I'm going to miss 2010. Mostly because I liked saying "twenty-ten". Twenty-eleven" is too clunky. There's one too many syllables and your mouth has to drawl through it. "Two thousand eleven" isn't much better. It's the alliteration that made it work and it was just one of the many good things about the year itself. Those of you reading may think that 2010 was not kind to me, but personally, I loved it. I graduated from school, I made some cash, I paid some bills. Sports-wise, it was actually relatively successful (by my standards). Nobody advanced in the playoffs or even won a playoff game, but two of my teams actually participated in the postseason within the same calendar year. I can't remember the last time that happened.
This is a blog about how sports hate me and 2010 provided plenty of evidence to support that claim. However, I try to keep things positive so here's what I remember most fondly about the year "Twenty-Ten". My two favorite personal sports moments of the last year.
March - 14 seeded Ohio University upsets 3 seed Georgetown
Ohio University students rarely have much to get excited about when it comes to sporting achievements from their own school. Go to Court Street on Autumn Saturdays and you'll find more scarlet than green. Accomplishments by the Bobcats on the field of play are few and far between, but in early 2010 the student body, blessed alumni, and anyone who'd ever been fortunate enough to call Athens, Ohio home were given reason to put on their green and stand up and cheer.
Simply making the big dance was an accomplishment in itself. They were long shots just to come out of the MAC as they were a modest 17-14 going into the conference Tournament. The Bobcats were 9 seeds and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament by way of victories over Ball State (in OT), 1 seeded Kent State, 4 seeded Miami (FACE), and then took out Akron in the title game with an 81-75 overtime victory.
Winning the MAC meant an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. OU was given a 14 seed and paired against 3 seeded Georgetown. 14 seed? Who cares? National powerhouse Georgetown? Who cares? The Bobcats knocked down shot after shot. It felt like they couldn't miss anything from three point range and Georgetown didn't have an answer. OU looked like the confident higher seed and by halftime had built a 48-37 lead. In the second half Georgetown pulled within five, but a barrage of threes by Armon Bassett, Tommy Freeman, and DJ Cooper (who moonlights as Steve Urkel's stunt double in his spare time) pushed the lead back to a comfortable margin. Cooper's alley-hoop pass finished off by Devaughn Washington became the signature image of the upset victory. Bassett finished with 32 points, Cooper with 23 and the Bobcats not only pulled off the upset, but smoked Georgetown, 97-83.
Boom goes the dynamite.
The number 2 party school in the nation doesn't need an excuse to celebrate, but we'll take one anyways. I was watching the game from an apartment above Court Street (Athens' main drag) with a balcony that extends over the sidewalk. It was the absolute best place to witness the chaos and excitement that ensued immediately after the game ended. For those that don't know, Athens has somewhere between between 15 and 25 bars. From where I was standing I could see a mass of people empty out of Broney's, Courtside, The Junction, Pawpurr's, The Pub, Pigskin, The Crystal, The CI, Redbrick Tavern, Cat's Eye, and Lucky's. They all met in the middle of the street for a spontaneous celebration that lasted for what felt like over an hour.
Within minutes a mob of thousands flooded the street. The Cops, to their credit allowed it to continue, and closed the street to traffic. A camera crew came up and joined us on our balcony, which brought the crowd right in front of us. I stood next to the camera with its giant light and felt like the coolest kid in Athens. OU football players, safety Patrick Tafua and QB Boo Jackson led the crowd in chants and cheers. My personal favorite being "What's a Hoya? clap clap clapclapclap Bobcat's bitch!".
Most importantly, there was pride for being an Ohio University student. The best part was the sense of community we all felt. This small town in the foothills of Appalachia had just taken down a national power, a member of the mighty Big East conference, a school from freaking Washington D.C.. Our small little college town was on the national news and it wasn't because of a riot. Nobody wanted to leave, nobody wanted the party to end. It was, perfect.
Two days later the Bobcats looked jittery and nervous against Tennessee in the second round eventually losing by 15 points. Such is the life of a MAC sports fan. Still, I'll always remember the night we beat Georgetown. Out of all of the people who have gone to OU, I honestly feel privileged to have been one of the Ohio University students fortunate enough to have been in Athens and on Court Street that night, one of the happiest nights Athens has ever seen.
September - Jay Bruce Clinches N.L. Central
The 2010 Cincinnati Reds were the definition of "pleasant surprise". They had a pitching staff, something I never thought I'd see. I remember the days when Eric Milton was our opening day starter. They were defensively the best team in the National League. Also something I never thought I'd see. I remember the days when Felipe Lopez was making untimely error after untimely error at shortstop. They had opportune hitting. They had cagey veterans in Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, and later Jim Edmonds. They had overachieving sparkplugs in Jonny Gomes, Drew Stubbs, and Paul Janish. Bullpen stability with Arthur Rhodes and controlled instability with Francisco Cordero. They had a phenom, Aroldis Chapman, and the National League MVP with Mr. Joseph Votto. There were a lot of really great moments in the 2010 season in which the Reds went 91-71 (their first winning season since 2000), but my favorite of them all is without question Jay Bruce's walk-off home run to clinch the NL Central.
