In honor of my best/worst sports moments of the year entry coming later this month, I am posting my annual recaps from 2009-2012. Here is my 2011 entry:
1. Kentucky finally beats Tennessee in football (November 26, 2011)– The HIGHLIGHT OF MY 2011 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON came in Lexington, KY in late November when Kentucky finally ended their record-setting 26 game losing streak to Tennessee. I was literally three weeks in my mother’s womb the last time Kentucky beat the Vols, and I really thought that I may live my entire life as a Kentucky fan and never once be alive for a Wildcat victory over Tennessee. As many of you know, my four life goals as a sports fan are to see: (1) A 16 seed beat a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, (2) Wake Forest win a football or basketball national championship, (3) a horse win the Triple Crown, and (4) a British tennis player win Wimbledon. Well, a couple of years ago I started an auxiliary list of secondary goals which included things like seeing: (1) a non-AQ team win an undisputed football national championship, (2) a senior PGA tour player win a golf major, and (3) Kentucky beat Tennessee in football. These secondary milestones aren’t quite as important as the big four, but they are still things that would be the icing on the cake to a great life as a sports fan. Well one of those items can officially be checked off the list as the Wildcats beat the Volunteers in an ugly 10-7 slugfest.
2. Wake Forest plays in the Music City Bowl (December 30, 2011)- I am writing this column prior to this bowl game, but even in Wake does lose to Mississippi State then this moment still ranks near the top of this list. This is the one bowl game with an ACC tie-in that I have always wanted Wake Forest to play in, and I am absolutely elated that they got a bid into it this season. I will be the first to admit that Virginia Tech had no business getting a BCS at-large bid, but I am so glad they did because otherwise the Deacs would be stuck in Shreveport for the holidays.
3. Greensboro Grasshoppers win South Atlantic League Championship (September 17, 2011) – Got to give a plug to my local minor league team who won their first league title since 1982 this season. Just like the St. Louis Cardinals, the Hoppers were a strike away from losing the championship series before coming back to win it all in the deciding game. To even get to the league playoffs, the Hoppers had to win 11 out of their last 12 regular season games. It was purely stuff of legend.
4. South Carolina wins second-straight NCAA Baseball National Championship (June 28, 2011)– I must admit that the first championship is always the best and most memorable, but this one ranks right up there given the dramatic way this Gamecock team won most of its tourney games.
5. Boise State beats Georgia in College Football Season Opener (September 3, 2011)- Two of my top three favorite college teams (Kentucky and South Carolina) play in the SEC, but I hate the SEC hype just as much as anyone. That’s why I am so glad that the Broncos went down south and shut up all the SEC Supremacists with their dominant road win over Georgia. After this game, the immediate response we heard from BCS Elitists is how Georgia really wasn’t a very good SEC team. Well that argument clearly fell through after the Dawgs won the Eastern Division and led # 1 ranked LSU at halftime of the SEC Championship Game a couple of weekends ago.
6. Dallas Mavericks beat Miami Heat in NBA Finals (June 12, 2011)- The Mavs have always been one of my top 4 or 5 favorite teams in the NBA thanks to their charismatic owner Mark Cuban. Thus, it was great to see them finally win a championship, but it was even better to see them do it against the evil Lebron James and his Miami Heat.
7. Morehead State upsets Louisville in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament (March 17, 2011)- I live for the first round NCAA Tournament upset, but this one was particularly satisfying in that it involved a mid-major from Kentucky beating one of my most hated sports rivals.
8. South Carolina beats Clemson (November 26, 2011)– The Gamecocks have now won an unprecedented three straight over their in-state rival. I have to admit that it kind of sucks the Tigers got into a BCS Bowl, but at least it’s the worst BCS bowl of all-time (see my bowl rankings below).
9. Jimmer Fredette gets drafted by Sacramento Kings (June 23, 2011)– The Jimmer gradually became one of my favorite athletes in the world throughout last year’s college basketball season. I was planning to adopt whichever organization drafted him as my new favorite NBA team, as long as it was a squad who met all of my underdog criteria (never won a championship, small-market, not many fans, etc). My dreams came true when the Sacramento Kings, the ultimate NBA dark horse, selected Jimmer with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. Now I just have to decide whether I want to shell out the big bucks and order NBA League Pass to see him play all season.
10. Mike Leach gets hired as Washington State Head Coach (November 30, 2011)- After a two year hiatus, my favorite coach in sports has a job again and this time it’s in Pullman, WA. I think this is a great fit all around, and I’ll have no problem switching my Pac-12 allegiances from Arizona State to Wazzu.
