Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Best of the Decade, 2010-19: My Favorite Sports Stories

Although I've never actually lived in the city of Chicago--just the suburbs--and resided in Los Angeles for 3 years at the start of the 1990s, in terms of sports fandom I consider myself a lifelong Chicagoan.

My allegiances have never lied elsewhere.

But while this will make some of my favorite athletic happenings of the past 10 years Chicago-centric, this won't just be a list of the best seasons had by local teams.

Nor should this be construed as my picks of the Best Athletes or Best Teams of the Decade, though some of those are certainly represented.

Rather, from a decidedly personal point of view, these can be considered:

The Best Things to Happen in the
World of Sports over the Past Decade

1. 108 is Enough: Cubs Win!
Quite simply, though maybe a touch hyperbolically, the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series in 2016 after an 108 year drought was the greatest thing to ever happen. I attended three Series games--the first two in Cleveland and Game 5 at Wrigley Field--but though it almost killed me, Game 7 was my favorite.

2. Hat Trick Kane: Blackhawks Win 3 Stanley Cups
I was fortunate to be at Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup and all three title runs were thrilling, though I missed seeing almost all of the 2013 Cup--including the famed 2 goals in 17 seconds against the Bruins--because I was in Europe.

3. The Quiet Superstar, U.S. Edition: Mike Trout
To this day he could probably walk through a shopping mall almost anywhere in America without being noticed, but a guy taken with the #25 pick in 2009 has decidedly been the best player in baseball since his first full season at the age of 20. Now 28, he's won 3 MVP awards, come in second four times and fourth once.

4. The Quiet Superstar, World Edition: Lionel Messi
I'm not a huge soccer fan but I have friends who are. And though he hasn't helped his native Argentina achieve the highest heights on an international level, with his club team, Barcelona, Messi has been among the best players anyone has ever seen.

5. Loyola's Final Four Run, Second to Nun
This is seemingly a highly Chicago-centric pick, but Loyola University was a #11 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament yet reached the Final Four. And their #1 fan, Sister Jean Schmidt--then 98 years old--helped make much of the country cheer on this Cinderella story.

6. Leicester Defies the 5000-to-1 Odds
Again, soccer, this time concerning the English Premier League. But prompted by some pals, I paid attention as the Leicester City Football Club--which began the season with 5000-to-1 bookie odds against doing so--won the league title in 2015-16. Some have called it the most shocking season result in sports history.

7. Lightning Bolt
Certainly, some U.S. athletes--Michael Phelps and Simone Biles among others--were remarkably impressive in the Olympics this decade, and merit great admiration. But Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, having established himself as the fastest human being with gold medals in the 100m and 200m at the 2008 Olympics, again won those two races, plus a relay, at the 2012 and 2016 Games. And he seemed like the world's coolest human being in doing so. 

8. Halcyon Times in Tennis
Their greatness goes back to the past decade, but it's been tons of fun watching the continued runs of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. The 38-year-old Federer has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, but 33-year-old Nadal with 19 and 32-year-old Djokovic with 16 are right on his heels for the all-time men's record. And with 12 Slam singles wins this decade, Serena Williams' total of 23 are the most of anyone in the Open Era. She also has 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles with her sister Venus.

9. Tiger Roars Once More
I used to love watching Tiger Woods during his years of golf dominance. But in addition to showing himself not to be a great husband, he also made me believe he likely isn't a great person. Still, after years of injuries had, at times, made him among the worst players on the PGA Tour, it was undeniably thrilling to see him win the Masters this year at age 43.

10. USWNT Has a Ball
For all kinds of silly reasons--their looks, haircuts, sexuality, celebrations, goal differentials, confidence, boldness and more--the U.S. Women's Soccer Team seemed to engender a lot of hate from many corners. But at the 2019's Women's World Cup, they proved they were the best team in the world. 

11. The Perfectly Unlikely Phil Humber
On April 21, 2012, Philip Humber, a journeyman pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, threw the 21st perfect game (27 up, 27 down) in major league history. It was just his 12th career win. After that game, he would earn just 4 more wins, with an ERA over 7.00 and be out of the majors after the 2013 season. Still, one shining moment. I was lucky to see the end of the game live on TV. 

Honorable Mention

- Ageless Tom Brady Leads the Patriots to 6 More Super Bowls and 3 More Titles
- Cleveland Finally Gets to Celebrate as LeBron Leads the Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA Title
- After Decades with No Horse Racing Triple Crowns, American Pharaoh (2015) and Justify (2018) Both Win
- Loaded with Talent, the Golden State Warriors Win 3 NBA Titles in 5 Straight Finals Visits, Led by Likable Shooting Guard Stephen Curry
- After Losing Superstar Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals Win the World Series the Next Year, Beating Multiple Favored Teams
- In Chicago, the Bears and Bulls Had a Few Good Seasons, Led by the 2010-11 Bulls in Derrick Rose's MVP Campaign


Hemingway1955 said...

I was particularly enamored by #5. Loyola being like the Cubs of college basketball in that they haven't won the whole thing in decades. I bet most people remember Sister Jean but couldn't name the first string players of that year's team.

Hemingway1955 said...

I think "My allegiances have never lied elsewhere." should be "My allegiances have never lain elsewhere."