2008: The Year in Sports
Putting the year of 2008 into words is quite the task. From eight gold medals, to one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history, to game-winning shots, 2008 had it all for the sports fan.
The year of 2008 showed great sportsmanship and also players getting into off the field problems. In the NBA, NHL and even college football, head coaches are getting fired left and right.
2008 was also home to both the Olympics in Beijing and the Euro Tournament (soccer for those of you who don't know what it is. If you don't, you missed out on a great tourney).
With so much that has happened this year, what more could a sports fan ask for?
Author's Note: These moments are in no order. The pictures are also some of the ones that you might not have seen yet. I wasn't happy just picking photos that are the most popular, or that everyone has already saw or are in other slide shows.
Also, coming with each picture is a brief write-up of the story to help you remember the great moment.
Enjoy the ride through 2008!
The Tigers Roar
The LSU Tigers got their second title in just four years.
Their fourth title win came at the expense of Ohio State in a 38-24 victory in the BCS National Championship Game.
Senior quarterback Matt Flynn went out on a high note, going 19 of 27 for 174 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes in his final game as a Tiger. He also took home the offensive Most Outstanding Player Award for his performance.
Remember, this game was a 10-10 contest in the second quarter before a blocked Ohio State field goal attempt swung the momentum the other way, as LSU scored 31 unanswered points.
In the Picture: The Tigers sideline explodes as the clock strikes 0:00 to give them their national championship.
David Beats Goliath
Super Bowl XLII will go down as one of the biggest upsets of all-time as the 12-point underdog, New York Giants, beat the New England Patriots 17-14.
It was the Patriots' first loss in over a year and it was the first time all season that the Patriots' offense was shut down.
In a game with a play that will go down as "The Catch" it was defense that helped the Giants reach the pinnacle of the football world. That and little Eli looking just like his older brother by throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress on a 13-yard fade with only 35 seconds left, while only turning the ball over once in the big game.
The Giants, as a team, held the juggernaut Patriots to 274 total yards and sacked Tom Brady five times.
In the Picture: Plaxico Burress hauling in the game-winning touchdown catch to the delight of the Giants' fans in the crowd.
Clutch Chalmers Helps Win Crazy Championship for Kansas
The Kansas Jayhawks and the Memphis Tigers met in a March Madness Tourney that was run by the No. 1 seeds.
All four No. 1 seeds made the final four out of their respective brackets, and of course, the national championship featured two of the four.
In a game that was close to the very end, clutch play was necessary to take home the hardware and Memphis stumbled down the stretch. As a team, the Tigers missed four out of five free throws.
With those free throws made, the Tigers would have put the game away but it allowed Kansas to comeback from a nine-point deficit with a mere 2:12 left.
All this set up the life-changing shot. Chalmers got the ball at the top of the key with a little over 6 seconds remaining. He put the shot up and it went right through the hoop, tying the game at 63 to send the game into overtime.
Kansas flew right out of the gate, scoring the first six points of OT and held on for a 75-68 victory.
In this Picture: Chalmers takes the game-tying shot trying to force overtime.
The Boston "Three Party"
Oh what one season, and some cash can do...
One of the worst teams in the league jumped to the best with the pick-ups of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the off-season. Add them to a hungry star in Paul Pierce and you got yourself three players that can carry the team for a championship run.
The Celtics breezed through the season winning over 80 percent of their games, finishing with a 66-16 record. The playoffs, though, were a whole different animal.
The Celtics just couldn't win on the road as the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavilers both took them to 7 games.
With only 16 losses on the regular season, Boston lost 12 during the postseason.
They prevailed in the end though, taking down the LA Lakers and Kobe Bryant in Game 6, 113-92 at home.
No place like home...
In this picture: Celtics coach "Doc" Rivers gets Gatorade dumped on him by Paul Pierce as the Celtics win the NBA Championship.
BOLT TO GOLD!
We all talked about swimmer Michael Phelps and how every time he took to the pool a record was smashed. The same went for Usain Bolt when he laced up his shoes and headed to the track.
Bolt went three for three during his races, winning three gold medals and breaking three world records.
Bolt won gold in the 4x100m relay, the 100m race by running the distance in 9.69 seconds, and the 200m race in 19.30 seconds.
