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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Lakers perfect no more

Coming off a win in Oakland the night before, the Pistons didn’t show any signs of fatigue as they gave the Lakers their first loss on the season (106-95). Detroit held the Laker starters to just 26-70 (37%) from the field, while Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace led the way with 25 points each. Tayshaun Prince had to cover Kobe Bryant most of the night, but still finished with 18 points, six assists and four rebounds. He held Kobe to just 12-30 from the field, but more importantly, Bryant only attempted four free throws on the night.

The Lamar Odom Watch continues – he came off the bench and went 5 for 5 from the field to score 11 points, but he only played 20 minutes and had just one rebound and one assist. Trevor Ariza posted 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. He continues to be the Lakers’ most productive bench player and should probably get a look in the starting lineup.

This was an impressive win for the Pistons. It was the second game of a back-to-back on the road against the best team in the league. Even Kwame Brown (10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) played well against his old team.

Right now, it’s looking like the Billups-for-AI trade was just what the doctor ordered.

2008 NBA Preview: #9 Detroit Pistons

Offseason Movement: The Pistons’ biggest offseason signing was Kwame Brown. That’s right…Kwame Brown.
Keep Your Eye On: The Pistons’ age
Chauncey Billups (32), Rip Hamilton (30), Rasheed Wallace (34) and Antonio McDyess (34) are all at the end of or past their respective primes, so the Pistons are going to hit the wall, it’s just a matter of when. Will it be this season? The team does have some youth in Tayshaun Prince (28), Rodney Stuckey (22), Jason Maxiell (25) and Amir Johnson (21), but Prince is the only completely dependable player on that list. Stuckey has a chance to be a star, but he’s going to be playing behind Billups and Hamilton for the foreseeable future.
The Big Question: Does this group have another run in it?
After last season, it looked like the Pistons were going to make some big changes, but after a few rumored trades fell through, they’re left with pretty much the same roster as last season. So this leaves the Pistons in a tough spot. They’re good enough to (easily) make the playoffs, but are they good enough to make another Finals appearance?
Outlook: Fruitless. Unless everything breaks their way, it’s hard to see the Pistons making the Finals with this group. I like the roster, and when they’re firing on all cylinders, they’re very tough to beat. But they are at times complacent, and they’re just not good enough anymore to be giving games away in the playoffs. They almost lost to an upstart Philly team due to a lack of focus. Once again, they’ll make the playoffs and, once again, they’ll probably win their first round series, but barring a big leap by one of their young players, that’s probably as far as they’ll go.

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