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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Is Dustin Pedroia the most unlikely MVP ever?

Boston Red Sox second basemen Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP Award Tuesday and as Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy writes, he might be the most unlikely MVP winner ever.

Dustin PedroiaDustin Pedroia is the Most Valuable Player of the American League. This is simply one of the amazing sports stories of our time.

He is a miracle. He is a hardball mutant. He is the most unlikely man to win this award in the history of major league baseball.

Think about all the great Red Sox players who never won the award. Manny Ramírez was never MVP. Neither was Carlton Fisk. Nor Wade Boggs.

Fisk and Boggs are in the Hall of Fame and Manny is going to Cooperstown. None of them won an MVP.
And now the little big man has an American League MVP trophy – just like Jimmie Foxx, Ted, Jackie Jensen, Yaz, Freddie Lynn, Jim Rice, Roger Clemens, and Mo Vaughn.

Pedroia did it by hitting .326 – same as Yaz in ’67. He made himself the first second baseman to win the AL MVP since Nellie Fox of the Chicago White Sox in 1959. Guru Gammons points out that, in August, Pedroia had more extra-base hits than Ramírez.

Pedroia is no Manny Ramírez. But he’s MVP of the American League. Just Dustin being Dustin.

Pedroia is the poster child for every kid that is told he’s too small to play and that he’ll never make it. He was a nobody before last year, but hard work allowed him to rise to the top and once he got there, he never stopped working. He does all the little things right and he competes on a nightly a basis. This truly is one of the better sports stories in some time.

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