What many people didn't realize was that the four members of the relay team, which didn't get much attention, became the first Jamaican men to capture the Olympic 4x100m title.
In this picture: Bolt blazes past the rest of the competition and starts to high step on his way to the gold medal win in the 100m.
Eight is Great
Michael Phelps did what no other athlete could accomplish in the Olympics, taking home eight gold medals.
Not only was it the number of medals he won but the way he did it. Phelps smashed the record books in every event that he swam in, including swmming multiple races in a two-hour period.
His swims weren't all easy, though, as he participated in two of the greatest races off all time. The 100-meter butterfly finish was one for the ages as Phelps battled from behind and touched the wall a finger tip before Milorad Cavic from Serbia.
One of his first races was one of the best, though, as Phelps and Team USA took to the pool for the 4X100 freestyle relay. The French came in and said that they were going to "smash" the Americans and it looked that way as France's Alain Bernard had the led heading into the back stretch of the race.
Team Captain Jason Lezak wasn't going to settle for it though as he soared to the wall in the last 25 meters, out-touching Bernard for the win that keep Phelps's dream for eight gold medals alive.
In the Picture: Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale cheer on Lezak on that final stretch that decided who got the gold.
Tiger Battles Through Injuries, Prevails in Playoff
This was as close to human as Tiger Woods would get and only one man was able to push him to the playoffs.
In took 91 holes, but Woods prevailed in the end, beating out 46-year-old Rocco Mediate to win the U.S. Open.
The title was Woods' 14th career major.
Woods has undergone multiple surgeries on his left knee since the U.S. Open to fix a a torn ligament, the same injury that he played through during the win. Woods also played with a double stress fracture in his left tibia.
Even with all of the injuries, Woods still prevailed in the end.
In this picture: Woods struggles in the early rounds of the Open, using his putter for support.
USA! USA! USA! United States Wins Ryder Cup
No Tiger? No problem!
The Ryder Cup comes home to the United States for the first time since 1999.
It wasn't Tiger Woods or another PGA star making the run for the championship either, it was the "rookies" as guys like Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes played some of the best golf of their lives.
The rookies of the U.S. team combined to go 4-1-1 in Sunday's single matches, the day the United States clinched the title.
The final score was 16.5 to 11.5 in the United States' favor. It was the largest margin of victory for the U.S. since an 18.5 - 9.5 thumping of Europe in 1981.
In this picture: A member of the United States team celebrates the victory by running across the green, waving the U.S. flag.
Tampa Bay Wins A.L.
The Tampa Bay Rays went from last to first in one season, all with having the second-lowest payroll in the league. The total payroll for the Rays? A little under $44 million.
How did the Rays achieve the unthinkable? They mixed their young talent with veterans. Guys like third baseman Evan Longoria (23 years old), ace Scott Kazmir (24), pitcher Matt Garza (25), Andy Sonnanstine (25), James Shields (26) and star outfielder Carl Crawford (27) with veteran role players like closer Troy Percival (39), and Dan Wheeler (31) who helped turn this team around.
They also have a roster of guys who want to win and play baseball the right way. These guys aren't overpaid stars but younger players, looking to win some ball games and win for the entire team. Pitching and defense is what gets the job done.
After winning the American League East with a record of 97-65, they looked to go on a deep playoff run.
The Rays dusted off the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS, winning it three games to one. Then they had to try to take out the Boston Red Sox, the defending champions, who don't go down without a fight.
A fight is exactly what the Rays got as they jumped out to a quick 3-1 series lead, but then the Red Sox stormed back, winning Games 5 and 6 to claw back into it.
In Game 7, the Rays would get an outstanding performance by Matt Garza, who outpitched Jon Lester. Garza let up two hits and only one run through 7 strong innings (that one run allowed was a home run that came in the first inning).
The Rays would go on to win 3-1, and win the American League!
In this picture: The Rays celebrate a win to the delight of their home crowd.
Phildelphia Finally Gets That Championship
It took three days for Game 5 of the World Series to be completed, but it was well worth it for the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans.
Game 5 was suspended due to rain and cold weather, but eventually the game was played out.
