Sports, 2018: a Walk to Remember
Welcome to 2019. After 3 weeks of sloth, the blog is back and fully torqued for the new year.
As I write this, the 3 flight attendants on VivaAerobús are delivering a perfectly synced, prop-infused safety demonstration. Their expressionless faces downplay the perfection of their movements. They could put the performers of North Korea’s Mass Games to shame. May you also find this level of attainment in 2019.
Before next week’s post, it would be an injustice to not pay homage to the most memorable sporting moments of 2018, using my two favorite mediums: words and YouTube.
If you are a sports fan, read along and appreciate these few moments of sport that some of us sacrificed depressing amounts of our lives to enjoy. If you’re not a sports fan, this is your chance to instantly attain my love by steering our next conversation towards something dear to my heart.
Our special guest today is Coleman Cox. Those who know him know that his knowledge of sport is unsurpassed by functional humans, and this column would be a sham without him. If you are a tennis or Buckeye fan (lol), follow him @co_le_man.
(‘Moose’ Rice’s uninterrupted sports thoughts are saved for the end).
I can assure you that no blog you follow has devoted a higher life percentage to this topic; rest assured that this list has been curated by genuine experts. If you’re wondering what it’s like to know so much about sports and still be fun party guys, we’ll let Kawhi Leonard explain.
Since we’re not sexist, we will each begin with a moment from the world of women’s sports. Buckle up! Coleman is here to discuss everyone’s favorite sport.
The Olympic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal Game
Coleman: You might be surprised to see a section on women’s hockey in this blog, but I was up until 4 am on a Wednesday night watching it so me staying up that late might as well count for something.
Regardless, this game was amazing. The U.S. and Canada are the only two nations that take the women’s hockey seriously and as such the rivalry between the two is extremely intense. The Americans had won 8 of the last 10 world championships, but the Canadians had won 3 straight Olympic golds, the last 2 in increasingly agonizing fashion over the Yanks.
This game appeared to be heading in the same direction, with Canada leading 2-1 with just 7 minutes to go. But the Americans tied it, and sent the game into overtime. With the next goal winning the game, the tension was palpable, but the next 20 minutes resulted in no goals. So it went to a shootout. It would stay tied through 7 rounds of the shootout until Jocelyne Lamoureux scored on the hockey equivalent of an Allen Iverson crossover. Canada’s next penalty was saved, the Americans won gold, I was very happy, and then I went to bed and decided not to care about women’s hockey until 2022.
Serena Williams v. Naomi Osaka
Paxton: For the first 20+ years of my life, I wasn’t a tennis guy. Like most normal three-year-olds, my favorite TV show was SportsCenter. Most evenings, my new friend Coleman and I would reenact highlights in my yard. The end.
I started playing some tennis this summer, and peppered Coleman with many questions in addition to going down the Grand Slam wiki rabbit hole. I told you we are fun! This September, I decided to tune in to watch GOAT Serena play Naomi Osaka, age 20. It was the US Open finals, and it was shaping up to be a comeback coronation of historic proportions.
The short: Osaka smashed Serena 6-2 6-4.
The long: I will quickly forget the tennis that transpired in this match, but not the hoopla. Serena was penalized for being coached and also her verbal abuse towards the umpire. The game penalty was trash, and her rant about men saying worse to an umpire is valid.
The tennis match became the backstory during her teary-eyed demand for an apology. During the trophy presentation, the New York A-holes (which is a better team name than the Jets) lustily booed, ruining the biggest moment of Osaka’s life in the process. Osaka beat her hero, but her sobs were not tears of joy.
As a Tiger fan and someone who verbally abused basketball teammates in most church league games, I can’t criticize Serena for occasionally threatening to shove a ball down someone’s throat. This competitive edge is what makes Tiger, Serena, and myself so similar.
Serena tried to stop the New York A-holes while they booed Osaka, but the scene was an embarrassment for the A-holes, Serena’s brand, and the chair umpire.
Tiger’s Walk to Remember
Paxton: As it turns out, the ‘comeback coronation of historic proportions’ occurred mere days after Serena’s failed attempt, as Tiger did what seemed unthinkable as recently as December 2017.
From the day I discovered golf, I was obsessed with Tiger. Watching him win 7 tournaments in a row in 2007 hooked me, and it seemed impossible that his 2008 US Open would be his last major (for now).
After a decade of knee injuries, sex scandals, swing changes, false hope, and back injuries, Tiger emerged in 2018 with literally no expectations and a fused spine. By February, he was shocking the golf world by almost winning at Tampa. The expectations for the Masters in April proved too much (I woke up at 7 to watch him on the driving range), yet he led on the back nine at the British Open; even his thrilling Sunday charge at the PGA in August seemed too good to be true.
Because he’s Tiger, he topped it all by winning the Tour Championship and having a “Moses parting the Red Sea” scene for the ages. Rather than writing 5,000 words, I invite you to watch the following video—my favorite youtube video of 2018 (high praise).
Isner v. Anderson
Coleman: I feel terrible for John Isner.
He’s been absolutely blessed by the fact that he is 6’10”. Without that height, he probably just would have been a solid tennis player. He could have played Division I, maybe, but he never would have made Wimbledon. That height has given him an amazing serve, which he has used to win 14 career ATP Titles and reach the 2018 Wimbledon Semifinal.
His height is also a curse. While his height has made breaking his serve an incredibly difficult task for opponents, it is not so easy for him to break other players’ serves. This imbalance results in incredibly close matches. Most tennis tournaments have a solution for this: the tiebreaker. But seeing as “but we’ve always done it that way” is unimpeachable logically to the British, Wimbledon has never had tiebreakers in the fifth sets, meaning that matches can, in theory, go on forever.
