The 25 Most Captivating Sports Stories of 2009
2009 is nearly another footnote in sports history while 2010 is firmly kicking on our door, begging to come in and shine for it's obligatory 365 days.
But, before we bid adieu to this mad-capped year of scandal and heartbreak, I thought it fitting to remember the stories and the faces that made this '09 sports year what it was.
The slides are in no particular order and I will no doubt miss a few, but I expect my scope to be bolstered by the presence of you, the reader. I welcome your additions in the comment section and appreciate your time in reading.
Enjoy and happy New Year to you all!
1) Tiger Woods Shows Us His Dark Side
I remember sitting down on the sofa and flipping on the television. My mom was hoping that I might turn to something other than football, and me, being the gracious host, obliged her by turning to ESPN News.
It was at that moment that she and I found ourselves captivated by the story that Tiger Woods had been in a "serious" accident and was rushed to the hospital mere hours before—long after the Thanksgiving turkey should have been put away.
Who could have ever guessed that the golf club heard round the world would not be in Tiger's hands but in that of his wife, Elin?
The repercussions of what happened that night started with us finding out about the Escalade pictured above and will likely end long after 2009 is in the books.
2) Marquis Cooper and Two Friends Lose Their Lives
It was supposed to be a harmless fishing trip shared amongst three friends. Instead, it turned out to be the last outing these young men would ever have together.
NFL linebacker, Marquise Cooper along with friends Corey Smith, Will Bleakley, and Nick Shuyler set out in March of 2009 for a fishing trip. When the men did not return at the expected time, they were reported missing (sometime after midnight).
Some 13 hours later, Nick Shuyler was spotted clinging to what was left of the capsized vessel (pictured). The other men were never found and are all presumed dead.
It was later found that the reason for the accident was a careless anchoring job coupled with too much throttle by the driver.
The U.S. Coast Guard set out to find the men but were unsuccessful in locating them or their boat until it was too late.
3) Rick Pitino's Sex Scandal
In August of 2009, legendary coach, Rick Pitino found himself in a bit of a pickle. A woman, Karen Cunagin Sypher, decided she wanted more out of life and Rick was just the man to give it to her (no pun intended).
She was charged with extortion and the matter was later handled in court while Pitino was left to deal with the embarrassment of being caught with his pants down (again, no pun intended).
The scandal doesn't appear to have affected the Louisville basketball team thus far, as they are currently 9-3 in the ultra-competitive Big East. However, the fact that the team is outside of the Top 25 is a bit telling.
4) No More Fairytales: Steroids Tarnish MLB Legends
The idea that A-Rod, Manny, or Big Papi could ever be attached to performance enhancing drugs (PED's) seemed foreign to many last year but this year proved that even the baseball gods have flaws.
Manny (May '09), A-Rod (February '09), and Ortiz (July '09) all did the baseball walk of shame this season, putting an even deeper tarnish on the game.
5) Michael Vick Returns to Football—Atlanta
Vick was given a shot at redeeming himself and his broken image by wearing his signature No. 7 jersey again; this time for a different NFC foe.
He was rendered largely ineffective as the Eagles plugged him in sparingly for the better part of the season. However, his return to the city he left in flames proved to be his coup de grace as he punished and pummeled the Ryan and Turner-less Falcons.
Vick was recently nominated for the Ed Block Courage Award. An award given to an NFL player for being an inspiration to his team. Teammates are responsible for the nomination of any player.
6) Roger Federer Makes History—Wins 15th Grand Slam
It seems like only a moment ago that Roger Federer burst onto the tennis scene and started making minced meat of every opponent he faced.
He made it look so easy that many mistook his dominance for a weak field and lack of overall talent in the tennis game at the time.
Well, no matter what camp you sit in, be it as a fan or a hater, Federer made the most important statement of his major career when he took to Centre Court and captured a record 15th Grand Slam.
Federer, like it or not, was the new King of Tennis.
7) Usain Bolt Runs Into History
Usain Bolt became a household name after the 2008 Olympics. His dominance over the field didn't seem right. Truthfully, you either loved his swagger or thought him an annoying showboat. No matter what your stance, however, there was no doubt he was F-A-S-T.
