Each year in sports is defined by its own set of unexpected personal and team accomplishments, games, events and performances that cause you to linger a little longer than usual with your newspaper or favorite website.
The year of 2019 was no exception. It rang out the decade of the 2010s in style by hosting a number of memorable highlights.
Tiebreaker.com has sifted through our vast scrapbook and come up with our own list of 10 news stories – in no particular order – that seemed to distinguish themselves.
See if you agree.
Tiger Woods wins the Masters
Love him or hate him, you’d have to admit Woods demands you pay attention to him. The greatest golfer of our generation has had a rough few years, broken by injuries, reduced to duffer status. It was easy to conclude that he was done.
Then came the 2019 Masters. Woods laid the ground work for what would happen months earlier at the 2018 Tour Championship. But we didn’t see this coming. Without his customary power game, Woods deftly worked his way around the most famous course in the world, using his instincts and short game to outlast the field.
And when it was over, once Woods had won another Masters to re-establish himself as one of the world’s top players, he walked off the green to hug and kiss his kids.
No more singing the Blues
At this time last season, the St. Louis Blues were at the bottom of the NHL. They had the worst record, were being coached by an interim, Craig Berube, and were generally dismissed by the remainder of the league.
But over the final months of the season, the Blues slowly turned it around, managing to work their way into the playoffs. Once there, there was little anyone could do to stop them.
Led by rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington and forward Ryan O’Reilly, the Blues capped it off by defeating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on the road to win their first league championship.
The pass interference that wasn’t
It’s never been unusual for games to be decided by controversial umpiring or officiating calls. It’s been happening since the days of the gladiators, but now with replay, it seems like its happening every other day.
In the NFC Championship Game in January, something happened that not only changed the course of a game, it altered the complexion of the Super Bowl and resulted in a major rule change for the league.
Did Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman interfere with Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis late in the fourth quarter with the New Orleans driving for a touchdown? Of course, he did. But that’s not how the officials saw it.
The Saints had to settle for field goal. The Rams tied the game to send it into overtime. And then they won the conference championship. They’ll be talking about the missed call for decades.
Megan Rapinoe strikes a pose
There was nothing more entertaining in 2019 than watching Megan Rapinoe, with her hair dyed purple, wowing the world of women’s soccer with her incredible talent and willingness to say exactly what was on her mind.
During the women’s World Cup, Rapinoe symbolized everything people loved – and hated – about some American athletes. She led her team to the championship with her indomitable spirit and led the charge against inequities in her sport and the shortcomings of some American politicians with a mouth that simply would not relent.
Do you remember what she said when she was asked if she’d accept an invitation to the White House if the U.S. won? “I’m not going to the f—–g White House!”
Do you remember the indignation she showed about the financial disparity between men’s and women’s soccer regarding unequal pay and working conditions?
Rapinoe didn’t need to win the Ballon d’Or to remind us of her impact on the sport. We knew it from the first time we saw her.
Death of Tyler Skaggs
The news that Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in Texas in July stunned the sports world. So young, so beloved by his teammates, how could something like this have happened?
Of course, within a few months we learned the truth: Skaggs had died from an accidental drug overdose resulting in a subsequent investigation into where he obtained the medication that ultimately killed him.
But before the reality of the situation hit, there were memorable moments that will linger with us forever.
The Angels would play their first home game in Anaheim nearly two weeks after Skaggs’ death. Each player on the team would wear his No. 45 in commemoration.
And the Angels Taylor Cole and Felix Pena would combine to throw a no-hitter, the facts and figures of which would mesh to produce a series of statistical coincidences mirroring Skaggs life and career: The Angels scored seven runs in the first inning of a 13-0 win. Skaggs birthday? July 13.
The Wimbledon final that wouldn’t end
There is nothing quite like a Wimbledon men’s final. To borrow a phase, it’s the crowned jewel of the sport’s season, a spectacle which helps pass the time on an otherwise quiet summer morning.
And when Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are playing, it just makes everything about it so much better. And on this day, they not only played tennis, they played with our minds with a relentless series of give-and-take that carried the match into the gloaming of the day.
The pair played the longest men’s singles final in tournament history, one that spanned four hours, 57 minutes and ended with a fifth-set tiebreaker at 12-all. Finally, Djokovic wore down Federer 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12 to win his fifth tournament title.
Big Papi is shot
There is no more charismatic figure in the nation’s four major sports than David Ortiz – Big Papi to the Major League Baseball fans who had grown to love and adore him. He was at the forefront of the Red Sox first World Series championship in 86 years and the city’s voice of defiance in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
When he was shot at a nightclub in June during what looked like an apparent assassination attempt in the Dominican Republic, sports fans recoiled in shock wondering why anyone would want him dead.
Eventually, a long investigation proved Ortiz was simply an unfortunate victim of mistaken identity, that the bullet that nearly killed him was not meant for him.
The city and his fans prayed for his recovery and in September were rewarded when Ortiz returned to Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. In the fall, he was again a regular on Fox’s coverage of the MLB playoffs.
It must be the shoe
This was the year of Zion Williamson in men’s college basketball. The big lug descended on Duke with a bunch of other superior freshmen and refocused the attention on Cameron Indoor Stadium as he dunked and ball-handled his way into the national spotlight, drawing comparisons to a young Lebron James.
On Feb. 20, Duke and North Carolina played at Cameron before a national cable audience juiced to see what was coming next from its new icon. Little did it suspect that something unbelievable was about to happen.
Thirty-three seconds into the game, while making a cut at the top of the key, Williamson’s Nike sneaker essentially exploded off his foot, causing him to awkwardly fall to the floor and sprain a knee.
Immediately the cameras focused in on former President Barack Obama. His wide-eyed look, the word “shoe” coming from his lips, was all you needed to know that a major news story was unfolding.
What resulted was Nike’s self-examination of the safety of its sneaker and a national debate about whether Williamson should even risk future injury – and jeopardize his NBA draft status – by playing another college game.
Of course, Williamson did return, again wearing Nikes. And the world did not end. Williamson was the first pick in the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.
The greatest two minutes in sports
There is nothing more majestic than the Kentucky Derby, the first-leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the harbinger of spring. Under normal circumstances, it’s the most genteel of sporting events, bound by its traditions and the sense of fair play.
That all changed with the 145th running of the event at Churchill Downs. At first, we had a winner, Maximum Security, the overwhelming favorite, thundered down the back stretch in the manner most expected from him.
But in reviewing the race, officials determined Maximum Security had illegally swerved into the path of War Of Will. Intentionally or not, he had impeded the progress of a competitor.
As a result, for the first time in the history of the race, a champion was stripped of his title. Maximum Security was disqualified, the title bestowed upon a 65-1 underdog, Country Horse, who had finished far behind.
A new home run king
It was the year of the home run in Major League Baseball. Whether it was because of the height of the laces, a differential in air resistance or the simple fascination of players with hitting the ball as far as they could, the number of homers increased to 6,776.
There was no home run hitter in the game more prodigious than Pete Alonso of the New York Mets. First he won the Home Run Hitting contest at the All-Star Game. And then he turned his sights on a Major League record.
When Alonso homered off Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz on September 29 at Citi Field in New York, he broke Aaron Judge’s record by clubbing his 53rd – the most by any rookie in Major League history. He would also become the first rookie to league the Majors in homers.