This year challenged many of our beliefs about sports issues and the athletes who play the games. The highlights and the low-lights of 2010 offered us important insights into what athletes face, and what fans expect and are willing to accept. How the games are played and what we think about sports going forward will most certainly be shaped by what happened in 2010.
Butler’s magical journey to near basketball glory was my favorite story from 2010. This real-life drama had “Hoosiers” written all over it. Butler University, whose historic gym is featured in the iconic movie, earned its way into the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, just a few miles from the Butler campus.
Butler made it to the national championship game against always powerful Duke. The game literally came down to the last shot. Butler’s Gordon Hayward, who was raised in suburban Indianapolis, heaved up a half-court shot that missed by inches and bounced off the rim. If the shot goes in Butler wins. But while Duke won its fourth national title, make no mistake, Butler won the hearts of basketball fans everywhere.
Tiger Woods lost a lot in 2010. He lost his marriage, his dignity and his Mojo. For the first time in his professional career, Tiger Woods did not win at least one tournament.
This Tiger is pretty tame these days. He was reduced to being just a normal golfer which was terrible for Tiger but worse for golf fans. With Tiger usually out of contention on Sunday, most people did anything but watch golf.
When Tiger’s down, all of golf is down. Tiger Woods has been carrying the PGA on his back for so long, a return to form in 2011 will make everyone happy including his opponents.
LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, and we are still talking about it. LeBron’s move from Cleveland to Miami to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, was easily pro basketball’s biggest story of the year.
But what made the story huge was the way he chose to leave Cleveland. LeBron’s live TV show on ESPN, dubbed the “Decision,” could not have been more cruel to Cleveland fans.
LeBron who grew up in nearby Akron and was a local hero since high school, is now Cleveland’s most hated man. In Miami, thanks in large part to LeBron, the Heat are winning, and the fans are loving it.
Michael Vick's re-emergence this season already ranks as one of the all-time great sports comeback stories. The obvious themes are redemption and second chances. Many in Philadelphia were angry when the Eagles signed him last season.
But Vick mostly on the sidelines watched, learned and did all the right things—particularly his talks to youth and others about his crimes and how we should treat animals.
Let’s be honest, winning is the real draw. This year with Donovan McNabb traded and Kevin Kolb injured Vick flew off the charts when given the chance to lead the team. He is playing the best football of his career. If Michael Vick takes the resurgent Eagles to the Super Bowl he will be a bigger star than before he went to prison.
This time it looks like Brett Favre will finally hang it up. Favre, is a classic case of staying too long. Last season, at the age of 40, Favre had one of his best years, leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game.
Favre should have quit then, just like he should have quit several years ago when he was still with Green Bay. Favre has made a few enemies these last few years as he has tried to stretch out his final years with aborted retirements, and diva-like behavior.
And this ill-fated season, in which Minnesota sunk back to the bottom, damaged more than Favre’s consecutive games streak. But my feeling is in a few years all of us will regain perspective and recognize Favre for his courage, his passing records and his forever young gunslinger mentality.
For most of this season, Auburn’s Cam Newton has dominated the college football headlines. Cam Newton is as close to a can’t miss NFL prospect as I have ever seen. He’s big, strong, fast and accurate.
For the first few weeks of the season, Newton raised eyebrows for his play on the field. Later after it became clear that Newton was easily the best player in the country, we found out that he and Auburn might have some really serious problems.
Newton’s story has a little bit of everything: A father who got too involved and tried to bend the rules to benefit his son. A nation awed by Newton’s prodigious talent, but still not sure if everything with Newton and Auburn are on the up and up.
Despite the controversy, Cam Newton easily won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s top honor. We will now wait to see how the next chapter reads. Its starts with Newton leading his Tigers into Arizona for the BCS title game against Oregon in just over a week.
Probably the most important issue to be tackled in years (no pun intended). Finally there is real awareness of the dangers faced by football players and secondarily all athletes who sustain head injuries.
There is now solid research being conducted into how to prevent and treat head injuries, particularly concussions, and there are protocols that must be adhered to before a player with a head injury can play again.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made the issue of concussions a top priority. But now that we’re paying attention, one might ask: Why do we allow perfectly healthy men and boys to literally beat each others brains out? I say in 60 years, when we know even more about the dangers and the damage from head injuries, football may well be outlawed.