It is the franchise's second World Series championship in its 125-year history.
Before the win, the city of Philadelphia somehow made it through 100 consecutive seasons without a title for the four major sports teams, a record for a four-sport city.
Philly hasn't been able to celebrate a championship since 1983, when the 76ers won the NBA final.
In this picture: Closer Brad Lidge strikes out Eric Hinske to win the World Series (Ryan Howard hasn't tackled him yet).
Fresno State "Wonderdogs" Win NCAA Title
I thought Cinderella only liked college basketball?
The Cinderella Fresno State Bulldogs won the NCAA World Series by defeating Georgia 6-1, but hey, Cinderella had a lot of work to do, not just one upset in one game.
The Bulldogs became the lowest seed in any sport to win an NCAA championship while also having 31 losses on the season, the most by a baseball champion ever.
The Bulldogs also survived six elimination games on the way to the title. Just look at what they had to do to get to the big game (from ESPN.com'):
"Fresno State was forecast to be a Top 25 team coming into the season, but the Bulldogs lost 12 of their first 20 games. They needed to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament just to make the NCAA field of 64, fought off elimination in regionals and super regionals"...
"...knocked off No. 3 national seed Arizona State in the super regionals and beat No. 6 Rice and No. 2 North Carolina twice to get to the CWS finals"...
"...Miami, the No. 1 national seed, brought three first-round draft picks to Omaha and left after three games. Fresno State's highest draft pick was second-rounder Tanner Scheppers, and he missed the postseason with a shoulder injury."...
In this picture: The Bulldogs celebrate their championship on the pitcher's mound.
Red Wings Add Another Banner to the Rafters, Win Lord Stanley
The Detroit Red Wings get to add another banner to the rafters as the Stanley Cup returns to Hockeytown!
The Red Wings went on the road, and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, with vets Henrik Zetterberg and Brian Rafalski each notching two points (a goal and an assist).
The Wings were in a "slump" with their last cup coming way back in 2002, and prior to that in '97 and '98.
In this picture: The Wings celebrate their title and wait for Lord Stanley to get around to each of them.
NHL Winter Classic 2008: A Tradition Begins
The Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins played in the first Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game that will take place on Jan. 1 each year.
What, you missed that last one? Yes, that is the game your channel flipped to during the college football bowl game commercials.
The game was played in Ralph Wilson Stadium, the usual home of the Buffalo Bills. 71,217 people filed into "the Ralph" to watch the game, the largest attendance to an NHL game.
The Penguins came up on top, 2-1 with a shootout goal by Sidney Crosby to win the game.
In this picture: Sabres winger Ales Kotalik scores on his shootout attempt, as he puts the puck behind Penguins goalie Ty Conklin.
Instant Classic: Nadal vs. Federer Wimbledon Final
One of the greatest tennis matches ever played happened during 2008, as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer continued their rivalry in an epic Wimbledon final.
Nadal took a two-set lead (2-0) before Federer started to battle back.
Roger won the third set to get back into it and then in the fourth set, with the championship on the line, ice water ran through Federer's veins as he battled championship points against him.
After saving the first three against him, Nadal finally was able to finish Federer, who lost his first match in 66 matches on grass.
Nadal became the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980, while Federer failed to become the first man to win six consecutive Wimbledon titles since 1886.
In this picture: The two warriors embraces at center court with the score board and fans in the background.
Two out of Three? Doesn't Sound so Bad to Me
Big Brown won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness this year, but instead of remembering the accomplishments that he won, people prefer to remember the one that he missed, the loss in the Belmont.
An injury to the horse cost him his shot at the Triple Crown, but he still accomplished great feats.
Another thing that will be remembered is the loss of Eight Belles during the Kentucky Derby after finishing second, behind only Big Brown, in the Kentucky Derby.
In the picture: Kent Desormeaux celebrates a Big Brown victory
Three-Peat! Johnson Wins Third Straight Title
Jimmie Johnson tied the 30-year-old NASCAR record with his third straight Cup championship this year.
It wasn't an amazing performance to win the title, coming in 15th place overall in the Ford 400 (the final race), but it was an amazing season. The 15th place was excepted based on how cautious Johnson was during the last race because he didn't have to finish anywhere near the top of the leaderboard.