Inarguably, the lowest moment of the Reds 2010 campaign was getting swept at home in early August by St. Louis after a nasty brawl in the first game of the series. My friend Josh and I were in attendance for the brawl and after losing the game I don't think I've ever felt more dejected leaving a stadium/arena. It was a sinking feeling because the Cardinals were the more experienced team with the better pitching staff. Every baseball instinct in my body was telling me that the Reds season was over.
"Your mother's tostadas were only the third best I've ever eaten"
The Cardinals left town with a one game lead and the division title was seemingly theirs to lose. They did. They suffered baffling series losses down the stretch to the likes of Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Meanwhile, the Reds showed their resiliency with a 7 game winning streak after the "devastating" sweep by the Cardinals. The series against St. Louis was supposed to give the momentum to the Cards and demoralize the Reds. It did the opposite. The sweep galvanized the Reds and brought them together as a team. They never looked back.
The best moment of the season was set up by a combination of wins and losses by the Reds and Cardinals. I watched as the magic number dwindled to under ten, which was a first for me. The last time the Reds won the division was 1995 and I was 8. Previously the only magical summer I'd had was 1999. That Reds team won 96 games and lost a heartbreaking one game playoff to the Mets for the wildcard. Still the most wins by a team that didn't make the playoffs in the wild card era.
With the Magic number at two and the Reds on the road in San Diego a terrible thought popped into my head. "We're going to win the next game, the Cards will lose, and then we'll clinch on the road watching the Cardinals on TV." It would've been in the words of Reds-LIve host Jim Day, "lame". The Cardinals didn't lose and the Reds did win. It dropped the magic number to one and the Reds came back to Cincinnati hoping to clinch in front of the home crowd. The problem was they had an off day on September 27 while the Cardinals didn't. To get my climactic moment I needed the Cardinals to beat the Pirates. I felt sick cheering for St. Louis, but they did beat Pittsburgh, 6-4. I needed to see that moment where the team piles on the field and pops champagne in the clubhouse.
It set up my moment of the year. The Astros were in town and Wandy Rodriguez, a serviceable starter for Houston, was on the hill. The Reds jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but gave up two in the second. The Reds trailed until the 6th when Brandon Phillips singled in Orlando Cabrera. The game remained tied, that is until the bottom of the 9th. I turned to my mom and said, "Jay Bruce hasn't gone yard for awhile." First pitch, gone, over the center field wall.
click to hear hall-of-famer Marty Brennaman's fantastic call
It was as climactic as it could've possibly been. For the first time in 15 years my favorite baseball team was going to the playoffs. I spent the next two hours texting every Reds fan in my phone. I couldn't go to sleep. I had to watch the post-game celebration. Aforementioned Jim Day proclaimed that he would shave his head if the Reds won the World Series. Rookie Pitcher Mike Leake called him a "pussy" on live air. Also on live air Dusty Baker said "god damn, I'm happy" and Arthur Rhodes showered Day with champagne and said "take that sh*t, bitch". It was everything I'd always hoped it would be. I could really get used to making the baseball postseason.
You all know the end to the story. The Reds dropped to the three seed which forced them to play Philadelphia instead of Atlanta. The Phillies were a far more experienced postseason team and totally outclassed the Reds. The most memorable and personal lamp smashing moment was Roy Halladay's game 1 no-hitter. We don't talk about that game. In game 2 the Reds had a 4-0 lead and then errors by Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and then a huge error by Jay Bruce in rightfield allowed the Phillies to come back. The best defensive team in the NL erred their way out of a victory. The Reds lost game 3 in a blur. Chase Utley hit a home run and Cole Hamels shut out the Reds offense. My personal playoff losing streak extended to 14 (4 in 95 NLCS, 1 in 99 one game playoffs, Bengals 2005, 4 by the Blue Jackets in 09, Bengals 2009, and 3 by the Reds in 2010 NLDS) Sports Hate Me.
It was an unceremonious end to a great season, but I hope there's many more seasons like this to come in the future and with the young pitching staff and solid lineup, I think the Reds have a window that should stay open for the next few years.