In 2009, he continued his torrid pace, setting a new world record in the 100 meters at 9.58 and bringing many to ask this question: Will anyone ever be able to beat him?
8) Caster Semanya is a?....
On the face of it, the story seems a bit ridiculous, no? However, for what was the first time in history, someone was questioning the gender of an entrant at a track meet.
Caster Semanya was blowing the field away in 800 meter competitions; winning by long shots over the opposition. Her dominance led some to question if she was actually a female at all.
Semanya was later proven to be intersexed. A fact that she, herself, says she was never made aware of prior to that point.
9) John Madden Bids The NFL Adieu
After more than 30 years of being the face of broadcasting. After countless years of bringing himself, a turkey, and the Detroit Lions to our televisions on Thanksgiving Day. And, alas, after so many years of his appearance marking the release of yet another Madden video game, John Madden said goodbye to us all.
10) Michael Jordan Gets the Last Laugh
Call it bitter. Call it bittersweet. Jordan made his last second in the NBA spotlight a lasting one.
One of basketball's true legends used his Hall of Fame speech as a platform to finally say what we all were thinking: "It's about me. It was always about me, and, don't you forget it".
The speech itself sent shockwaves as many saw it as an unnecessary means to a long since gone end. However, it was Jordan's time to cleanse his soul and release himself from the demons within him and he did so in only the way he could.
11) Brett Favre Takes Center Stage—Again
It doesn't seem that the year is ever complete without a little: "Will he, won't he" from Brett Favre.
The NFL faithful again found themselves trapped and captive to the decision of one Brett Favre. He who had retired for yet a second time after a disappointing season with the Jets was now contemplating another return.
When it was all said and done, the No. 4 jersey landed with his original teams biggest rival, the Minnesota Vikings.
12) Michael Phelps Goes From Smokin' to Smoking
It was the snapshot seen round the world. Olympic Gold Medal winner, Michael Phelps, was caught smoking marijuana at what he thought was a private house party.
Michael learned the hard way that when you are one of the nation's top athletes, fresh off a record-setting performance in the Olympics, there is no such thing as private.
His swimming license was suspended and his golden boy image took a tremendous publicity hit.
13) Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels Get Nasty
Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels took to arguing like a couple of drunken bar patrons prior to the start of the 2009 NFL season and the saga played out like an episode of As The World Turns. Below is how I like to think the conversation played out:
Jay: I'm the man, bow down to me.
Josh: I'm the man, get that helmet from over your eyes and you'll see that more clearly.
Jay: Trade me.
Jay: I'm not gonna play if I stay.
Josh: I don't need this *bleep*, get this guy out of here.
Well, maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but their drama certainly made for an interesting offseason.
14) Adam James Gets Mike Leach Fired
After this scandal, you have to wonder if cell phones will be outlawed on the practice field.
The image that immediately comes to mind is the one of Adam James standing in an electrical closet, seemingly, dazed and confused by the idiocy of the situation.
Next thing we know, Craig James, Adam's father, and an ESPN personality, is taking to the airwaves on behalf of his son to say, "We didn't want this."
The end game is Mike Leach gets fired for breaking the cardinal rule: You just don't mess with Texas.
15) Urban Meyer Resigns—Renegs
For about 18 hours, the SEC was dancing the tango upon hearing that Urban Meyer was going to step down from his coaching throne at Florida.
Well, the tango was short-lived as the resignation became a leave of absence instead.
There is still a lot to be answered as to why he ever made the decision to go public with his initial statement in the first place, but, as of now, the Gator nation has let out a collective sigh of relief because the mighty one is still in charge.
The rest of the SEC East, however, has gone back to breathing into a paper bag.
16) Andre Aggasi Spills His Guts
Agassi decided that it was time to set the record straight about a few things, and, in doing so, he found himself at the top of the tennis headlines yet again.
His admission to having used crystal meth while on tour in 1997 was most certainly a shock to not only Agassi fans, but to fans of the sport in general.
I was less disturbed by the fact that he used meth (after all, he was a bit of a hard partier), than I was by the fact that the long mullet he became known for in the early 90's was nothing more than a wig.
Say it ain't so, Andre. Say it ain't so.