What the casual sports fan won't remember is how Carl Edwards fought to the very end. He did everything he could do to overtake Johnson for the title. Edwards won the last race (he crossed the finish line out of fuel after leading most of the race) but Johnson still won by 69 points in the standings.
It was another great season for Johnson, who will look to be in the slide shows next year for winning his fourth straight title.
In this picture: Johnson gives crew chief Chad Knaus a hug after his victory. Knaus became the first crew chief to win three straight titles.
Favre Switches Shades of Green
Brett Favre? I haven't heard about him at all...
...except everyday during the summer.
The Brett Favre saga finally ended with the future Hall of Famer was sent to the New York Jets by the Green Bay Packers.
We all know what happened so there is really no need to write about Brett anymore.
Coming this week, the New York Jets take on the Miami Dolphins.
For the 'Fins, win and you're in. If you are the "Bretts" you have to win and Buffalo has to take down New England (fat chance of that).
Odds are both the Packers and Jets will miss the playoffs with their new quarterbacks.
In this picture: Favre runs a designed QB bootleg on 3rd and short against the Buffalo Bills. To try to fake out the defender, corner Leodis McKelvin, who is chasing him, Favre tries to high step his way to the end zone.
Yankee Stadium Closes it Doors
Yankee Stadium closed its doors this season, and it shockingly came with the last game of the regular season.
Due to the Rays and Red Sox having strong seasons, and injuries that crippled the roster, the New York Yankees didn't make the playoff this season, finishing six games out of a playoff spot.
The last game took place Sept. 21, a game in which two non-playoff teams took to the field.
The Yanks came up on top, 7-3 against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, to capture the 4,133rd and final victory in the 85-year-old stadium.
In this picture: A man stands in the empty Stadium, sweeping off the snow for the final time.
Sleepless in Seattle: The Worst Year for Fans
How could a city lose so much in one season?
The Seattle SuperSonics left town to move to Oklahoma City. The Seahawks are 4-11 and are in last place in the weak NFC West, a division they have dominated for years. They also are the fifth-worst team in the entire NFL.
Where else can a Seattle sports fan turn to? The Seattle Mariners, right? I mean with a payroll of $117 million, they should be good, right? Wrong, they finished off the year 61-101, last in the American League and second worst in all of baseball.
What about college sports? How about Washington? Sorry, a 0-12 season won't make you feel any better.
Seattle fans have had the worst year ever for a sports community. Just keep them in mind when you wish that your favorite team would just leave town because they are playing bad.
In this picture: Seattle fans in a local bar, cringing from what they are seeing on the TV screen.
Spain Wins Euro Cup
The Spanish can get rid of the title "Choke Artists" that they have been assigned for many years as they win the Euro Cup of 2008.
The only goal of this game came off the foot of Fernando Torres in the 33rd minute and the Spanish were able to hold on for the 1 - nil victory.
Before the win, Spain had not won a major tournament since 1964.
In this picture: Spain's then 69-year-old coach Luis Aragones is hoisted into the air by his players. He is the oldest coach to win a European title.
Columbus Crew Wins Cup
The Crew had a record breaking season, winning both the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup.
The Shield is given to the team with the best record over the 30-game season. However, it wasn't a guaranteed cup to the fans or team. For example, back in 2004, Columbus won the Shield but dropped in the first round. Even if the players wanted to forget the bad memory, the fans were not going to let them.
It wasn't just the crew who fell in this same problem though, no team since the 2002 Los Angeles Galaxy had won the Shield and the MLS Cup in the same season.
The Crew got the monkey off of their back, though, as they defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1. Alejandro Moreno, Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk all scored for the Crew.
In this picture: The Crew celebrates the championship with the crowd.
U.S Women Wins Gold, Takes Down Brazil
After the World Cup in 2007, the United States women's soccer team looked like they might be on the decline, not only with the play on the pitch but also with all of the distractions going on.
They bounced back in the Olympics, though, in a big way.
It didn't look like they would do it, especially after they opened up their Olympic campaign with a 2-0 loss to Norway.
The U.S. team was able to make it to the final to take on... Brazil.
