Tar Heels Cap Best Sports Week Ever...For Me
Does it get any better than this?
For me, not really. My North Carolina Tar Heels just captured the NCAA Championship to cap off five amazing days of sports. I realize most of you here at Bleacher Report (Nathan B excluded) are not fans of the same teams as I am. But I want to share this story to see if there are any stretches that can top what I just got to experience.
Thursday, April 2
In what is first perceived to be a late April Fools' Day joke, I learn from a friend that the Chicago Bears have acquired Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos. All the Bears had to give up was two first round picks, a third round pick and Kyle Orton.
While that may seem like a hefty price for those outside of Chicago, you have to realize that the Bears have not had a true franchise quarterback since the 1940s. To go out and acquire a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback, regardless of price, is the most significant transaction the Bears have made in my lifetime.
And it doesn't end there. Just minutes later, the Bears agree to a three-year deal with Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace, giving the brand new QB protection from his blindside. These acquisitions were talked about around the city and brought life to a team who, until Thursday, had essentially stood pat this offseason. In a matter of minutes my favorite football team went from a mediocre team with a chance at a .500 record to Super Bowl contenders.
Friday, April 3
I haven't been a hockey fan for too long, but I know a playoff drought when I see one. On Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks ended their seven-year absence from the postseason with a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators. Led by two veteran goalies and a host of young, exciting players, this team has brought the Blackhawks back from the hockey dead.
Just two seasons ago, William Wirtz still owned the team and was more concerned with pinching every penny (including blacking out home games) than winning. Now, with his son Rocky in charge and former Cubs President John McDonough at the helm, the Hawks are a legitimate title contender. I already have my tickets for Round 1.
Saturday, April 4
One of the things I love about being an English Premier League fan in America is that the games start early in the morning. I get to roll out of bed and turn on the TV at 9AM to watch West Ham United defeat Sunderland 2-0.
Sure it was just a regular season game, but the win pushed West Ham alone into 7th position in the table, far clear of the drop zone and in prime position to qualify for a place in Europe next season.
On top of that, the two goals were scored by 19-year-old Junior Stanislas and 20-year-old James Tomkins, both products of the West Ham Academy. These two youngsters, slotted into the lineup due to injuries, give us Hammers fans a glimpse into the future of the club and it looks bright.
Later that afternoon, my hometown Chicago Bulls defeated the New Jersey Nets 103-94 at the United Center. That win, coupled with the Detroit loss, put the Bulls in a tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference and three games ahead of the Bobcats for the final playoff spot.
Then, in the evening, the Tar Heels came out and whipped Villanova 83-69 to advance to the National Championship game. Carolina took an 8-6 lead with 17 minutes left in the first half and never looked back. Despite missing 15 of 37 free throws and allowing Villanova 19 offensive rebounds, the Heels never led by less than five the rest of the way.
Sunday, April 5
On top of it being opening night for baseball, the Hawks were back in action trying to get an edge on home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. With the division out of reach, the Hawks faced a Columbus team fighting for its first ever playoff berth in franchise history.
The Hawks were not to be denied. In what turned out to be a thrilling game, a goal by potential rookie of the year Kris Versteeg in overtime turned out to be the only one. Nikolai Khabibulin shut out the jackets for a 1-0 Chicago victory, giving them a three point lead on Vancouver with just four games to play. Being able to host Game 1 of a playoff series would be a massive lift to the hockey fans here in Chicago.
Monday, April 6
With the National Championship Game just hours away, my beloved Cubs kicked off the season in Houston. After nine straight playoff defeats, back-to-back NL Central titles just didn't seem like enough. I lowered my expectations going into this game, knowing that the hitters were a bit rusty and Carlos Zambrano never fares well on Opening Day.
Two pitches into the year, leadoff homerun Alfonso Soriano. Three batters later, Aramis Ramirez leads off the second inning with a monster shot into the Crawford boxes. Zambrano pitched six solid innings of one-run baseball, and new closer Kevin Gregg, while giving up a run, got his first save.
Back to Monday night. Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, where over 50,000 Spartans fans showed up to witness the inevitable. The Tar Heels have been the best team in the land all year, faced a bit of adversity, but were never really in jeopardy the entire tournament. Since trailing LSU by five with 12 minutes to play on March 21st, the Heels have not faced any adversity, winning all six of their tournament games by 12 or more points.
When the decisions were made by Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington to return for another season in Chapel Hill, their only goal was a national title. These guys, along with Coach Williams and the rest of the squad, deserve all the credit in the world, I was just happy to be along for the ride.
So there you have it. In five days my favorite football team signed a Pro Bowl QB and Left Tackle, my favorite hockey team clinched its first playoff berth in seven years and moved closer to wrapping up home ice advantage in Round 1. My favorite NBA team won a game they had to in order to stop a losing streak and move closer to the playoffs, and my favorite soccer team won a big game using homegrown talent to move closer to qualifying for Europe next year. My favorite baseball team opened with a clinical win, and my favorite college basketball team won the National Title.
Can anyone out there in Bleacher Nation top that? Leave a comment and let me know.
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