2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

Let’s be honest: Sports bloggers know everything. Just ask us. As part of our 2010 Year-End Sports Review, our list of things we already knew this year includes Brad Childress’ biggest fail, Wade Phillips’ demise in Dallas and John Calipari’s troubles. We also knew Kevin Durant was the next great superstar (who didn’t see that coming?), Roger Clemens is the ultimate windbag and that “Matty Ice” knows fourth-quarter comebacks. We should have gone to medical school…

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

LeBron is a frontrunner.

We all were a little surprised that LeBron left Cleveland, but the writing was on the wall. Growing up, LeBron didn’t root for the local teams. He followed the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys, which in the 1990s constituted the Holy Triumvirate of Frontrunning. He wore his Yankee cap to an Indians game and was seen hobnobbing on the Cowboy sidelines during a Browns game. He says he’s loyal, but he’s only loyal to winners…unless they only win in the regular season, of course.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Brad Childress’ biggest flaw cost him his job in the end.

There were many reasons why the Vikings decided to fire head coach Brad Childress roughly a year after they signed him to a contract extension. One of the reasons was because he lost with a talented roster. Another was because he never quite figured out how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, which is a sin given how talented AP is. But the main reason “Chilly” was ousted in Minnesota was because he didn’t know how to manage NFL-caliber personalities. He didn’t know how to handle Brett Favre, which led to blowups on the sidelines and multiple face-to-face confrontations. He also didn’t have a clue how to deal with Randy Moss’ crass attitude, so he released him just four weeks after the team acquired him in a trade from New England. Childress was hired in part to help clean up the mess in Minnesota after the whole “Love Boat” scandal. But the problem with a disciplinarian that hasn’t first earned respect is that his demands fall on deaf ears. In the end, Childress’ inability to command respect from his players cost him his job. You know, on top of the fact that he was losing with a talented roster, he didn’t know how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, he…

Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner will forever be one of baseball’s icons.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball. But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons. Steinbrenner passed away in July of this year. He will forever be a man known for helping revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue. During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars. While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach. How many Pirates and Royals fans wish they had an owner with the same appetite for victory?

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Viking and Saint fans better enjoy the moment

I was listening to Scott Van Pelt’s radio show on ESPN earlier today and he brought up an interesting fact about the NFC Championship Game: Over the last five years, there has only been one team to make a repeat performance in the NFC Championship Game, which are the Saints (2007, 2009). That means we have seen nine out of possible 10 teams that could make the title game.

Talk about parity.

The interesting thing to me about this factual nugget is that every year when fans and media pundits make their predictions, how many of them include the Super Bowl winner or runner-up in the conference title game? I don’t have hard facts, but I’m willing to assume that more times than not, prognosticators predict that teams that won the previous years will at least make another deep postseason run, yet history says otherwise (at least in the NFC, that is).

Take the Saints for example. The 2009 season hasn’t concluded yet, but chances are they’re going to have a similar makeup next season. Sean Payton will still be the head coach, Gregg Williams will still be the defensive coordinator, Drew Brees will still be under center and they’re still going to have a potent offense, regardless of whether or not Reggie Bush is retained. So logic would state that if they made it this far in 2009, that they could repeat next year.

But that’s the great thing about the NFL – it’s completely unpredictable. That’s why teams that didn’t make the playoffs this year still have hope, and not just hope for a postseason berth next season, but possibly more. If history repeats itself, there’s a very good chance that we will see two completely different teams in the NFC conference game next season.

Of course, if you’re a Detroit Lions fan just go ahead and disregard that last paragraph.

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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

While every year has its own host of surprises, there are always those stories that simply fit the trend. Sure, it can get repetitive, but if we don’t look back at history aren’t we only doomed to repeat it? Every year has its fair share of stories that fell into this category, and 2008 was no different.

Our list of things we already knew this year includes the BCS’ continued suckiness (Texas-Oklahoma), how teamwork wins championships (KG, Pierce and Ray-Ray), and the #1 rule for carrying a handgun into a nightclub – don’t use your sweatpants as a holster. (Come on, Plax. Really? Sweatpants?)

