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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Lions players new and old sure have fun with Halloween

SPORTSbyBROOKS.com has the story of Roy Williams and his hilarious choice for Halloween costume.

Everyone had a good laugh, but what about the butt of the joke: the still jobless Tatum Bell? Williams said he texted Bell asking him if it was cool, and received the go-ahead. If true, that means that Bell has managed to grown a sense of humor in the two months since he took the bags and snuck out of Ford Field like a child taking his ball and going home.

The Lions annual Halloween party seems to be more mean-spirited than most. The stars of last year were Jon Kitna and his wife, dressed up as defensive coach Joe Cullen and Wendy, from the restaurant. Cullen had been arrested for, among other things, picking up an order from the Wendy’s drive-thru window naked. Here’s that costume:

Jon Kitna

They may be winless, but it’s hard to argue with the Lions’ players sense of humor on Halloween. Williams’ mock costume of Bell is priceless!

Rudi Johnson stole Tatum Bell’s job; Tatum Bell stole Rudi Johnson’s luggage

After bolstering their backfield by signing former Bengals running back Rudi Johnson, the Detroit Lions informed Tatum Bell of his release. Shortly after that, Johnson informed Matt Millen that someone had made off with his bags:

Tatum BellJohnson left his bags outside CEO Matt Millen’s office while he met with team officials and, ultimately, worked out a deal with the team.

So when Johnson came back to get his bags, they were nowhere to be found. Johnson and Millen were stumped.

Enter the eye in the sky.

The team checked the videotapes generated by the team’s in-house surveillance system, and they quickly identified the culprit.

So who might it have been? None other than Tatum Bell, who lost his gig with the Lions after Rudi arrived.

Per the source, Bell took the bags to the house of a female acquaintance. When confronted on the matter, Bell offered up some cockamamie story that he thought the bags belonged to someone he knew. The girl, however, said that she hadn’t seen Bell in several months and he showed up out of the blue and asked her to keep the bags for a while.

Johnson eventually retrieved his bags and, reportedly, charges were not filed.

Times are undoubtedly tough for Bell right now. Jobless and with a reputedly poor work ethic, it may be quite some time before he lands another NFL gig. He was understandably desperate. And pissed. But the silver lining here is that Bell solidified his legacy with this one brilliant decision. He’ll no longer be remembered as an over-hyped, underachieving fumbler. Now, he’s the guy who stole Rudi Johnson’s luggage. How sweet is that?

Meanwhile, Lions fans should be grateful that Rudi didn’t have to pursue Bell on foot, since recent history suggests his hammy wouldn’t have survived the chase. In which case the Lions may have once again been in the market for a running back, and since Tatum Bell already knows the system….

Detroit Lions sign Rudi Johnson

The Detroit Lions improved their backfield situation by signing former Bengal Rudi Johnson to a one-year contract. Tatum Bell is expected to be released.

After practice on Monday, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli said, “I just had a chance to watch him in some drills (during a workout) and he’s impressive. He’s a big, thick guy who has great feet. I played against him over the years so I know he’s a very physical back. He’s a guy with a lot of talent and a lot of experience.”

I can’t believe the Cincinnati Bengals let Johnson go without getting anything in return. He had a bad hamstring last year and again this year in training camp, but he came to camp in shape and he’s a proven back. Frankly, it looks like the Bengals are returning to their penny-pinching ways. Mike Brown is proving once again that he’s one of the worst owners in professional sports.

From a fantasy football perspective, anyone who drafted Kevin Smith has to be a little disappointed, as Rudi Johnson might steal plenty of carries as the year goes on.

Bengals cut Rudi Johnson

Two years ago, Rudi Johnson rushed for 1308 yards and 12 TD. In the two seasons before that, he rushed for at least 1450 yards and 12 scores. Today, he’s unemployed.

…the Bengals cleared out right tackle Willie Anderson, running back Rudi Johnson, and cornerback Deltha O’Neal on Cutdown Day to get down to the 53-player limit.

They all made Hawaii in 2005 as the Bengals celebrated the AFC North title. Johnson’s 1,458 yards and O’Neal’s 10 interceptions in that season are still in the book as club records.

“Obviously the play fell off in ’07, and we just haven’t seen a lot of change thus far this year,” said head coach Marvin Lewis in a late afternoon news conference. “It’s a hard decision to make.”

Even though he returned to practice last week, the Bengals apparently decided they hadn’t seen enough of the new and improved Johnson this summer and cut the man projected to once be their bell-cow running back in 2008.

It’s amazing how over-the-hill the 28 year-old Johnson seems right now. He had 1039 carries from 2004-2006, and it appears that they really took their toll. If he can get healthy, he can probably help someone, but for now he’ll join former top fiver Shaun Alexander in the ranks of the unemployed.

From a fantasy point of view, this is a big upgrade for Chris Perry (the current “starter”) and Kenny Watson. Perry has had his own injury problems in the past, so if you can grab both players, do so. Watson has always been productive when given the chance.

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