Odds and Ends
Chicago Blackhawks, San Francisco Giants end long championship droughts. The Blackhawks are one of hockey's original 6 franchise and hadn't won the Stanley Cup since 1961. Young talent in Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, and Dustin Byfuglien scored timely goals, and solid defense held up average goal-tending. They beat Philadelphia in overtime of game 6 to capture their first cup in nearly 50 years. The Giants hadn't won a world series since moving west and were haunted by Game 6 of the 2002 world series. The band of misfits surprised everyone with their series win over the Philadelphia Phillies and they took American League Champions, Texas Rangers, down in five games. If you have some spare time search Giants closer, Brian Wilson on Youtube. It's worth it.
The Philadelphia Flyers only made the playoffs because of a shootout victory over the New York Rangers. A month and a half later the Eastern Conference's 7th seed found themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals. On their way there they encountered a speed bump few teams have ever come back from. They were down 3 games to none to the Boston Bruins. The Flyers managed to come all the way back to force game 7, but quickly found themselves down to the Bruins in Boston 3 goals to none. The Flyers scored 4 goals in the last period and a half and won the game 4-3. Unbelievable.
Saints winning the Super Bowl. There's a certain kinship between the fans of long suffering NFL franchise. I feel a connection to Detroit Lions fans and to a certain extent even Cleveland Browns fans. The same could be said for true fans of the New Orleans Saints. They were downtrodden for so long and then when Hurrican Katrina hit it made it even more incredible what they were able to accomplish. It gives all the fans of bad teams hope that one day they will also stand on the Super Bowl podium.
US soccer advanced to the elimination round of the world cup. It wasn't pretty at all. They needed a lucky misplay by the English goal-keeper to tie England, a two goal comeback to tie Slovenia, and a miraculous last second goal by Landon Donavon to beat Algeria. They lost to Ghana in the next round, but team USA still managed to win their group and that is a big accomplishment in itself.
Joey Votto getting MVP. The first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds is one of sports' truly good guys. In 2010 he hit .324 with a .424 on base percentage. He also drove in 113 RBI and 37 home runs. After taking a month off in 2009 because of stress and depression related to his father's death Joey Votto was able to beat out the likes of Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carlos Gonzalez for the 2010 award. This is a great story.
Sidney Crosby beating team USA in overtime in the Olympic Gold Medal Game. I'm one of about 15 people who follows USA hockey outside of the Olympics. I even have a team USA jersey from the 88 Calgary Olympics with my name on the back. To see team USA go into the gold medal game in Vancouver and lose in overtime was heart breaking. It was especially heart breaking because the Americans had come back from a 2 goal deficit. Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils tied the game with 28 seconds left. In overtime I got three texts asking me if it was the "golden goal" format. I replied "yes, and don't ever call it that again." For the Americans, it was more like silver goal. Sidney Crosby, usually of the Pittsburgh Penguins, lifted the puck past Ryan Miller's right shoulder with a low percentage, bad angle shot. It's the kind of goal that only Crosby can score and it ended a great game with the bad guys winning.
In any consolation, it was a great game that had the nation talking about hockey and at least it's good to know that I could beat Crosby in a beard growing contest.
Duke beating Butler in the National Championship Game. All I'm going to say is I hate Duke now more than ever. Before they were this cute story about a small academic school that wins the national title a couple times a decade. Now, they're evil. They robbed us all of a moment. Butler, a school from nowhere, in a conference from nowhere came within inches of being the National Champions. It would've been the story of the decade and Duke smashed it with a big blue devil's pitchfork. Thanks for nothing, Dookies.
Bengals losing back-to-back to the Jets and getting eliminated in the wild card round of the playoffs. In the early part of 2010 I did something that I had never done before. I watched the Cincinnati Bengals play in a playoff game. "But Sean, they were in the playoffs in 2005, remember?" Yes, I do remember. I never saw it. I had a high school hockey game that started at the exact same time. I was crushed when I learned what time the game would start. In the locker-room during the first intermission one of the parents stormed in and told everyone about Carson Palmer's knee injury. It was miserable and I didn't need to see the rest. I played like a zombie and the worst part was that the team we were playing, Thomas Worthington, was awful that year. I didn't need to be there. We beat them something like 8-2 and I think I even had an assist, but I couldn't take my mind off of Carson Palmer and the Steelers injuring his knee.
As for the 2010 playoff game. Also miserable. The same team that had played so well all season and swept the AFC North made silly mistakes, missed field goals, missed tackles, missed execution and it all led to missing a trip to the next round. Perhaps it was foreshadowing for the 2010 season when they lost ten straight. Another bad memory.
Already mentioned, Reds get no-hit, lose game 2 in meltdown, lose game 3 at home. Hopefully we won't have to wait another 15 years to get back to the post season.
Thanks for reading my blog. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to complaints about teams you probably don't care about. I look forward to writing in the future and I hope you continue to follow me and my sports hate.
see you all in 2011
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