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Think Might Happen.”

Brett Favre can’t make up his mind.

The biggest story of the summer was all the drama surrounding Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. This saga has been covered to death, but there’s one detail that never seemed to get that much play. At the start, it looked like the Packers were making a bad decision by moving on so quickly even when Favre decided he wanted to return. But when the news broke about Favre’s near-unretirement in March, the Packers stance became much more clear. They were ready to take him back after the owners’ meetings, but he called it off at the last minute. At that point, the Packer brass was understandably finished with Brett Favre, much to the chagrin of a good portion of the Packer faithful. – John Paulsen

The Chicago Cubs’ title drought is not a fans-only phenomenon.

The 2008 Cubs were easily the best team the franchise has assembled in decades, but they still couldn’t win a single game in the playoffs, and the reason is simple: the pressure finally got to them. Sure, they said the right things to the press about how they didn’t care about what had happened in the past, but don’t believe a word of it; there wasn’t a single person in that dugout that wasn’t fantasizing about being part of the team that finally, mercifully, ended the longest title drought in sports history. Once ESPN picked them to win it all, however, they were doomed. Ryan Dempster walked seven batters in Game 1, which matched his total for the month of September. The entire infield, including the sure-handed Derrek Lee, committed errors in Game 2. Alfonso Soriano went 1-14 with four strikeouts in the leadoff spot, while the team as a whole drew six walks and struck out 24 times. The team with so much balance in the regular season suddenly became the most one-dimensional team in baseball; take Game 1 from them, then sit back and watch them choke. And now that this group has lost six straight playoff games (the team has lost nine straight dating back to 2003), it isn’t about to get any easier. Get a helmet, Cubs fans. – David Medsker

If you’re going to wear sweatpants to a nightclub, leave the gun at home.

If winning a Super Bowl is the pinnacle of an NFL player’s career, than shooting yourself with your own gun in a nightclub has to be rock bottom. Case in point: Plaxico Antonio Burress. Just 10 months after helping the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg while at a nightclub. Apparently the (unregistered) gun was slipping down his leg and when he tried to grab it to keep it from falling, the lucky bastard wound up pulling the trigger and shooting himself. And that wasn’t the worst of it because as Plaxico found out, New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. He was arrested, but posted bail of $100,000 and is scheduled to return to court on March 31, 2009. If convicted of carrying a weapon without a license, he faces up to three and a half years in jail. He shouldn’t expect special treatment, either. The mayor of New York wants to be sure that Burress is prosecuted just like any other resident of NYC. The Giants, meanwhile, placed him on their reserve/non-football injury list and effectively ended his season. While “Plax” definitely deserves “Boner of the Week” consideration for his stupidity, what’s sad is that in the wake of Washington Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor’s death, most NFL players feel the need to arm themselves when they go out. Maybe players can learn from not only Taylor’s death, but also Burress’s accident so further incidents can be avoided. – Anthony Stalter

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10 things in sports that I’m thankful for

Ah, Thanksgiving – the time to give thanks.

I thought that since it was Thanksgiving (which don’t forget, is the time to give thanks) that I would lay out 10 things that I’m thankful for in the world of sports.

I’m thankful for…

1…there’s no possible way we’ll see a Big Ten team play in the national championship.
I love the Big Ten for many reasons – the physical brand of football, the traditions, the rivalries, etc. But there’s no team in that conference this year that could match up with the likes of Alabama, Florida, Texas or Oklahoma on a national stage. Penn State and Ohio State are solid teams, but if the Nittany Lions took on the Gators in the title game, there’s a good chance that we’d all be watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by halftime.

New York Jets
2…parity in the NFL.
How exciting is the NFL again this season? None of the divisions outside of the NFC West and maybe the NFC East have been decided yet and we still have five weeks of action left. Granted, there has been a lot of mediocre football being played around the league, but at least parity has bred competition on a weekly basis. Who would have thought that at this point in the season, the Jets, Ravens and Falcons would all be vying for a playoff spot?

