Many years of sports memories

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I just turned another year older and with that I'm beginning to feel my age. The knees ache, ankles pop and feet swell. While I don't want to give out my age, it should be easy to figure out that age by the following words you are about to read. Here is a list of the most significant sports stories in each year that I have been alive.

1990: While it feels like this has been a topic of debate for only the past couple of years, conference realignment has actually been going on for a long time. In 1990, Notre Dame withdrew from the College Football Association, allowing itself to gain an exclusive contract with NBC. Penn State, Florida State, Miami (Fla), Virginia Tech and West Virginia, among others were all still independents in football. The Big East, Big 10, ACC and SEC were all vying for these schools and in the end, all conferences got their pieces of the pie.

1991: The New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in the Super Bowl. This was the first time the Bills had ever made the Super Bowl, but it wasn't the last. They made it for the next three years and lost each time. Buffalo hasn't made it back since.

1992: It's not often that one shot defines a season, let alone a sport. That's what happened in 1992 when Duke defeated Kentucky 104-103 in the Elite Eight. With 2.1 seconds left in the game, Grant Hill threw an inbounds pass to Christian Laettner at the other end of the court. After one dribble, he turned around, put up the shot as time expired. Duke went on to win the championship that year.

1993: Speeches are usually something you hear out in a crowd or on TV. You think about the message and move on about your day. Jim Valvano's 1993 ESPY speech was different. Valvano who had cancer at the time and died shortly after giving the speech, spoke of being a dreamer. Spending each day with laughter and thought. Never giving up. Valvano's speech carries on today and it always will.

1994: The events of Friday, June 17, 1994, will go down as one of the most iconic days in sports history. Arnold Palmer played his final round at the U.S. Open. The FIFA World Cup, which was being held in the United States for the first time ever, was getting underway. The New York Rangers were having a victory parade in honor of winning the Stanley Cup. Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets were taking place. And O.J. Simpson's white Bronco was being chased by the Los Angeles Police Department.

1995: For those of you who play fantasy baseball, you know how easy it can be to forget to set your lineup on a given day. As long as you had Cal Ripken Jr. in your starting lineup, you could count on getting production out of him. Ripken broke the streak for most games started in 1995 and finished with 2,632 in 1998.

1996: The 1996 Olympics will sadly be remembered in large part for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, but there were many other things that came out of the event. The United States led the way in the medal count, totaling 101.

1997: Tiger Woods could have gone down as the greatest golfer of all-time. His legacy started at the 1997 Masters when he won by 12 strokes. His nearest competitor was Tom Kite. That was the first of 14 Majors for Tiger. I have argued for years that he will win another, but sadly, the 2008 U.S. Open will be his last.

1998: The NFL draft featured one of the top quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning and one of the top quarterback busts of all time in Ryan Leaf. Luckily, the Indianapolis Colts held the No. 1 overall pick and selected Manning. Unfortunately, the Chargers held the second overall pick and took Leaf.

1999: The U.S. women's soccer team took the world by storm by winning the 1999 World Cup. The United States beat Germany in the quarterfinals where they advanced to beat Brazil 2-0 in the semifinals. In a championship match that went to penalty kicks, the U.S. defeated China, 5-4.

2000: This is one of the first Super Bowls I remember clearly. It is also one of the better Super Bowls I have seen. Each team entered the game 13-3 with high-powered offenses. The Titans had to show off that offense, trailing 16-0 midway through the third quarter. After tying the game at 16-16 with 2:12 remaining in the game, Kurt Warner threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Issac Bruce to retake a 23-16 lead. The Titans had one last shot, but Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson one yard short of the goal line as time expired to preserve the victory.

2001: The events of 9/11 were difficult on the country, but the people of New York were the ones most affected by it. There is always a time when sports can heal wounds and that is what the New York Yankees did in the wake of the terrorist attacks. New York made it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series that year before losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It wasn't about winning and losing, though. It was about rebuilding and that is what the Yankees helped New York City do.

2002: Whether you love or hate what the Los Angeles Lakers did in the early part of the 2000s, the three-peat that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal completed was very impressive. The Lakers won their third consecutive title in 2002, a 4-0 sweep of the then-New Jersey Nets.

2003: Michael Jordan finally decided to call it quits after the 2002-03 season. Jordan won six NBA championships and won league MVP honors five times. Jordan will always be compared to the man who entered the league months after his retirement, LeBron James. James, 34, has won three NBA championships thus far and amassed four league MVPs.

