2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Learned

At the end of the year, it’s always interesting to look back at all that has happened in the world of sports over the last 12 months. 2008 brought us a host of compelling sports stories, including the culmination of the Patriots’ (unsuccessful) quest for perfection, a Bejing Olympics that featured incredible accomplishments by the likes of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the Redeem Team, and, of course, Brett Favre’s unretirement, which managed to hold the sports news cycle hostage for a solid month or more.

As is our tradition, we’ve once again broken our Year End Sports Review into three sections. The first is “What We Learned,” a list that’s packed with a number of impressive feats. And when there are feats, inevitably there are also failures.

Don’t miss the other two parts: “What We Already Knew” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

The New England Patriots weren’t so perfect after all.

After rolling through the 2007 regular season unscathed, the Patriots entered the 2008 Super Bowl as overwhelming favorites to roll over the pesky, but seemingly inferior New York Giants. The Pats were just one win away from staking their claim as the best football team in NFL history. But thanks to a dominating Giants’ defensive line, an improbable catch by David Tyree, and a virtually mistake-free performance by Eli Manning, the unbeatable New England Patriots were beat. It’ll go down as one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, and considering Tom Brady’s season-ending injury in 2008 cost the Pats a chance for redemption, it seems that many have forgotten how New England stood just one win away from perfection. – Anthony Stalter

Michael Phelps is part fish.

Eight gold medals in one Olympiad? No problem. Michael Phelps made the seemingly impossible look (relatively) easy en route to one of the most – if not the most – impressive Olympic performances ever. Phelps had to swim all four strokes, compete in both sprint and endurance races, and deal with the constant media attention and pressure that came along with his quest. Sure, NBC turned up the hype, but what Phelps accomplished is simply incredible. – John Paulsen

Usain Bolt is part cheetah.

First, Usain Bolt made Jamaica proud by setting a new world record (9.69) in the 100-meter sprint. Then, he broke the 12 year-old 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds. He showboated during the first race but cleaned up his act to win the second race in a professional manner. Some even say that Usain Bolt – not Michael Phelps – was the biggest story to come out of the Bejing Olympics. – JP

The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the nation.

The Big 12 housed some of the best quarterbacks in all of college football in 2008. Texas’s Colt McCoy, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell were all considered Heisman candidates at least at one point during the season, while McCoy and Bradford are still in the running. Amazingly, Bradford and McCoy aren’t done; both will return in 2008. And although they don’t receive as much attention as the top signal callers in the conference, Kansas’s Todd Reesing and Baylor’s Robert Griffin certainly turned heads this year as well. In fact, the highly versatile Griffin is only a freshman and could make the Bears a very dangerous team for years to come. – AS


Read the rest after the jump...

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Top 8 in ’08

King-Mag.com released a list of the eight most TiVo-worthy moments of 2008, complete with YouTube video.

It’s a solid list, though there’s a certain swimmer and a certain clutch three-pointer that are curiously missing.

Sports clichés we could all do without

The Love of Sports put together a great list of sports clichés that the general public could do without hearing for the next couple decades.

Plaxico Burress1. “One Day (Game) at a Time”
Ah, how Zen. It’s great to know our admired athletes live along the same space-time continuum as the rest of us, despite possessing extraordinary physical skill. You may want to stay humble to maintain that underdog mentality, but don’t try to wow us with your existential wisdom.

4. “Nobody Believed In Us”
Really, no one? How very lonely you pro athletes must be. If this were true, then we should all be thankful none of us has to deal with the crushing abandonment that a come-from-behind sports franchise must. Even the Rays had a few thousand “believers” and they claim the most anemic following of anybody. Save the pity card and enjoy the win.

6. “We Never Gave Up”
On behalf of the millions of other fans who invest their money and time to watch you do your job, thank you. This should go without saying. So, by all means, don’t say it.

8. “We Just Had to Come Out and Play Our Game”
Uh huh. And? What a way to say nothing, yet hint at something truly profound. We know what game you played, but damned if we have any idea what “your game” actually was – or is. Clearly the game the other team played, though technically the same as the one you were playing, was inferior to this mysterious “You” game. Tell us more.

The “Nobody Believed In Us” is beyond the point of annoying. Players like to assume that everybody is against them now and it’s ridiculous. The whole “respect” thing is getting really tired.

The first known picture of Michael Phelps

News Flash: It’s easy for athletes to get laid in the Olympic Village

Former Olympic athlete Matthew Syed shared a startlingly revelation with Times Online: Apparently all of these hot, well-conditioned Olympic athletes are having no issues getting laid.

This sex fest was not limited to Barcelona: the same thing happened in Sydney in 2000, my second Olympics as an athlete, and is happening right here in Beijing, where this time I’m a commentator. I spoke to an Aussie table tennis player this week to check out the village vibe and he launched into the breathless patter common to any Olympic debutant: “It is unbelievable in there; everyone is totally crazy once they are out of their competitions. God knows what it is going to be like this weekend. It is like a world within a world.” A British runner (anonymous again: athletes are not supposed to talk to journalists unaccompanied by a PR type, least of all about sex) said: “The swimmers finished earlier in the week and it was like there was an eruption.”

But let us get back to all the sex going down in the village. One possible explanation centres on the fact that Olympic athletes have to display an unnatural (and, it has to be said, wholly unhealthy) level of self-discipline in the build-up to big competitions. How else is this going to manifest itself than with a volcanic release of pent-up hedonism? It is a common sight to see recently knocked-out athletes gorging on Magnums and McDonald’s, swilling alcohol and, of course, shagging like crazy. Sometimes all three at the same time. Yet this can be only a part of the explanation because most of the athletes I know are as up for it before and during competition as they are in the immediate aftermath. It is as if sportsmen and women have a higher base level of sexual energy. But why? Can it be that one of the underlying drivers of sporting greatness is also the very thing that produces an overactive sex drive?

I begged, I begged my parents to get me into swimming when I was younger!

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