3…rivalry week in college football.
Granted, not all of the matchups are attractive, but how great is it that Auburn is playing Alabama the same week Florida is playing Florida State? Even Ole’ Miss and Mississippi State will be entertaining and the possibility that one of the ranked schools will be knocked off by a rival is exciting.

4…the Hot Stove League is heating up again.
Outside of Opening Day and the postseason, this is by far the best time in baseball. Who doesn’t love hopping on the computer each day and surfing through all the rumors? And once your team lands one of the prized free agents, it’s all you can do from imaging your team playing in the Fall Classic next year.

5…fantasy football playoffs.
Everyone sitting in the bottom half of their fantasy football standings right now just flipped me the bird, but for those of us gearing up for the playoffs, the culmination of everything we’ve been working for all season is finally here. This is the time of year when you say, “Work? What work? Sorry boss – I’ve got to check my roster 4,000 more times before noon and then hit the Steelers training room so I can massage Ben Roethlisberger’s hamstrings so to ensure he’s ready to go this Sunday.”

6…shootouts in hockey.
Hockey purists tell me that shootouts determining which team wins and loses “isn’t really hockey.” Fair enough, but at least when I spend $80 on a ticket now I actually see my team win or go down in flames. There’s nothing more unsatisfying than a tie in sports – any sport. If I watch a bunch of players go at it on a slab of ice for three hours, I want to feel either ecstatic or traumatized at the end.

Manny Ramirez7…Manny Ramirez being a free agent.
If you don’t like following the circus that is Manny Ramirez, than you’ve got issues. And the fact that he’s a free agent this offseason only means we’ll get “Manny being Manny” on full blast over the next couple weeks/months. I seriously can’t wait to see where this goofy bastard winds up playing next year, but I’m going to enjoy the process even more.

8…humorous sports blogs.
How great is it that I can get a recap of the Cowboys-Giants game at the same place I can read about how Tony Romo nailed Jessica Simpson on a beach in Mexico? It’s a beautiful thing.

9…MAC football on a Tuesday night.
When most people see that Northern Illinois is taking on Buffalo on a random Tuesday night, they usually keep flipping until they land on a new episode of “Dancing With the Stars.” Not me. During football season, I don’t care of Texas is playing Oklahoma or Texas School for the Blind is taking on Oklahoma Little Sisters of the Poor – I’m watching it…and recording that new episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”

10…Erin Andrews working the sidelines.
‘Nuff said.

All-Time Top 15 Team Turnarounds

Marshall FaulkTHE LOVE OF SPORTS has compiled a list of the all-time top 15 team turnarounds.

14. Atlanta Falcons (1998)
This team went from 7-9 and out of the playoffs in 1997 to 14-2 in 1998, winning the NFC West and putting together a magical Super Bowl run before losing to Denver and John Elway…

9. New England Patriots (2001)
This was the year that launched the Patriots’ dynasty, with their first of three Super Bowls coming in the 2001 season…

6. New Orleans Saints (2006)
This was, and quite possibly still remains, the best story in football in recent memory. It wasn’t only the Saints’ incredible turnaround on the field, but also how their play raised everyone’s spirits off the field…

2. St. Louis Rams (1999)
For decades, the Rams had always been a franchise that just couldn’t get it right, drafting poorly and lacking the necessary talent to compete in the NFL. The year before its miraculous turnaround, St. Louis had traded for dynamic running back Marshall Faulk, but it didn’t turn into immediate success, as the team finished 4-12…

The teams listed above are prime examples of why the NFL needs parity. Every year a team comes out of nowhere, makes a run and people enjoy jumping on the bandwagon. Remember how good the Rams were in 1999? They torched everybody that year and were fun to watch. And who didn’t get into the Saints’ 2006 season after Hurricane Katrina ruined their 2005 season? Can’t wait to see what team comes out of nowhere and emerges in 2008.

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