By George Ferguson
Although we have entered another new year, I am the type of person who likes to reflect on what we have seen and heard over the last 365 days.
As I was watching one of my favorite shows the other day called Pardon the Interruption, the hosts of the show, Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, made a statement that to me was absolutely stupid.
They basically said that 2002 was a dull, drab year in sports where not a whole lot happened. While I usually respect their opinions, I had to completely disagree. What were they watching or smoking during the last year?
So on a national and local level, here are some of the things that I think made 2002 a magical and mystifying year in the world of sports.
On the national scene, the year obviously started off with a bang with the unlikely Super Bowl triumph of the New England Patriots. But the most memorable part of 2002, when it comes to the NFL, has to be the emergence of Mike Vick. On a weekly basis, Vick is doing things that the world of professional football has never seen before. The scary thing is that he is only going to keep getting better.
In the world of basketball, there are three things that stood out over the course of the last year. The first one is painful for me to even write about. But the fall of the North Carolina basketball program was shocking to most people in the world of collegiate athletics. Thirty-four straight winning seasons and NCAA appearances ended with the Tarheels finishing 8-20 on the season. No Carolina in March Madness is something that unfortunately won't be forgotten any time soon.
Even though many people are discontent with the NBA, the Western Conference final series between the Lakers and Kings was something that will be etched in the minds of basketball fans for a long time. Rarely has there been a more intense and competitive playoff series - with each game seemingly decided on who would ever take the last shot.
Also worth noting is the fall of USA basketball in world competition. This past summer the U.S. team finished a shocking and humiliating sixth place in the World Basketball Championships held in their own back yard. From Dream Team to sixth team - the mighty, for now, seem to have fallen.
And don't forget about that little thing that happens every four years. The Olympics. The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were one of the most watched and attended winter games ever. It was also the best U.S. showing in the history of the games. I am not a big fan of winter - let alone winter sports, but I am not too proud to admit that I was glued to my chair during all of the hockey games as well as short track speed skating. And don't forget the circus surrounding the French figure skating judge and Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, all of which solidified my hatred for figure skating.
This summer also brought us the World Cup. While I don't pretend to be an expert on soccer, my wife will attest to my getting up, or maybe staying up all night to watch the live telecast of the U.S. games. Even though they only reached the quarterfinals, it was a place U.S. men's soccer has never been and it was a monumental step that was taken in Japan by U.S. soccer.
This past summer also saw Lance Armstrong win his fourth consecutive Tour De France which no one could get tired of seeing. Lance Armstrong represents true human spirit and courage all the while being a phenomenal athlete at the top of his sport.
There are about a hundred other things that happened this year in sports that made it anything but dull. Whether it was the U.S. losing the Ryder Cup, or Barry Bonds continuing to dominate baseball, or the Angels winning the World Series, or the passing of the great Ted Williams.
On a local level there a couple of things that quietly happened close to home that really made the year memorable for everyone and me personally. One is bittersweet and one is just plain bitter.
The bitter memory is the Montana State Bobcats finally beating the Montana Grizzlies in football. I was there that nasty, cold and painful afternoon in November, and as much I want to, I will never forget it. The Cats had lost sixteen straight games to the Griz and I was hoping to see twenty more. But reality came crashing down that day. In the state of Montana, 2002 will always be remembered as the year the streak was broken.
Finally, the Havre Blue Ponies run to the Class A state football championship game has to be my top memory of the year. We all know the outcome of the game that day. However, the pure excitement and joy that was brought to this town because of that team will never be forgotten. It is memorable because as all players and coaches will tell you - teams don't get there very often.
Even though the trophy says second place, everyone who was part of that magical football season should be proud and cherish the memories the rest of their lives.
I could go on all day with so many things about the sports year that was 2002. The same could be said about 2001, and will be said about 2003 because no year in sports is ever dull or boring.