Wednesday, December 28, 2016 - Updated: 9:17 AMTrying to compile a “Top Ten” list for 2016 sporting events proved to be a little more difficult than I thought it would be so here’s what you get instead. A backwards glance at the year in sports on both a national and local level.
2016 started on a nice note for MOST sports fans when Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl win. I use the term ‘led’ loosely. Manning exited the game in the best way possible — winning a Super Bowl but Manning actually had very little to do with the win, and he graciously acknowledged that in the postgame ceremonies.
Number 18 rode off into the sunset (actually right into the TV studios to hawk pizza, insurance, etc.) to await his election into the NFL’s Hall of Fame. It’s good to be Peyton.
LeBron James, a few months later, led his Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title. James had a little more to do with the Cavs’ win than did Peyton as the Cavs bested Stephen (Stef) Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a memorable seven game series. James garnered MVP honors for his efforts.
In the NCAA basketball finals, Kris Jenkins hit a buzzer beater that led the Villanova Wildcats to a 77-74 win over North Carolina.
The changing of the seasons brought a couple of noteworthy deaths to the sporting world as Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74. From his emergence as a skinny, loud mouthed kid from Louisville, Kentucky with lightning fast hands, to the greatest boxer of all times, Ali hollered, preened, elbowed and punched his way onto the world stage.
The three fight series with Joe Frazier was a veritable boxing highlight reel from the early 70s. Ali was to become the most recognizable face in the world and a revered figure but personally, I remember all too well the taunting and the racial slurs he used about Frazier who seemed to me to be a humble, reserved and rather ordinary man who carried himself with a quiet dignity. Ali died June 3rd.
Later on in June, basketball lost a legendary figure when Pat Summitt, nee Head from Clarksville, Tennessee died from Alzheimer’s disease. Summitt was known for her unrelenting loyalty to her players and her concern for them and for The Stare. In her coaching career at the University of Tennessee, Summitt amassed a staggering total of 1098 wins before retiring in 2012 at the age of 59. In 2012 Summitt was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
The Summer Olympic games in Rio were highlighted by the efforts of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, the fastest human ever timed, and American swimmer Michael Phelps. The Summer Games were also ‘low-lighted’ by the escapade of Ryan Lochte, who trailed only Phelps in Olympic medals won. The disgraceful incident at the convenience store tarnished the reputation of a distinguished swimmer.
The end of baseball season was highlighted by one of the best World Series ever and dampened by the loss of Jose Fernandez, a terrific young pitcher for the Miami Marlins. Fernandez died tragically in late September in a boating accident in Miami Harbor. Toxicology reports revealed the presence of alcohol and cocaine in Fernandez’ blood.
Obviously the story of the year has to be the Cubs. One of the best assemblages of young talent in recent history and two of the best current day managers in a Series of ‘lovable losers.” It didn’t disappoint. Game Seven ranks right up there with Game Six (a 12 inning gem) of the 1975 Series between Cincinnati and Boston.
On a personal note, almost all the Cubs’ fans I know have been overwhelmingly gracious regarding their new found importance. I guess they have been subjected to enough ‘stuff’ over the years to humble them sufficiently.
Ironically, on the same day (Fernandez died in the wee hours of the morning) that baseball lost young Jose Fernandez the golfing world, as well as the world as a whole, lost Arnold Palmer. The man who pretty much brought golf to the masses with Arnie’s Army died at the age of 87. One of the game’s truly good guys, Arnie is missed dearly.
Speaking of golf, this fall brought the return of Tiger Woods to competitive golf. Love him or hate him, the game is better off with Tiger back on the prowl.
In a loosely chronological order, those are the “top ten” stories of 2016 for me.
On a local level, Massac County Junior High’s softball team brought home the Southern Illlinois Junior High School Athletics Association Class L (large schools) Championship. The lady Trojans defeated Murphysboro, Highland and West Frankfort en route to the title.
Just over a week ago, Massac County basketball coach Joe Hosman reached an historic milestone when his Patriots beat Anna Jonesboro for his 700th win.
And a sadder note to end with — this past April saw the passing of Lewis “Louie” Bowles. Bowles was a benefactor “par excellence” of Massac County athletics and is sorely missed.
Well there you have it, noteworthy events in the world of sports.