The Year in National Sports

The sports world has certainly provided its share of memorable moments in the past year. From the Super Bowl last February, to the Olympics in August, to, well, the Super Bowl again last weekend, here are some of the biggest headlines from 2008. In no particular (somewhat chronological) order:

• The Patriots’ perfect season — Despite the “Spygate” scandal surrounding the New England Patriots to start the season, Tom Brady and company would dominate the rest of the NFL en route to an undefeated regular season and the AFC Championship …

• The Giants win the Super Bowl — … but the Patriots fell short of winning it all at the hands of Eli Manning and the New York Giants, in an unforgettable (or, for Pats fans, very forgettable) Super Bowl XLII.

• Kansas wins NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship — In the first Final Four to feature four number one seeded teams, Kansas overcomes a nine-point deficit with two minutes remaining and edges out Memphis in overtime. Certain sports staff members are still in denial.

• The Celtics win the NBA Championship In one of the most anticipated and heated Finals matchups in recent memory, Boston, with its superstar trio of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, defeats the League MVP Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

• Nadal wins Wimbledon — In what some consider to be the greatest tennis match ever, second-ranked Rafael Nadal defeats number one seed Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final. The match lasted for nearly five hours, and marked the first Grand Slam final loss for Federer outside of the French Open.

• Spain wins Euro 2008 — Yes, I know nobody in the United States cares about soccer, but this must have been a pretty big deal since it was listed in every single 2008 sports highlights list I found.

• Lewis Hamilton wins F1 Championship — Same as above, except substitute “Formula One” for “soccer.”

• Joey Chestnut Wins Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest — After downing 59 hot dogs in ten minutes, Chestnut defeats Takeru Kobayashi in a sudden death eat-off in a nationally broadcast contest on the Fourth of July. The United States regains the eating title from Japan, in what one ESPN commentator called “the greatest moment in sports history.”

• The Summer Olympics — With China setting out to overawe the world in its “coming-out party,” the Beijing Games began with an extravagant, spectacular opening ceremony and finished with athletes breaking records and racking up the hardware. Among them:

• Michael Phelps — Wins eight gold medals, including several exhilarating finishes, and becomes the most decorated Olympian ever. Is it any wonder they started calling Beijing’s Water Cube “Phelps’s House”?

• Usain Bolt — The world’s fastest man from Jamaica sets three records at the Games. He’s so good, he stops running before the finish line during the 100-meter finals to celebrate, and still smashes the world record.

• Tiger Woods — Not an Olympian, but ridiculous nonetheless. He proves that he’s still the world’s best golfer, even on one knee.

• Rays win the pennant — In the most dramatic single-single turnaround in baseball history, the Tampa Bay Rays finish ahead of the Red Sox and Yankees to win the AL East and eventually reach the World Series. In a memorable offseason moment, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman says his team needs to spend hundreds of millions of dollars so they can play like Tampa Bay.

• Phillies Win the World Series — Behind the pitching of Cole Hamels, the Phillies finally bring a championship to their title-starved city. Wild celebration and revelry ensues; surprisingly, Philadelphians don’t burn down the city.