2011 Recap: Best Sports Moments of the Year
With 2011 coming to a close in less than a month, it is always important to look back at the year in sports.
To date, 2011 may be one of the craziest years in sports yet. Underdog champions, free-agent signings, celebrations, lockouts and the BCS mess is what makes 2011 stand out from every other year.
Let's take a look back at the year that was, and the moments that have defined the sporting world in 2011.
Green Bay Packers Bring the Lombardi Trophy Home
I personally am a big Chicago Bears fan, so including this in my list kills me but as a sports fan, I cannot leave the Packers out from my list.
The Packers won a spot in the playoffs by winning an NFC Wild Card spot. With all their injuries no one thought the Packers had a shot.
The Packers had lost members of their offensive line, defense and their running back in Ryan Grant. There was no way they could win the Super Bowl.
They proved me wrong. They proved everyone wrong.
They stormed through the playoffs beating everyone on the road to eventually earn themselves a spot in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They showed tenacity, unrelenting defense, their high powered offense, and Aaron Rodgers had his coming out party. Who's Brett Favre?
All this team has done since their Super Bowl victory is win. No one has stood in their way and I don't really see anyone standing in their way (until the Bears on Christmas Day, hopefully).
Wisconsin Takes Down No. 1 for a Second Time
On February 12 Wisconsin took down then ranked No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes for a second time that season but in a different sport. Madison once again was ecstatic.
Maybe this one is a little selfish of me since I am in fact a Badger fan but it was an unreal experience to be a part of and no one can deny it was a top moment in sports in 2011.
The Badgers were the underdog going into this game as OSU was said to have all five-starters being NBA ready. The perimeter, slow-style offense of Bo Ryan stood no chance.
Wrong. They proved everyone wrong just like the Packers had proved everyone wrong the week prior in the Super Bowl.
It was a great two weeks in the state of Wisconsin.
Butler Goes to the Finals Again
UConn and Jim Calhoun being back in the finals was a great story in 2011 but it wasn't the story of the 2011 tournament.
Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs were back in the national championship for a second year in a row. That was the story.
Butler once again, for a second year in a row, proved the NCAA Basketball Tournament wasn't about Duke, KU or North Carolina anymore. The mid-major teams could play a huge role and make the championship.
Butler making another championship has proved we have entered a new era in college basketball. Teams like Kansas, Duke, Kentucky or Arizona aren't locks for the final four anymore. Teams like Butler can ruin an entire bracket.
Brad Stevens captured the attention of the nation in 2010 and in 2011 he cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA.
Boston Bruins Wins the Stanley Cup
The NHL Stanley Cup Finals was a story that captured the entire nation this past summer. Boston has experienced many championships in the past few years with the New England Patriots, the Red Sox and the Celtics. The Bruins were the only thing missing, until now.
Tim Thomas's attitude and gritty play captured the hearts of hockey fans everywhere, except in Vancouver. Fans all over the nation fell in love with his love for the game.
The Canucks became the enemy after Game 1 when Alex Burrows apparently bit Patrice Bergeron. The enemy status was only furthered after Game 3 when Aaron Rome concussed Nathan Horton as he was taken off on a stretcher.
After Game 3, hockey fans everywhere (except in Vancouver) wanted to see the Bruins win the title and they did. They became America's favorite hockey team on that night in June.
Dallas Mavericks Upset the Miami Heat
Everyone knows the story of when the "Big Three" became a noun this summer in South Beach. They threw a huge welcome party and Lebron himself guaranteed multiple championships. He didn't guarantee he'd show up in the second half.
Everything seemed to be going right. Lebron and company found themselves in the NBA Finals against the underdog Dallas Mavericks. No way they can pull it out against the dream team, right?
We know the story. Mark Cuban finally got his first ring. Dirk got a ring. Jason Kidd got a ring. Lebron became the enemy. Everything was right once again in the world of basketball and the Mavericks captured the hearts of NBA fans across the nation.
US Women's Soccer Team Electrifies the Nation
The United States can't play soccer. They can't compete against the rest of the world at the World Cup.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Did I mention wrong?
This summer the women's team captured the hearts of every American sports fan across this great nation. They provided one of the most electrifying World Cup's in recent memory.
No one thought they stood a chance. ESPN analysts said they would get out of group play but that was it. No way they were going to the championship.
Once again, wrong.
Hope Solo and company electrified a country that doesn't know much about soccer and still doesn't. That doesn't mean they didn't draw us in.
I know they eventually lost to Japan in the finals but I'm going to let that slide. The team still provided one of the best stories of 2011.
Rodger Goodell Ends the Lockout and Avoids Disaster
Rodger Goodell avoided disaster this summer, barely. He and the players ended the lockout just in time for the 2011-12 season to get under way without missing any time.
The day the lockout ended was one of the best days this summer. I was getting tired of hearing about the lockout but I wanted to see some football. No one wanted an empty fall and winter.
The NFL lockout officially ended with the signing of the new collective bargaining agreement by Rodger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith on August 4, 2011. This made for easily one of the best days of this entire summer.
Football came back and everything was right once again in the world.
The Night Major League Baseball Became Interesting
On the final day of the regular season there was a tie for the AL Wild Card between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.
On September 3rd the Red Sox held a nine game lead but down the stretch the Sox went 7-19 leading to a horrific collapse and an eventual grab of the wild card by the Rays.
On the final day of the regular season the Red Sox lost to the Orioles in walk-off fashion in Baltimore thanks to a two-run ninth inning by the Orioles at Camden Yards.
Minutes after the Orioles won in walk-off fashion, Evan Longoria hit a walk-off home run to cap off a eight run comeback by the Rays over the Yankees to launch his team into the playoffs.
September 28, 2011 will be a day baseball fans everywhere will remember.
St. Louis Cardinals Win the World Series and Tony La Russa Goes out on Top
I personally do not like former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa but winning the World Series was a great way for the manager to leave the game of baseball. He left on top.
Now the St. Louis Cardinals returning the fall classic for the third time since 2004 was no shock to anyone but winning it was a great way for La Russa to end his Hall of Fame career.
This season's fall classic was one of the best yet. The Texas Rangers had multiple opportunities to win but they couldn't pull it off so La Russa's crew capitalized. It made for one of the best world series to date.
La Russa has managed in over 5,000 games and has won almost 3,000 of those games. I could not imagine a better way for a great manager to leave the great game of baseball.
The Current 2011 BCS Mess
The current BCS mess is frustrating because it proves how much more we need a playoff system in college football but it has provided some unreal entertainment.
This past week alone Oklahoma, Oklahoma State Oregon, and Clemson all lost. That is four teams in the Top 10 of the BCS!
The road to the title is wide open for about eight teams. LSU has a spot locked up assuming it wins the SEC but other than that, who knows.
This has been the most exciting college football season in recent memory and it only is going to get more interesting..