1. Nightmare Saturday (November 12, 2011)- Last year, the worst day of the season for me was the Friday after Thanksgiving when Auburn came back to beat Alabama, Oregon stomped Arizona, and Boise State lost a heartbreaker to Nevada. This year on the second Saturday in November I sat through an even more disheartening day of college football. It all began at noon when my beloved Wake Forest Demon Deacons lost a heartbreaker to Clemson to fall just short of an improbable ACC Atlantic title. After that, I had to watch as Georgia ended South Carolina’s hopes of winning a second straight SEC East title. Then the lowlight of the day took place as Boise State lost its chance at a national title with a gut-wrenching loss to TCU. It was utterly demoralizing to realize that the Broncos weren’t going to get a shot at the national title, but I decided that I would just have to cheer for Stanford to get there instead. After all, they are the ultimate antithesis of the SEC and all the corruption and stupidity it represents. Well, four hours later Oregon dashed the Cardinal’s national title hopes and left me and my entire life in complete disarray. One of my friends texted me after the Boise game and said simply, “Not your day man.” That’s a pretty good summation of November 12th, as I can’t even fathom what a worse 24 hours of sports would look like.
2. Auburn and Scam Newton win BCS National Title (January 10, 2011)– Despite my desperate prayers for Newton and Auburn to fall short of the national title, it wasn’t meant to be. An Auburn team that should have lost 3-5 games last season squeaked out a tight one over Oregon to win the crystal trophy. Their title game victory was particularly cheap because the Tigers won it on a fluke play. On the game’s final drive, the Oregon defense stopped playing after Auburn’s Michael Dyer appeared to be tackled following a short gain. In fact, Dyer’s knee never hit the ground, so he was able to get up and bolt into Oregon territory to set up the game winning field goal.
3. UConn knocks off Butler in NCAA Basketball National Championship Game (April 4, 2011)- I loved and cherished every minute of both of Butler’s magical runs to the national title game. Nevertheless, it was utterly demoralizing to see the Bulldogs fall just short of the ultimate prize for a second straight season. This year’s run was even more astonishing than the 2010 edition because the Bulldogs entered the tourney as an eight seed. After five impressive and victories, Butler became just the second eight seed ever to advance to the national championship game. The first was of course Villanova who shot over 80% en route to their shocking title game victory over Georgetown in 1985. The Bulldogs, however, managed to shoot a mere 18.8% in their 12-point loss to UConn. If only Butler had access to that cocaine Nova’s players were snorting prior to their ’85 title game…
4. Rafael Nadal beats Andy Murray in Wimbledon Semifinals (July 1, 2011)- Another year without a Brit taking home the Wimbledon title. This loss was even more upsetting than Murray’s past semifinal defeats because he actually looked in control of the match for the first set and a half.
5. Rematch Announced for BCS National Championship Game (December 4, 2011)– Oklahoma State’s huge victory over Oklahoma gave me and other college sports’ fans a final glimmer of hope that we might be able to avoid the horrifying scenario of having a rematch of a 9-6 regular season game decide college football’s mythical national champion. The BCS Elitists and SEC Supremacists wouldn’t allow it however, and in the end we got stuck with the biggest joke of a title game anyone could ever imagine. Here are just a couple of stats for you to consider as you prepare for this abomination of a title game: (1) if Alabama wins the national championship, they will have the worst non-conference wins of any national champion in any college sport ever! (2) This is also the first time there has been a national title game between two offenses who rank in the bottom half of FBS in passing.
6. Joe Paterno Gets Fired as Penn State Head Coach (November 9, 2011)– The whole Penn State sex scandal was so sad on so many levels. I have always been a big Paterno fan and still believe he should have been given a chance to finish the season as head coach. Nevertheless, Joe Pa’s epic 46-year tenure as Penn State head coach came to an end when he was fired just a game after he passing Eddie Robinson as the winningest coach in this history of Division 1 Football.
7. Boston Bruins win Stanley Cup (June 15, 2011)- Not another championship for Boston! I really wanted to see Vancouver get its first-ever championship as well. Can’t believe Canada still hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993.
8. Texas Rangers choke away World Series (October 27-28, 2011)- It’s unfathomable that a team could come a strike away from clinching the World Series on two different occasions in Game Six and then go on to lose the series in 7. The Rangers aren’t my favorite team or anything, but I love most any squad who has never won a championship before.
9. U.S. Women’s Soccer Team loses World Cup Final to Japan (July 17, 2011)– The Women’s World Cup team took us on quite a ride this summer, but they couldn’t close the deal against Japan. This loss was particularly heartbreaking given that the U.S. held a second half lead on two occasions before eventually falling in penalty kicks.
10. Dustin Johnson loses British Open (July 17, 2011)- This choke job pales in comparison to the other golf heartbreaks I’ve experienced in recent years, especially in the British Open. Still, I really thought this could be the major that Dustin Johnson would finally breakthrough and win. And yes you read that correctly… my worst moments # 9 and 10 both occurred on the exact same day. It’s pretty amazing I passed the bar exam considering such a horrible day took place just nine days before the test.
Here’s to a wonderful 2012 full of a great sports moments for everybody!