Here's a look at some of 2008's more memorable sports moments and achievements, good and bad, in the year that was.
The Catch and resulting Super Bowl upset elevated a defensive purist's game to a historic level. Giants QB Eli Manning suddenly morphed into Randall Cunningham to escape New England's clutches, heaving the ball downfield. David Tyree – 54 catches over five seasons – fought off bulldog Rodney Harrison to wedge the ball between his hand and helmet.
It happened 10 days before the end of 2007, but Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez was The Trade of the year. Hamilton overcame drug addiction to produce awe-inspiring power numbers for Texas, while Volquez went 17-6 on a mediocre Cincy club.
Alexander Ovechkin was The Star of the NHL in 2008, scoring 65 goals and several awards, assisting on the Jack Adams. What we like just as much is that despite the ESL limitations, he understands that sports is entertainment off the ice too, without being a relentless self-promoter like some people.
The Matchup in the Stanley Cup final pitted the deep and talented Detroit Red Wings and the precocious Pittsburgh Penguins with young stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Games 3, 5, and 6 were very exciting. Mike Babcock showed he's not just a regular season pony and Nick Lidstrom put the final nail in the "European captains don't want it as bad" nonsense.
Spain shook the "can't win" tag with its first Euro soccer crown in 44 years, while on the following Sunday Majorcan Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer's dominance in an epic Wimbledon men's final. Nadal was worn out by November, but Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez led The Country to a third Davis Cup.
Montreal was The City on the rise in Canadian sports. The Canadiens and Alouettes rebounded to regain top footing in their divisions (the Habs for the first time in 16 years). The Impact surpassed clubs from Toronto, Vancouver, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago to reach the CONCACAF quarters … bring on Santos Laguna.
We've never subscribed to the notion that leagues root for certain teams to be in finals, but the NBA front office was no doubt ecstatic The Rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers was renewed after 20 years. Paul Pierce et al. were dominant at home.
Simon Whitfield gave Canada quite The Kick. The Sydney Games Olympic champ was looking for redemption after Athens disappointment. It appeared his best effort in Beijing would put him short of the podium, but a furious rally that was all "willpower" had people across the country standing in front of their TVs and led to a silver lining.
The fact that there was some disappointment over 17-year-old Patrick Chan's placing this month at the Grand Prix final just shows how far, so fast The Kid has come. All that's left is to get that quad down.
You might not remember, but Bill Parcells rejected Atlanta before choosing Miami. Let's call it a tie for The Turnaround of the year — the Dolphins won fewer games last year, while the Falcons had a franchise quarterback go to jail and a coach shamefully quit.
The Poise of Hugh McCutcheon was remarkable. McCutcheon coached the U.S. men's volleyball team to its first gold in 20 years, just two weeks after his father-in-law was killed and mother-in-law critically injured in an incomprehensible public attack in Beijing.
In the year of Obama, Lewis Hamilton was The Trailblazer in sport, both the youngest and first black Formula One champion ever.
It promised a spine-tingling Olympic stadium atmosphere not seen since Cathy Freeman in Sydney, but it was The Bummer in Beijing instead. Liu Xiang's Achilles injury prevented the Chinese icon from trying to repeat as Olympic 110-metre hurdles champion against the man who had just bested his world record, Dayron Robles of Cuba. A nation mourned.
The Cockeyed Optimist: Powerhouses like the NFL, NASCAR, and F1 read the economic tea leaves, and Gary Bettman did present "gloom and doom" economists at the owners' meetings. But to the public, Bettman eschews straight talk and relies instead on golden-ice pond optimism about the state of the game, when he's not too busy challenging the basis of reporter's queries.
The Horse's Ass: Even if Big Brown hadn't fizzled at the Belmont Stakes, much of the excitement surrounding a potential first Triple Crown in 30 years had been muted by Rick Dutrow. Big Brown's trainer actually has a compelling life story, but his blowhard ways and shady horse practices loomed larger.
Even Britney Spears thinks the Tampa Bay Lightning are a Circus. Kid-in-a-candy store new owners spent the summer overpaying the aged or one-dimensional. The haul for dealing Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich and Matt Carle? Nutbar Steve Downie, depth D-man Steve Eminger and a pair of first-round picks. Average margin of loss under controversial hire-and-fire Barry Melrose was 1.67. Under Rick Tocchet: 1.72.
Politicians float trial balloons all the time, but it didn't work so well when Brett Favre mused about coming back to the Green Bay Packers just weeks after retiring. Favre and Green Bay were synonymous but The Bitter Split was protracted and continued even after he became a Jet, with suggestions he tipped off Packer opponents.
The Detroit Lions were 0-14 at press time and threatening to become new standard bearers of The Inept. No NFL team has lost each game since the 16-game schedule debuted in 1978.
Sandro DeAngelis followed up a terrific Grey Cup performance with a post-game presser that was so obnoxious, he took the title of The Idiot Kicker away from Argo Mike Vanderjagt.
The Late Nights of the World Series. Dreary weather in Philly wreaked havoc, but the games in Tampa Bay didn't exactly have kid-friendly hours either. Game 3 ended around 2 a.m. ET, while the final out of Game 5 was recorded 50 hours after the opening pitch. The audience was mostly the devoted: series ratings were the lowest in the modern era.
It wasn't all peachy in Montreal sports. The Silence will be deafening in the summer of 2009 and beyond at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Grand Prix site since 1982. Meanwhile, the Impact won't be in the MLS anytime soon, denying fans a natural rivalry with FC Toronto.
The Downward Spiral of Isiah Thomas. We haven't seen an organization isolate someone like that since Milton in Office Space. Later, police said Thomas lied about a distress call at his residence. The cops said the NBAer took several Lunesta tablets. Thomas said publicly they came to help his daughter, taking him out of parent-of-the-year running.
Syringes in The Trash can. An affair with a young teen singer. A bikini-clad nanny at Jose Canseco's place. Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee vied for least-credible "honours" with claims serious and strange in an unseemly saga.
The Ottawa Senators were The Underachievers of 2008, winning 29 of 77 games between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15. A stubborn bloc still believe a goalie was to blame all 48 times.