2016 was a rough year. It offered ample negativity on many levels. Sports, as it is wont to do, still offered some positives. Here were 10 great moments from 2016.
The Chicago Cubs Won The World Series
Okay, the loveable losers have become Yankees/Red Sox Midwest. Cubs fans can annoy. The Cubs are not the only MLB team in Chicago. Still, this was the Cubs’ first World Series win since 1908. For perspective, Theodore Roosevelt was president and the Model T had just come out when that happened. If you’re too jaded to appreciate that, it’s time to stop following sports.
LeBron James Won a Title In Cleveland
LeBron James won an NBA title in Cleveland, guiding the Cavaliers for a come-from-behind 4-3 triumph over the Warriors. We’ll spare you the B.S. about Cleveland, home of many Ohio State fans, not tasting success. We’ll also spare you the richness of Yankees-fan LeBron suddenly claiming Cleveland as home. The true greatness here is it killed off perhaps the most tired and asinine of all sports debates, whether multiple-time NBA Finals MVP LeBron James is “clutch.”
Michael Phelps Won Five Gold Medals
Michael Phelps came back from retirement. He won five gold medals and a ludicrously close silver in Rio. That leaves him with 23 total gold medals. He has been the best in the world at the Men’s 200m butterfly for 15 years. Rooting for Phelps should not be uplifting, but it is. He has a real human narrative. There’s also the cognizant notion you’re watching perhaps the greatest Olympian of all time. Sometimes, you should just shut down the Twitter app and enjoy someone’s success.
Leicester City Won The Premier League Title
Leicester City won the 2015-16 Premier League title. This was probably the greatest upset in the history of a major sports league. The EPL is the world’s wealthiest soccer league. Money had created monotony at the top. They had spent much of their history outside the top flight. In existence since 1891, they had won nothing more prestigious than a League Cup. They were as low as 5,000-1 underdogs before the season. N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, and Riyad Mahrez came from nowhere to become major stars. This was tremendous fun unless you root for Arsenal.
Possibly The Greatest NCAA Tournament Ending Ever
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige tied the NCAA Tournament final with a three-pointer with seconds remaining. That shot looked bound for posterity. Then Villanova’s Kris Jenkins consigned it to irrelevance with a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the title 77-74. Villanova coach Jay Wright took it in stride.
USA Gymnastics Won A Bunch of Medals
The USA won gold in the team all-around at Rio 2016. Simone Biles and Aly Raissman won gold and silver respectively in the individual all-around. Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernadez each won silver in an individual event. We missed most of this, as NBC dragged the tape delay past 11 pm ET most evenings. We didn’t understand what was going on, as NBC geared its coverage to “Madeline in Middle America.” But, we’ve been assured this was a great moment.
Iceland Reached The Euro 2016 Quarterfinals
Euro 2016 featured an expanded, 24-team field. Iceland, population 323,000, qualifying for a major tournament was a feat on its own. But, then Iceland qualified from its group ahead of tournament-winner Portugal and beat England in the Round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinal. The entire nation celebrated. Mercifully, the rest of the world’s sports fans did not turn their slow hand clap into the next “Seven Nation Army.”
James Conner Overcame Cancer
Pitt running back James Conner almost all of 2015 with a knee injury. Rehabbing from that, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy. Conner was declared cancer free and made it back months later for the 2016 season. He posted more than 1,300 total yards and 20 touchdowns and will be leaving early for the NFL Draft. He was an inspiration to everyone.
The NFL tried to ding the New England Patriots for deflating footballs. What should have been a one-day story became a 20-month, multimillion dollar fiasco that ended up in Federal Court. The NFL had no evidence. The entire controversy stemmed from the league’s complete ignorance. Sprinkle in a few miscarriages of journalism. It was an inane mess. But, Tom Brady agreed to serve a four-game suspension, after restructuring his contract. The NFLPA declined further appeals. It’s over.
Eastern Michigan Reached a Bowl Game
Eastern Michigan regents were evaluating whether to keep football. Eastern Michigan students, footing much of the bill, and faculty requested that the school drop football. Seniors on the team dealt with Ron English getting fired and the infamous cinder block debacle. Perhaps no college football program was in greater need of a warm-weather bowl bid.