Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year
In relatively recent history, increased Internet activity has augmented sports coverage in a profound way, driving millions upon millions of eyes and ears toward the industry's biggest stars and stories.
This year was no different, as the 2014’s most captivating sports moments found a home and plenty of room to flourish all across the Web.
Landon Donovan, for example, never received as much publicity as when news spread online that U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had decided to leave him off the prestigious World Cup squad.
And, in a similar vein, news concerning the NBA’s Donald Sterling fiasco spread like wildfire mere minutes after TMZ exposed the former owner for his unknowingly recorded and unquestionably racist diatribe.
Finally, in the NFL, Richard Sherman gained a new and perhaps unprecedented level of infamy as soon as Internet users clicked on his colorful conversation with Erin Andrews following 2014’s NFC Championship game.
With the aforementioned events and New Year's around the bend, we were inspired to highlight the 30 Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year.
Some brought laughter, while others inspired anger or even tears. In the end, though, each moment had—at least temporarily—one major thing in common: extraordinary fame and following all across the information highway.
With issues concerning Ray Rice and domestic abuse not yet on the back burner, the nation was more outraged than surprised.
The story was ready-made for American consumption: It included both a serious legal allegation and a former NFL MVP still in his prime.
There are few things American sports fans enjoy more than an athlete with potential. And when said athlete is an unknown and a female teenager at that, you can be sure countless headlines will be written.
Of course, that was precisely the case last August when little-league sensation Mo’ne Davis took the sports world by storm.
The 13-year-old pitcher from Philly bullied her way through the Little League World Series, leading her team all the way to the tournament’s semifinals.
In the process, the phenom became the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series.
And forget viral: Davis’s star grew so large that she actually appeared on the August 25th cover of Sports Illustrated.
One Ring Short
The 2014 Winter Olympics brought with it many compelling stories, and the event’s opening ceremony deserves at least some of the credit.
Above all else, Sochi's salute to the world will be remembered for one pronounced gaffe.
In a singular moment caught in time, the whole world stopped and simultaneously thought, “Boy, Vladimir Putin is going to be maaaad!”
Then, from there, the Internet did what the Internet does.
In fact, the story became such a well-known viral sensation that Russia—the nation—was actually embarrassed into responding.
Tragedy on the Track
When Tony Stewart’s car struck and killed Kevin Ward during a sprint car race on August 9, millions of people turned their attention to the track, seeking to discover exactly what had taken place.
No matter which side of the fence one fell, however, most people simply had to see the footage for themselves to draw their own conclusions.
All About Oshie
To avid hockey fans, deciding a contest with a shootout seems almost like sacrilege. To the rest of the world, though, the one-on-one format is about as exciting as the sport gets.
The latter fact is one on which T.J. Oshie—a star on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Hockey team—capitalized in a major way.
On February 15, in a preliminary-round Olympic hockey matchup, the USA and Russia found themselves in a nail-biting shootout.
Fortunately, however, the Americans had a secret weapon on their side, and it came in the form of Oshie.
After taking the team’s first shot, the Washington native was asked to take five more, all in a row (international rules stipulate that after the third shot coaches can reuse players as often as they desire).
And like only he could, Oshie proceeded to make four of his six attempts, including the game-winning eighth and final shot.
After that, as if his stick screamed, “Move over, Yoshi!” it was suddenly all about Oshie.
There are many ways in which football in the south is different. If you ever need a concise explanation as to why or how, try using the video above.
Then again, the lucky person you’re talking to has probably already seen the aforementioned viral magic.
For those who don’t know, Alabama took on and fell to Oklahoma (45-31) in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, and, well, some fans didn’t handle it—or their alcohol—all that well.
And like with kittens hounding a ball of yarn, everyone online needed at least a glimpse of the world’s most obstinate fan.
The average NBA fan loves two things the most: buzzer-beaters and watching LeBron James lose.
Last season provided enough of both.
Now with regard to the former, they are at their absolute best in significant moments, like...say...at the end of a series-deciding playoff game.
Of course, thanks to Portland’s Damian Lillard, that is precisely what NBA fans got on May 2, 2014.
Christ the Redeemer
In 2014, the World Cup brought the sports industry plenty to talk about, including great soccer and hungry humans (see one Luis Suarez).
It also brought us one seriously lasting image of Jesus Christ in statue form.
The Story: Shortly after halftime of the tournament’s final match, TV coverage turned its attention to, of all things, the sun, which happened to be setting in perfect alignment with Brazil’s legendary Christ the Redeemer statue.
And in somewhat surprising fashion, the captured visual became an instant craze, or in other words a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.
The year in sports brought plenty of heartburn and headaches. However, it also brought some touching moments too.
On November 2, Lauren Hill appeared in her first college basketball game, suiting up for Mount Saint Joseph University.
It wouldn’t sound like much, but in 2013 Hill was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
As news of Hill and her heroic story trickled out of Ohio, the sports world tuned in to see what true passion and perseverance are all about.
And when she scored twice during her first memorable outing, Lauren Hill quickly transitioned from college student to American hero.
