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Ovi, Mookie And Sister Jean: Taking A Last Look At Sports In 2018

Tiebreaker.com thanks our readers for dedicating time in your eventful lives to spend with us. It’s been a extraordinary year for us, one of birth and growth. We are new to your neighborhoods and we are thankful for the way you have welcomed us.

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Like every year since Eve set the world record for apple picking with her controversial move in the Garden of Eden, notable events have defined the Year In Sports. What follows are just a few from 2018 that earned out attention and affection.

Down The Stretch He Comes

A funny thing usually happens to horses on their way to a Triple Crown. And then their dream ends at The Belmont. It wasn’t that way this year.

Almost four decades after Affirmed won The Triple Crown in 1978, American Pharoah ended the slump in 2015. And this season, Justify took his turn by becoming just the 13th to do it since Sir Barton in 1919.

As a reward after a brief , but efficient (6-0) racing career, Justify was officially retired after hurting  his ankle and is now lounging around in a stable with a bunch of mares. It’s estimated he will mate 250 times next year.

Sean M. Haffey / Getty

These Sox Had No Holes

It used to be we’d get to October and talk about how the Boston Red Sox would find a way to lose. But this is 2018, not 1918, and we spent the past year wondering if they would ever lose. The Red Sox collected the most regular-season wins since 2001, then put away the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in three stirring postseason series to claim their fourth World Series title since 2004.

Mookie Betts was MVP, but the postseason was loaded with heroes, from Jackie Bradley Jr. in the ALCS to David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce in an incredible World Series that featured an 18-inning game, the only Series game the Red Sox lost. In another century, that heartbreaker would have added to the Red Sox’s sad legacy. This time, it was merely a speedbump on the way to another duckboat parade.

Expansion Of What’s Possible

The Vegas Golden Knights were tabbed a long shot, even in their home town, to splash ice chips in anyone’s face during their inaugural season. History was not on their side.

Still, they thrived in a way no once could have expected, making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, the first NHL expansion team to do that since the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues. Of course, they didn’t win the Cup. The Washington Capitals won their first championship in five games, led by Alex Ovechkin.

It doesn’t appear to be a one-year thing. As of Monday, the Golden Knights were 23-15-4, on a three-game winning streak and seeded fifth in the Western Conference.

Sister Jean

Kevin C. Cox / Getty

March Madness Times Two

Unlike the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, where upsets are as frequent as bad Tom Hanks movies, the men’s field always manages to sprout one of two every March.

This year it began with UMBC becoming the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1, ending a 135-game roll for the oligarchs. Can you imagine what the ride home must have been like for Virginia after losing by 20.

Cinderella snapped a heel in the second round, ending that storyline. But then a Catholic nun and her favorite team, Loyola-Chicago, moved centerstage.

Beginning with a buzzer-beater against Miami, the Ramblers, an 11 seed, did what ramblers do. They cruised to the Final Four with wins over Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State with Sister Jean, 98, a servant of the Sisters of Charity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, sitting behind the bench cheering them on.

The end came with a semifinal loss to Michigan, but perhaps you have a Sister Jean bobblehead to commemorate the event?

Gambling On Revenue

After decades of clandestine meetings between bookie and better, a number of states moved to bring sports betting out of the dark corners by voting to legalize it.

In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court granted New Jersey, the home of The Sopranos, the right to modify restrictions on legalized gambling, therefore opening the doors for any other state wanting to follow suit.

If you don’t think this was big, you haven’t been following the money. It’s estimated about $150 billion was wagered on sports this year, most of it formerly handled by guys smoking cigars with fanciful monikers.

In eight states – Nevada, New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island, those wise guys are now out of business. Two others, Arizona and New York, are on the verge of joining.

Gymnastics Voices Are Headed

The heinous Larry Nassar, once trusted doctor and confidant of female gymnasts at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, was sentenced to 40-125 years for sexually abusing girls and women in his care.

By springtime, more than 300 victims offered stories of the kind of abuse Nassar inflicted on them, a story first reported by the Indianapolis Star. Not only was the foundation and infrastructure of USA Gymnastics shattered, but Michigan State was asked to pay $500 million is restitution.

So Long, Germany

The great world soccer powerhouse, with four World Cup championships, received rough treatment at the event staged this quadrennial in Russia. It was knocked out in the group stage. Think of it this way – the Patriots finishing last in the AFC East.

It began with a loss to Mexico. And then after surviving a threat from Costa Rica, the Germans were shutout by South Korea. Auf Wiedersehen for the first time for the first time since it debuted with a third-place finish in 1934.

France won its third Cup championship with a 4-2 victory over Croatia. Of course, the United States – and Italy, a perennial challenger – did not even qualify.

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Fly Eagles Fly 

The Philadelphia Eagles were soaring when quarterback Carson Wentz was injured in Los Angeles a Week 14 game against the Rams. In his place was veteran Nick Foles, up to that point an average, but certainly not great, player.

What followed was amazing. Foles led the Eagles to the Super Bowl where they defeated the Patriots to an entertaining 41-33 win. It was the Eagles first league championship since 1960.

Foles was named Super Bowl MVP and all would have been great had hoodlums not spent the night of the game burning and looting the city’s downtown.

By the way, Foles is doing it again. With Wentz again out, he led them to three straight wins at season’s end and an unexpected NFC Wild Card Game this weekend in Chicago.

Warriors Again, The King Moves

With a star-studded lineup featuring Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State won the NBA Championship for the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons by again beating Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was the fourth straight times the teams has met in The Finals.

Following the season, James made news — a surprise, we know — by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was the second time he’s left Cleveland through free agency.

Women Wearing Gold

During another stupendous run at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the biggest story for a United States team was the women’s hockey team finally winning its first gold medal in 20 years.

What made it extra special, was the USA beat Canada in the gold medal game after losing the last two title games against the Canadians. The end game with a 3-2 shootout win.

Also on another kind of ice, the USA won gold in men’s curling. To do it, it beat Canada (twice), Switzerland, Great Britain and Sweden, Think the Denver Broncos winning the Super Bowl by beating the Chargers, Chiefs, Patriots and Saints.

Valspar Championship

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Growling Once More

You love him. You hate him. You can’t stop watching him. Admit it, Tiger Woods is a magnet and we are but a bunch of paper clips.

We will excuse his deplorable pay-per-view Thanksgiving weekend money grab with Phil Mickelson. The concept sucked. The streaming sucked. And the event sucked.

But what was worth remembering was the way the gallery followed him up the 18th fairway in September to watch him end his long drought by winning the Tour Championship, his first Tour win since 2013.

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