’s national champions in college basketball. The Connecticut Huskies led by senior Breanna Stewart were on a mission. That mission included complete dominance. They went undefeated the entire year, winning games by an average of 39 points. They would beat Syracuse in the championship game 82-51 and give head coach Geno Auriemma his 11th title as coach. Stewart would cap off her illustrious career at UCONN by winning a title every season.
Despite all the enjoyment so far, came the pain. The greatest athlete of all times, Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3rd. Ali was the greatest because of his love for people and to fight for their injustice. He used his charm and gift of gab to travel the world, promoting peace. He was an excellent boxer and a world champion. His historic fights verse Liston, Holmes, Foreman, and Frazier were masterpieces. However, his fight for truth and right is what made him the “People’s Champ”. Ali said, “I am the Greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.”
If that wasn’t enough to make your eyes water, one of the best coaches passed away on June 28th. Pat Summitt was the true embodiment of the word coach. She was the ultimate instructor and trainer. She didn’t always have the most athletic or talented teams, but they were going to be the most competitive. She won eight NCAA championships at Tennessee, which is third most all time in all Division I basketball. Summitt was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, the same year she was named the Naismith Coach of the Century. She graduated 100% of her student-athletes. She was the only woman listed in 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time in all sports, ranked 11th. The most successful accomplishment was the awareness she has brought to women’s sports.
It looked like more tears for the city of Cleveland but the prodigal son, LeBron James, made good on his promise. The Golden State Warriors looked primed to repeat as NBA Champions. They held a three games to one lead and only needed one more victory. The Cavaliers led by LeBron and Kyrie Irving managed to win three straight games and bring the title home. No one has come back from down 3-1 in the NBA finals. After the city of Cleveland has lost in dramatic fashion for years, it was only fitting that they would win in dramatic fashion. The biggest exhale for the last 52 years could be heard all over Cleveland, Ohio.
The Pittsburgh Penguins proved they were one of best NHL teams in the regular season and the playoffs. The easily beat the San Jose Sharks, who were making their first ever Stanley Cup appearance for the championship. The Penguins won the series 4-2, behind the star power of MVP Sidney Crosby.
Even though the Sharks didn’t win in their first trip to the title game, Coastal Carolina did. The Chanticleers won their first national championship in any sport with a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Wildcats in the final Game 3 of the College World Series. In the bottom of the 9th with runners on second and third with two outs, and the pitch count at 3-2, Alex Cunningham struck out Ryan Haug. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
August was a special month because of the Summer Olympics in Rio Brazil. It was even better this year, since I was able to attend the first week of it. Michael Phelps was again the star of the show, collecting his Olympic record 23rd gold medal and 28th total. Simone Biles was the best individual gymnast in the world, winning four gold and one bronze. Usain Bolt is still the Olympic bar for track and field. Allyson Felix won two golds and a silver to bring her Olympic total to nine, making her the most decorated female athlete of all times. The U.S. would lead all countries with 121 total medals, 46 Gold, 37 Silver, 38 Bronze and 1 Copper for Ryan Lochte.
To be continued…