Cramping is never fun, unless it’s happening to the guy you’re playing or rooting against.
And as the four-time MVP was forced to check himself out of a rather important showdown with the Spurs, literally millions of people took to Twitter, YouTube and nearly every other corner of the Internet.
Howard Saves the Day…Almost
Like never before, the USMNT’s run in the 2014 World Cup took America by storm. And more specifically, goalie Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium in the round of 16 stole the show.
In now-legendary fashion, Howard saved a World Cup-record 16 shots on goal and was named the Man of the Match even in defeat.
Look, Mom, One Hand!
On the topic of 2014's most memorable plays, perhaps none was more spectacular than the catch Odell Beckham made on November 23.
And it did!
By the way, just for fun, check out some of these equally amazing Beckham clips captured in pregame warm-ups.
If Looks Could Kill...
Internet users can thank U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner and a panel of Olympic judges for one of the year’s most entertaining memes.
When, on February 8, those very same judges revealed to miss Wagner an apparently low score of 63.10, the American’s immediate reaction said it all: plain-and-simple disgust.
And the Viral Vixen’s look—you know, the one that said, “What a joke. I hate Sochi!”—was simply too good to ignore.
So no one did!
Hey, You Stepped on My Tire!
When your job is all about driving at speeds that sometimes exceed 200 mph, your fights should be pretty extreme too, and should really never involve shoving.
Now we just need to notify Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick, who got into 2014’s biggest and most viral shoving match after a November race at Texas Motor Speedway.
With two laps left, Keselowski attempted a pass that resulted in a Gordon flat, and the latter took serious offense.
Like most petty squabbles, though, the fight solved absolutely nothing. It did, however, entertain millions of people all around the world.
In America this year—according to number of tweets per minute—only Percy Harvin’s Super Bowl kick return created more buzz on Twitter than Clint Dempsey’s go-ahead goal against Portugal in the World Cup.
Coming off a win over Ghana in Game 1, the U.S. knew it needed a tie or a win against Portugal in Game 2, as the eventual-champion Germans awaited the Americans in Game 3.
It gave a country hope, positioned the nation firmly behind this whole "soccer thing," and on behalf of Americans everywhere screamed, “Group of Death, what?”
Paul George's Injury with Team USA
There’s just something about gruesome injuries that attract attention. Though many find them too disturbing to watch, it seems plenty of others have no issue at all.
This year’s selection for the most horribly tragic and disgusting injury video goes to Paul George of the Indiana Pacers.
During the fourth quarter of a Team USA scrimmage in August, Indiana’s star shooting guard broke his leg in truly horrific fashion.
The costly injury—which occurred while George was trying to chase down James Harden—was traumatic enough to put an end to the game.
Michael Sam Says, "Hello, World!"
In February of this year, former Missouri Tiger Michael Sam let the world into his personal life, acknowledging to all that he is gay.
The moment was seen as a socially groundbreaking one, as the talented defensive end represented the first openly gay football player.
But while many celebrated the significant step, others failed to catch up.
No matter which side of the line you fell, though, the moment Sam was drafted was unquestionably one to remember.
And in these modern times—instead of, say, the traditional textbook—the Internet was the means by which Sam’s historic occasion was recorded and discussed.
The world has been waiting for a Triple Crown horse since 1978, the year Affirmed ran his way into the history books.
And in 2014, it looked as though America would get its racing fix, as California Chrome flirted with becoming just the 12th horse to accomplish the amazing feat.
As expected, when Chrome ran away with both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the Internet proceeded to spontaneously explode.
Of course, America’s hopeful came up short in the Belmont, the Triple Crown’s third and final race. For roughly three weeks, though, Chrome was killin' it!
The Curious Case of Jameis Winston
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had his share of setbacks in 2014, and each one could reasonably appear on this list.
With that said, perhaps none captured America’s imagination quite like the signal-caller’s most crabby crime.
Of course, coach Jimbo Fisher called the mishap an “honest mistake” when speaking to reporters, but either way, Americans devoured the story...instead of the crabs.
After all, it had everything: a Heisman Trophy winner and defending national champion, a documented theft and, last but certainly not least, victimized crustaceans.
When Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested on assault charges in February of 2014, a once-beloved NFL star was exposed, while a major national concern—domestic abuse—was brought into clearer focus.
And when video of the horrific event surfaced soon after, the sports world couldn’t take its eyes away.
Not surprisingly, the NFL’s subsequent mishandling of the issue in general and of Rice in particular only further intensified national obsession and outrage as the country turned full attention to a story that truly transcended sports.
In the end, the rounds of intense coverage and debate demonstrated once again the power of social media pressure.
The Bite Felt 'Round the World
On January 24, 2014, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez literally bit another man.
That he bit that man—Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini—in the middle of a World Cup soccer game, while the entire world was watching, made the incident all the more captivating.
Not surprisingly, the Uruguayan’s peculiar habit was a story into which the rest of the world has happy to sink their teeth (pun intended).