17) Plaxico Burress Goes to Jail
The talented but troubled wide receiver saw his good luck and good fortune end when he was finally sentenced for the weapons charges he received in 2008.
He will serve two years for carrying an unlicensed weapon, and one can only hope that this isn't the last image we will have of him.
18) Arturo Gatti's Death
Arturo Gatti, considered a boxing legend by many, thanks in large part to his trilogy of fights against Micky Ward, was found dead in a Brazil hotel room in July.
Initial reports stated that his death was a homicide. His wife was charged with first-degree murder upon finding blood stains on her purse strap.
She was later cleared of all charges and the death was ruled a suicide.
Gatti's family is still not satisfied that this is the case and the conversation as to what exactly happened in that room is still up for the debate in the court of public opinion.
19) Jimmie Johnson Makes NASCAR History
For those of us who don't watch or are not familiar with NASCAR, this story hardly seems relevant in the sports world.
However, what Jimmie Johnson has accomplished by winning his fourth-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is no less impressive than a golfer seeping all four majors, a tennis player winning all four slams, or a college football player actually winning the Heisman twice in a row.
It's pretty dang impressive.
20) Nick Adenhart Loses His Life
Just hours after making his start for the L.A. Angels, Nick Adenhart was involved in a two-car accident that would take his young life.
The police report stated that a red Toyota Sienna ran a red light, striking the car that Adenhart was a passenger in, and sending it careening into a telephone pole.
There were five people in the car altogether, four would eventually die, including Adenhart.
In the wake of the tragedy, the Angels postponed that day's game and set up a shrine to Adenhart in both the locker room and the dugout at Angels stadium. The also wore a black No. 34, Nick's number, for the remainder of the season.
21) Pittsburgh Penguins Win the Stanley Cup
The Penguins made history in so many ways—from their daring comeback after being down 3-2 to their Game Seven win on the road to win their first Stanley Cup in 17 years.
They were nothing short of a wonder, and with so much youth on the ice and a talented phenom in Sidney Crosby to wear the 'C' on his jersey, you have to wonder how many more Cups are in their future.
22) Santonio Holmes Tight Ropes the Steelers to SB Victory
It was the catch that sealed the victory and ended the Cinderella season for the Arizona Cardinals.
The game itself wasn't thought to be one that would incite any excitement into the NFL-loving crowd. Many were hoping to see the Eagles face their in-state rivals for a shot at the crown. Arizona had other ideas.
However, to the surprise of many, this game became one of the best ever, as the last two minutes saw some of the most exciting plays in Super Bowl history. None were more riveting or more quintessential than that of Santonio Holmes toe-saving, championship-winning grab.
23) Bengals WR Chris Henry Dies
The ending seemed too tragic to bear for this young man who seemed to finally be getting his life back on track.
Henry, the troubled, yet, talented wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals lost his life during a domestic dispute with his fiancee.
24) What Was Old is Made New Again
Tom Watson, the 59-year-old elder statesman of the PGA had mounted a serious challenge for the British Open Championship.
He was one putt away from being the oldest player to ever win the British Open. He missed.
The miss led to a four-hole playoff with eventual champ, Stewart Cink, but Watson sure gave everyone a run for their money.
25) Death of a Legend—Steve McNair is Murdered
I can still remember the moment so vividly. It was Independence Day and I was on my way to a cookout when the Twitter wire let loose with a curious headline stating that Steve McNair was dead.
It was curious because there were no other major news sources reporting the story.
Several hours later, this little blip on my Twitter wire became a full-blown firestorm as every major outlet began trickling details of McNair's passing.
The sordid details that followed in the days and weeks ahead did nothing to tarnish the legacy that was Steve McNair. His infidelity became a negative footnote on a life that many witnessed through the gridiron.
Other Noteworthy Stories of 2009
26. UConn football player, Jasper Howard, is stabbed and killed.
27. Oklahoma Sooners lose opening game and Sam Bradford.
28. Lance Armstrong mounts Tour De France comeback—finishes third.
29. Joe Torre pens book about Yankees tenure—Yanks win 27th World Series Title.
30. Thierry Henry's hand-ball.
31. Rachel Alexandra becomes first filly to win Preakness in 85 years.