2004: While people rooted for the New York Yankees in 2001, they came out to root against them in the 2004 American League Championship series. New York held a 3-0 series lead when David Ortiz became the hero for Red Sox Nation in Games 4 and 5, winning both games in walk-off fashion in extra innings. The series shifted back to New York for Games 6 and 7, but the Red Sox didn't seem to care, as they won both games with relative ease. Boston kept the momentum rolling into the World Series, sweeping St. Louis 4-0.

2005: The first regular-season NFL game was played outside the United States of America. On Sunday, Oct. 2, the Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. Since then, there have been a number of games outside the United States, including games at Wembley Stadium in London, Toronto and Mexico City.

2006: While the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was largely a disappointment, it did produce a handful of good games. None of them were better than the 2006 Rose Bowl between the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans. Trailing 38-26 with 6:42 remaining, Texas quarterback Vince Young led his team on an epic comeback. Young scored on a 17-yard touchdown run with 4:03 remaining in the game, trimming the lead to five. After the Texas defense stopped USC on a fourth-and-two from the Longhorn 44-yard line, Young scored on a fourth-and-five from the 9 yard line to take a 41-38 lead with 19 seconds left in the game.

2007: It's not often a team dominates the way the Florida Gators did in 2007. On Jan. 8 the football team dominated Ohio State, winning the BCS National Championship, 41-14. Later in the year, on April 2 the Gators defeated the Buckeyes once again to win the NCAA Men's National Championship, 84-75.

2008: Tiger Woods dominated the golf course. Michael Jordan dominated the basketball court. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps owned the pool. Phelps won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, breaking Mark Spitz's 1972 record of seven. In 2016, Phelps was still going strong as he raked in five gold medals and a silver.

2009: The Pittsburgh Steelers winning the Super Bowl is probably my sports highlight. This 27-23 game had a little bit of everything. Kurt Warner had his second chance at glory. He was throwing to his star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The highlight of the game probably came at the end of the first half when Steelers linebacker James Harrison returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 17-7 halftime lead. Arizona answered by scoring 16 consecutive points, but the Steelers drove the ball 78 yards and Santonio Holmes caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds left on the clock.

2010: David always wants a chance to beat Goliath. Butler had that chance in the 2010 national championship game against Duke, but Gordon Hayward's halfcourt heave bounced off the backboard. Duke won 61-59.

2011: The NBA lockout of 2011 shortened the season from 82 games to 66. A season that was supposed to start on Nov. 1 didn't get started until Christmas Day. The new collective bargaining agreement that the owners and players agreed upon allows for more revenue sharing to go toward the players.

2012: Much like they were when New York beat New England years earlier when the Patriots were undefeated, the Giants were underdogs heading into Super Bowl XLVI. That didn't stop the Giants, though. They led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Patriots answered, however, to take a 10-9 lead into halftime. That lead was stretched to 17-9 before two field goals closed the gap to two heading into the fourth quarter. Taking over with 3:46 remaining in the game, the Giants drove 88 yards to get the victory. It was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw with 57 seconds left in the game.

2013: This was the second title in as many years for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. This was by far the more difficult title, though, as the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in the NBA Finals. To win that championship, the Heat had to win Games 6 and 7. Ray Allen's three-pointer at the buzzer in regulation kept the Heat alive in Game 6 and Miami won in overtime.

2014: This was the first year of the College Football Playoff. While we are still in the infant stages, I would say things are working out pretty well. Clemson beat Alabama on a last-second pass in the end zone this past season. The Tide beat Clemson 45-40 a year before that. And Ohio State, well, the Buckeyes won pretty handily over Oregon so we will look past that.

2015: Right now all everyone in the sporting world can talk about is Mayweather vs. McGregor. Two years ago it was all about Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. While the fight didn't live up to the hype, it was something people cared about, whether you want to admit it or not. We can only hope Mayweather vs. McGregor can live up to the hype.

2016: The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908. It was their first time making it to the National League Championship Series since Steve Bartman showed up at Wrigley Field in 2003. The people of Chicago and many around the country can finally sleep in peace now.

2017: While we still have six months to go, the biggest thing to happen thus far is the New England Patriots coming back from 18 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. That game cemented Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time. It also cemented the Atlanta falcons as having one of the greatest chokes of all time.

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