Brazil outplayed the Americans for much of the game but Carli Lloyd's extra time strike gave the Yanks a 1-0 win.
Who was in net for this team? None other than Hope Solo.
Redemption for the ladies' squad never tasted so sweet.
In this picture: Goalie Hope Solo celebrates with her coach, Pia Sundhage, after the gold medal win over Brazil.
Terry's Miss Gives Manchester United the Championship
Why does it happen to guys like Terry?
John Terry, the captain of Chelsea, who has made big plays in the past, missed a penalty kick that decided his team's fate.
The captain lost his footing and pushed his kick to the right, giving Man U. the Champions League title after a great soccer match.
Landon Donovan and His Milestones
Donovan has set two milestones this year for his role in United States soccer.
I would guess that 85 percent of U.S. citizens didn't even know about it.
Not only did Donovan score 20 goals this year (and nine assists) with the LA Galaxy of the MLS, but he also set two important milestones for his U.S. soccer career.
Back on Jan. 19, Donovan's penalty kick in a 2-0 win over Sweden saw him surpass Eric Wynalda's U.S. record of 34 international goals.
Later in the year, Donovan played in his 100th international appearance. He became the 11th U.S. player to do so in history and also the fourth youngest in the world to reach the milestone.
Not too shabby for an American soccer player who most people wouldn't even recognize if they bumped into him on the street.
In this picture: Landon Donovan waves during a U.S. soccer game.
Sports"man"ship Shown in Softball
Sara Tucholsky, a senior at Western Oregon University, came to the plate in a close game.
The 5-foot-2 right fielder batted for a low average in her career, and also never hit a home run in either college or high school softball.
She took a big swing at a 0-1 pitch with two runners on base when the unthinkable happened, her hit cleared the center field fence for her first home run.
In the excitement, Tucholsky missed first base and had to go back to touch it. When she tried to turn, her right knee gave way and she tore a ligament in her leg. She was left on the ground in pain, and tried to crawl back to first.
Unable to move after reaching first base, and unable to sub in a runner for the home run to count, two members of the Central Washington University team, first baseman Mallory Holtman (the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference) and shortstop Liz Wallace put their arms around Tucholsky and hoisted her up, and started to carry her around the bases.
Touching each base with her good leg, Tucholsky eventually made it home with the help of the opposing players.
“In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much,” Holtman said. “It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain, and she deserved a home run.”
The home run helped eliminate Central Washington from the playoffs.
In this picture: The three players make it around the bases for the home run.
Ravens and Falcons and Dolphins, O MY!
What do the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens all have in common?
Well not only are they teams with first-year coaches, but they are also in the fight for the playoffs after being horrendous just a season ago.
While the Ravens story is nice, they were a good team and all they needed was good play from the QB position. They already had the defense and the running backs in place to do so and then comes rookie Joe Flacco , who plays well and they win ball games.
The Dolphins won one game last season and have well passed that this year. With a win on Sunday against the Jets, they are in the playoffs. They are certainly a surprise team with great play from the QB position also, as Chad Pennington plays incredible. The guy just doesn't turn the ball over and they continue to win games.
The Falcons are also just as good of a turn around with rookie Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner joining the squad this season. What a thing to happen to a team just a year removed from the Michael Vick situation and their head coach bailing out before the season ended.
You can't take away from any of these teams from the great work of their coaches and of course, the players playing in the games.
The Dolphins are at 10-5 and are in a win and you're in situation (the win would give them the AFC East), the Falcons already clinched a wild card birth in the NFC with a 10-5 record while the Ravens are also 10-5 and are looking at a wild card berth in the AFC.
In this picture: Atlanta Matt Ryan talks to head coach Mike Smith.
What Will 2009 Bring Us?
The Year 2008 has had everything for the sports fan, well maybe not everyone (sorry Seattle).
For most of us though it has brought us great memories.
From Jon Lester's emotional no-hitter to Pac-Man getting busted again and Plax shooting himself in the leg, the sports world has brought us everything this year, on both sides of the equation.
I hope you enjoyed the ride through 2008. Like always comments are always appreciated. What has been your favorite moment of 2008?
Happy Holidays Everyone and enjoy 2009!