After representing the U.S. national team for nearly 16 years (Donovan joined the U17 team in 1998), Landon Donovan was somewhat abruptly left off the American squad in May of 2014 as the group readied for World Cup action.
The decision, made by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was as unpopular as it was surprising. The former team captain remains among the most popular players in American soccer history, is a four-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and last July became the first U.S. player to reach the 50-goal mark in international play.
Klinsmann was likely banking on the apathetic American soccer fan quickly moving on, but as we know well by now, that was far from the case.
When Derek Jeter announced that 2014 would be his last season in MLB, the sports world took notice, to say the least.
The five-time champion was honored, cheered and given gifts at every stop he made throughout the baseball season, while the media attention devoted to his farewell tour made him look more like presidential hopeful than retiring athlete.
And leave it to the Jordan Brand to put America’s immense respect for Jeter into perspective: A two-minute video/emotional rollercoaster that could, and would, reach computers and cell phones all across the world.
The NBA would never be the same after April 25, 2014, the day TMZ released recorded audio that included both Donald Sterling’s voice and obscenely racist comments.
The subsequent media attention and eventual ousting of L.A.’s Sterling transformed the way in which owners could be disciplined as well as the league’s standard for general behavior moving forward.
Before that, though, the former Clipper was left to be dissected at the mercy of the Internet and all its most social users.
Not surprisingly things there got ugly, and fast.
Sochi, Oh Sochi
The Sochi Olympics brought it all: international competition, great theater and notably horrendous living quarters.
The latter, in fact, was one of the major takeaways from the momentous event.
Between the disgusting accommodations in and around the Olympic village and all the loveable stray dogs, members of the American media were appalled enough for it all to go incredibly viral.
And thanks to ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, TV Land got a laugh out of it too.
Enlisting the help of luger Kate Hansen, Kimmel and his team managed to create a hilarious—and realistic enough—video that captured a loose wolf wandering around what appeared to be Hansen’s hotel.
In the end, Kimmel and Hansen were the best but far from the only people to poke fun at Sochi’s horrific housing: In just two days' time, Hansen’s video alone received nearly 2 million views and plenty more responses.
The Legend of Bumgarner
He first amazed in Game 1 of the World Series, throwing seven strong innings while giving up just one run.
He then improved upon his already stellar play in Game 5 when he threw nine brilliant innings of four-hit, shutout baseball.
But believe it or not, in a Game 7 for the ages, Bumgarner managed to far exceed what he’d already done, putting together a performance that would stun the sports world and set the Web ablaze.
On just two days rest, the 6’5”, 235-pound beast came out of the bullpen in the final game of the year and proceeded to throw five more innings of two-hit, shutout baseball, registering the longest save in World Series history while delivering his Giants yet another world championship.
In the days to follow, Bumgarner was all anyone cared to talk about, on the Internet, in office buildings, in grocery stores and well beyond.
With World Cup returning to soccer’s sanctuary, 2014 was supposed to be a special year for both Brazil and its national team.
By tournament’s end, though, the local favorites had done more to disgust than impress.
In a disgraceful 7-1 loss to Germany in the tournament’s semifinals, Brazil was dominated and defeated in utterly historic fashion.
Worse yet, the team appeared to give up mid-contest while an entire nation of supporters watched from up close.
And while TV viewing had to be sufficient enough for the rest of the world, we were nonetheless equally intrigued by the humiliating display, as millions immediately took their shocked reactions to Twitter.
Super Bowl Blowout
There are only a few life certainties consistent from year to year: Rain will fall, the taxman will beckon and the Super Bowl will go viral.
In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII proved to be no different.
Whether you were a fan of the Broncos or of watching Peyton Manning suffer, Seattle’s demolition of Denver (a 43-8 Seahawk victory) was the talk of the town on February 2…and for roughly an entire week thereafter.
And, well, it just doesn’t get any more Super than that.
Sports fans love a good sound bite and few athletes can equal either the quality or quantity provided by the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman.
Fortunately for all who bore witness, Sherman’s very best bit of sound was captured this year in what is now a legendary postgame interview with Erin Andrews.
Dripping with both sweat and emotion following a huge NFC Championship win over San Francisco—which by the way ended on a huge play from Sherman—the polarizing defensive back used his time with Andrews to both rep himself and taunt the Niners.
Of course, as we know well by now, the resulting sound bite—which, by the way, was passionate, hilarious, bizarre and inappropriate all at once—became an instant classic and Internet sensation.
On July 11th, 2014, LeBron James made his smartest career move to date: He announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
From both a fiscal and basketball standpoint, James struck with the hottest of irons. And equally important, the two-time champion rebranded himself, going from scapegoat to savior.
It was his method of declaration, however, that made the most headlines and immediately went viral.
To be exact, James wrote a heartfelt letter to the City of Cleveland through Sports Illustrated, a complete about-face when compared to his announcement in 2010.
And whether you believe what he wrote or not, at least publicly, King James handled his move the right way this time.
In the end, while both decisions garnered unprecedented attention, we’re betting James enjoyed the limelight a bit more the second time around.
Follow Janovitz on Twitter @BrainTrain9