I’d have to say, this is definitely my favorite time of the year.
It’s not only because of all the lights we see on houses that illuminate the premature darkness of winter, or the general good feeling we get as our week off for holidays and relaxation comes nearer.
This is the time of year where we get to reflect on what we’ve seen, examine what we are seeing, and predict what we hope to see from our favorite professional sports over the course of this calendar year and into the next.
2016 brought us highs and lows, crazy surprises, and a great couple of weeks in Rio for the Olympic Games that we all, as Americans, came together to watch.
The year began with a finish; that is, a conclusion to the 2015 NFL season when the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos outplayed Cam Newton and the 15-1 Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 by a score of 24-10. Denver’s dominant defense carried them through the regular season with a 12-4 record, despite Peyton Manning’s struggles with injuries and interceptions. Throwing just 9 touchdowns and 17 picks, the aging Hall of Famer didn’t exactly play like a Super Bowl winning QB, but he, along with defensive stud and the game’s MVP Von Miller, lifted the 50th Lombardi Trophy with pride that night in Santa Clara.
As March rolled around, everyone’s brackets were filled and the highly anticipated NCCA Men’s Basketball Championship was kicked off with a bang. First round losses by Michigan State and West Virginia left fans in shock (including myself) as they watched their brackets crumble right from the start. Syracuse became 2016’s surprise team in the tournament. Originally ranked 10th in the Midwest, they managed to take out Gonzaga and Virginia among others to reach the Final Four. In the end, it was Villanova who took home the trophy for the second time in school history.
The summer brought sports fans across the country some stories that even our parents may not have yet experienced in their lifetimes. We got to see the first NBA team ever to win 73 games out of the season’s 82. We then got to see that team, the Golden State Warriors, lose their championship bid to a team from a city that was in a 52 year championship drought in ALL sports, becoming the first team to give up a 3-1 series lead in the Finals. Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers sent Steph Curry and the record setting Warriors back to Oakland as the only team not only to win 73 games, but to lose in The Finals after reaching that win total.
The team with an even larger championship drought, the Chicago Cubs, were able to win the World Series over another Cleveland team as the summer drifted into fall. The Cubs outlasted the Indians in 7 games to win their first championship since 1908. Led by the bats of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and the arms of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, the Cubs denied Cleveland another 2016 miracle with some history of their own.
As the final quarter of the year is here, the NFL, NBA, and NHL have all started their 2016-2017 seasons, and things are getting interesting. In the NFL, 7 teams who were not part of the playoff picture last season have spots locked up if the season were to end today, 5 of which come from the NFC. Detroit, Tampa Bay, NY Giants, Atlanta, Dallas, Oakland, and Baltimore all have a shot at competing in January, with Dallas already punching their ticket in Week 13. In the NBA, the Knicks offseason acquisitions have arguably worked out, as they hold the 6th seed in the East already winning a third of their total games won last season. The Warriors and Cavs continue to dominate, but the Spurs, Raptors, and Clippers aren’t far behind in the early going. As far as the NHL goes, not many New Yorkers were happy with a Pittsburgh Stanley Cup win over the Sharks in June. This season, some of those fans still aren’t happy, as the Islanders sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan division. However, the Rangers are holding their ground, tied with Pittsburgh with 37 points thus far atop the division.
2016 was definitely memorable in the world of sports. The people of Cleveland and Chicago got to see long awaited championship trophies brought home, and we got to see another Olympics with some aging (but still incredible) athletes in their final games of their careers. For the future, new seasons have started that may give us completely different playoff teams, a few unexpected champions, possible dynasties, and a whole new outlook on teams and players across leagues of all types. We may see a Super Bowl champion that hasn’t won since the mid 90s, and an Oakland Raider might win MVP. Some new faces on new teams surround the NBA, and in 2017 we’ll see a new NHL team from Las Vegas.
Whether your inner front-runner has you changing out of Von Miller jerseys to rock Khalil Mack t-shirts, or if you’re a genuine sports fanatic waiting anxiously for what’s to come, you won’t be disappointed. 2016 gave us a new look at sports, letting us know that good teams don’t stay good forever (except the Patriots, sorry Jets fans but at this point Tom and Bill might as well buy the franchise), and new teams rise to the occasion, piquing our interest with immense enthusiasm. 2017 looks to be just as promising, but we’ll just have to wait and see for ourselves whether or not this year serves as a model for the development of sports in years to come.