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Sports In 2011 - A Look Back
January 1, 2012 - Al Stephenson
The world of sports in 2011 was a mixed bag of good and bad. Then again that's the way it is every year. Let's take a look back.
The year began with the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl. Since the Packers are a publicly owned franchise, this is a victory for the little guy. It's also a win for the cheeseheads!
This year's NFL season almost never got off the ground and indeed it did lose some preseason games (like that matters) due to labor strife. The two sides finally settled their differences and the Packers got off to a robust start. Their first (and only) loss came at the hands of the woeful Kansas City Chiefs in week 15. The Chiefs may just have created a new full time head coaching job for Romeo Crennel. Time will tell if he gets the job permanently but we do know that the 1972 Dolphins once again drank a toast to another year as the only undefeated team in NFL history.
In college football Ohio State fans had to deal with the firing of coach Jim Tressel. His downfall began in 2010 as Tatoogate started out as a minor offense of NCAA rules, but culminated in the ouster of the popular and highly successful coach. Ohio State was blistered in the media. Leave it to a rogue booster at Miami and sex abuse charges against a former Penn St. assistant to make the Bucks mess seem, well, less messy!
Rory McIlroy put the Sunday Masters collapse behind him quickly as he roared to victory in the U.S. Open. His rise coincided with the downfall of one Tiger Woods. Tiger was no where to be found when you looked into the winners circle - until the end of the year that is. With a win late, Tiger gave notice that he may return to top form. Time will tell.
Baseball had a ton of drama leading to the end of the regular season. The excitement never stopped as the playoffs made for great TV watching. The St. Louis Cardinals barely made it in to the postseason show and then went on to win an outstanding World Series in 7 games. Baseball looked to be in great shape going into the winter meetings. Then Albert Pujols shocked Cardinal fans by flying off to Anaheim for a contract that basically defies belief. Then came the revelation that NL MVP Ryan Braun of the Brewers tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. That put a little damper on an otherwise awesome season. I guess we have to take the good with the bad.
In auto racing Tony Stewart limped into Nascar's version of the postseason barely making the Chase and then announcing he didn't really belong. Right Smoke! He then proceeded to win half the Chase races which was necessary as he and Carl Edwards tied in points. Stewart won the tiebreaker and became the 2011 points champion.
Dan Wheldon showed up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May without a ride. The former Indy 500 champion was a victim of the numbers game as sponsor dollars were at a minimum. He secured a ride and went on to win the race again when rookie J.R. Hildebrand hit the wall in turn 4 on the last lap. Alas the good feeling that all race fans had on that Memorial Day weekend turned completely around when an accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway claimed Wheldon's life in the last race of the season.
The NBA had its own labor issues. They were solved in time to start an abbreviated season on Chistmas Day. I'll let you decide if that is good news or bad!
A couple of plane crashes claimed the lives of sports people in 2011. A Russian hockey team was killed as was the head women's basketball coach and top assistant at Oklahoma State University when the small plane they were passengers in went down following a recruiting trip.
The view from my seat suggests that 2011 overall was a good year for the sports industry. There will always be negatives though. Here's hoping that 2012 will be a year free of abuse charges, plane crashes and the bad side of sports.
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