Decade to remember

It’s hard to believe that we’re already 10 years into the new millennium. Since we’re on the cusp of a new decade in sports history, it’s high time we take a look back at some of the interesting storylines, the significant achievements and newsworthy events of the past 10 years. The following is a list of some of the more memorable moments in the world of sports, from 2001-2010.

10. Tiger Woods wins 2008 US Open on one leg

Before the sex scandal that would change his public image entirely, Tiger Woods had a reputation for being the most dominant golfer of his generation, well on his way to breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for most PGA major tournament victories. His last major victory came at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California. It was perhaps his most impressive victory to date. Playing on what would later be reported as a double stress fracture in his left tibia, Tiger managed to take a one-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s final round. Grimacing in pain as shot after shot put more stress on his injured leg, Tiger willed his way through the final round and managed to win a sudden death playoff to secure his 14th major championship. It was a win that exemplified Tiger’s determination and will to win; arguably his most impressive victory.

9. Usain Bolt: the fastest man alive

In the summer of 2008, Jamaican track star Usain Bolt stole the show at the Beijing Olympic Games as he ran his way into the record books, shattering world and Olympic records in both the 100 metre and 200 metre track events. Finishing off his exceptional Olympic performance by helping the Jamaican 4×100 metre relay team win the gold medal (which also set the world record for the men’s 4×100 metre), Bolt became the only track athlete since Carl Lewis in 1986 to win gold in all three track events during the same Olympic games. Because of his record-shattering performances, Bolt earned the title of World’s Fastest Man and has since broken his 100 metre and 200 metre records at the 2009 Berlin Track and Field World Championships.

8. The most dominant franchise of the decade: the Los Angeles Lakers

Among all the major sports leagues in North America, no franchise was more dominant in the past 10 years than the Los Angeles Lakers. Anchored by future Hall-of-Famers Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and coached by living legend Phil Jackson, the Lakers started the decade with a bang, continuing their winning ways winning three back-to-back NBA Championship titles from 2000-02. Just as dominant as they were back in the ’80s with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, the Lakers made the playoffs in all but one season this decade, and played in the NBA Finals series six times. Between 2000-10, the Lakers won five championships, including back-to-back championships in 2008-09 and 2009-10. With Kobe still at the top of his game and the Lakers proving that O’Neal’s departure didn’t slow the team down, the yearly question isn’t “will the Lakers make the playoffs,” but, rather, “how deep will they go?”

7. Bisons win first Vanier Cup in over 30 years

Worth mentioning on the list is our very own University of Manitoba Bisons football team, who were undefeated in 2007 on their way to a well deserved Vanier Cup title. With the Bombers in the Grey Cup, Winnipeg had the potential to be on top of the Canadian football world. While the Bombers came up short, the Bisons would live up to expectations as they defeated the St. Mary’s Huskies 28-14. Unfortunately, the game was marred by a disturbing injury to Bisons RB Matt Henry, who suffered a nasty broken femur on a run play during the first quarter. Undeterred, Henry would return from his injury and played out his final year of eligibility for Manitoba this past season.

6. Grey Cup 2009: the 13th man

In a decade in which the Winnipeg Blue Bombers failed to win the CFL title, the 2009 Grey Cup might have been the next best thing for Bomber fans. With the game being played in Calgary, there was expected to be a sizable Rider fan turnout for the final, much of the pre-game hype revolving around the impact of the “13th man.” With the game seemingly won on a last second field goal attempt, Saskatchewan broke out in celebration. Unfortunately, the Riders were called for a too many men penalty (13 players on the field) and Montreal was given another shot at winning the game. The Alouettes would kick the field goal and win the game and the gaff would lead to a plethora of 13th man jokes for the rest of the year. The Riders would get an opportunity to redeem themselves one year later in a 2010 Grey Cup rematch against Montreal, but lost once again to their Eastern rival by a score of 21-18.

5. Five gold medals in a row for Canadian junior hockey

For five straight years, from 2005 to 2009, Team Canada started the New Year off with a golden performance, as the World Junior Hockey Tournament became as much a part of the holiday season as long lines at the mall or getting drunk on New Year’s Eve. Featuring teams stacked with future NHL superstars (Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, Jordan Eberle, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, to name a few), the impressive run that Canada put together included two gold medals won on Canadian soil (Vancouver in 2006 and Ottawa in 2009). The streak came to an end in 2010, when Team Canada lost the Gold medal game in overtime against the U.S.A..

4. The rise of the UFC

By the turn of the 21st century, boxing had already begun to wane in mainstream popularity. At the same time, mixed martial arts had just started to emerge as one of the fastest growing sports on the planet with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brand leading the way. Existing as a fringe combat-sport promotion since 1993 and criticized for being overly violent (U.S. Sen. John McCain referred to it as “human cockfighting”), the UFC managed to successfully reform and refine the sport as their Pay-Per-View audiences grew. With increased exposure worldwide including a successful reality TV show and a popular video game series, it’s safe to say that the UFC and similar MMA franchises will only continue to grow in popularity.

3. Super Bowl XLII Patriots vs. Giants

In 2008, the New England Patriots could not be stopped; they ran the table and finished the regular season undefeated. Easily winning their way into the Super Bowl, the Patriots were supposed to defeat the underdog New York Giants to become the only NFL team to have perfect championship season since the Miami Dolphins pulled it off in 1972. With New England holding onto a four-point lead with only 2:39 left in the game, Giants quarterback Eli Manning had to keep the Giants’ offence on the field. Needing a conversion on third and five, Manning somehow managed to break free from the Patriots tremendous pass rush and heaved a pass down the middle of the field. Giants receiver David Tyree went up and managed to get a hand on the ball and somehow managed to maintain possession of the ball by pinning it against his helmet. “The helmet catch” went for 32 yards and would prove to be key, as Manning would throw the game winning touchdown pass five plays later in what could possibly be the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.

2. Red Sox break the curse in 2004

Despite being a baseball hater, I have to admit that the Boston Red Sox’s World Series run in 2004 was probably the most compelling storyline of the decade. After losing three straight against the New York Yankees in the AL Champion Series, the Red Sox staged a comeback for the ages. This series had everything you need for a compelling sports story: a historic rivalry, impossible odds and a cast of lovable characters that you can’t help but root for. If you need to refresh your memory, I would highly suggest watching the 30 for 30 documentary 4 Days in October, which wonderfully chronicles the AL Championship Series from a fans perspective. After coming back against the Yankees, the Red Sox would, of course, go on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series for their first title since 1918.

1. Canadian success at the Winter Olympics

Taking into consideration our country’s obsession with hockey, the greatest Winter Olympic moments of the decade came in 2002 and 2010, when Canada won double gold in both men’s and women’s hockey. The decade was capped off perfectly at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, which featured too many special moments to mention here, but perhaps the most significant moment happened on Feb. 14, when freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s first Gold medal on Canadian soil. In total, 14 gold medals were won by Canadian athletes, as Canadian Olympians finished the games with more first place finishes than any other nation. Dramatically capped off by Sidney Crosby’s “golden goal” in overtime against team USA, the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (despite the protests, mishaps and other controversies) were, in my opinion, the greatest moment in sports of the past decade.