John Isner has tested the limits of that hypothesis. The most famous example was in 2010: a three day, 11 hour match against Nicholas Mahut which Isner won 6–4, 3–6, 6–7(7–9), 7–6(7–3), 70– 68. It was the longest match ever. The latest example was this year, when Isner took on similarly gigantic South African Kevin Anderson.
The match lasted 6 hours and 33 minutes, and they were the 6 hours and 33 minutes I would most like back from 2018. At 9 in the morning, I woke up and began watching this match. I continued to do so all the way until 3:33pm. It was some of the worst tennis I have ever seen. Anderson won the battle of wills 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24.
This match also managed to ruin other matches around it – the other semi between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic could not finish that evening, so they had to come back the next day. By bumping the men back, the women’s final also had to be moved back several hours. Furthermore, in winning the marathon semi, Kevin Anderson had to use every bit of energy in his body, so he was completely drained for the final, which ruined the final – Djokovic coasted to victory.
So, to recap, this match was bad on its own, it affected the next semi, and the women’s final, and ruined the men’s final. Ugh.
Thankfully, just about a month ago, Wimbledon decided to institute a tiebreaker at 12-12 in fifth sets. Congrats to John and to literally anyone who likes tennis, because these extended matches needed to die.
Stefon Diggs and the Minneapolis Miracle
Paxton: Every couple years, an NFL play permanently sears itself into my mind. The OBJ rookie catch, Aaron Rodgers’ pass to Richard Rodgers, and the BeastQuake run are recent examples. In 2018, I saw two of them (the Miami Miracle being the other.)
The Diggs’ touchdown was unlike any playoff moment ever before. Even Joe Buck, ever the monotone announcer, couldn’t ruin it. A tortured sports city watched lightning strike out of nowhere, on a pass play that wasn’t even an attempt to score.
Ohio State v. Michigan
Coleman: This was gonna be the year that Michigan beat Ohio State. I had known it to be true since right around early October, but the signs had been there for some time. OSU had owned UM for the past two decades since I realized what football was (conveniently for me). But I was convinced that my decision to move to Columbus was the fan equivalent of Icarus flying too close to the Sun—the run of Buckeye success would come to an abrupt end.
This suspicion only grew as the year went on. It started in August, when the investigation (and firing) of OSU Assistant Zach Smith led to Urban Meyer being suspended for 3 games. On the field, the Buckeyes had a myriad of issues—poor tackling, terrible pass defense, a complete inability to run the ball. These issues culminated in a disastrous loss on the road at Purdue.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines were rolling. Michigan lost its first game at Notre Dame, but proceeded to dominate every foe in their path, most notably beating Penn State 42-7. Shea Patterson added an element that Michigan didn’t have on their last great team in 2016 (namely, the ability to throw the ball more than 10 yards down the field). This was gonna be the year Michigan did the damn thing and won in Columbus for the first time since 2000.
The Buckeyes dominated the Wolverines in all 3 phases of the game. Michigan’s #1 ranked defense gave up 62 points—a merciful figure, given OSU kneeled the game out on the goal line. The Michigan offense reached 39 points only via 2 garbage time touchdowns. In the first half, the Wolverines had decided to endlessly run the ball up the middle in spite of 11 games suggesting how vulnerable the Buckeyes were outside the hashes. And the Michigan special teams conceded a blocked punt which resulted in the touchdown that broke the game open in the 3rd quarter. Even with all of the narrative (and my own expectations) suggesting that this would be the year for Michigan to win, it didn’t happen. It was a good day.
Paxton: Too soon, Coleman. I still haven’t recovered from your taunting after the 2002 Buckeyes won the championship on a phantom PI call. (Coleman and I were just like the other kids on the block!)
Baker vs. Lamar, December 30
Paxton: Though the December 30th Ravens/Browns game will be a mere footnote one day, it carried personal significance and marked a potential paradigm shift for the next decade.
The Browns have been beyond a laughingstock of their division for 16 years, but they finally found a QB, and Baker Mayfield breaking the rookie passing record gave Browns fans something we haven’t had since 2003: hope. Baker’s swagger and unmistakable talent has been a revelation, and I had to eat crow after my draft complaints. In fairness to me, the Brady Quinn-Brandon Weeden-Johnny Manziel-DeShone Kizer four horseman of the football apocalypse had left me mildly scarred.
If I ate a crow, the talking heads got to eat a murder of crows for their many racist calls to turn Lamar into a WR. Though he’s no Baker Mayfield right now, his victory in week 17 and ascension into Heaven the playoffs left cynical Louisville fans with something to unconditionally love in 2018. Ravens-Browns will replace Ravens-Steelers and Browns-winningonegame as the AFC North matchup of the future.
UMBC beating UVA as a 16 seed. Phil vs. Tiger on Thanksgiving (just kidding). Nick Foles being the hero Philly needed. DC winning something (hockey!). Kylian Mbappé leading France to the World Cup at 19. Louisville blowing a 4 point lead with 1 second to go against UVA (shoot me). And the Red Sox, I guess.
Paxton: The Steelers become the new Browns by 2020. Antonio Brown gets traded, Le’Veon Bell obviously leaves, HC Mike Tomlin sees the writing on the wall and resigns after next season (as a hot commodity) when Big Ben retires. Boo hoo.
A Moose Sports Year
Joining me as usual is Jackson ‘Moose’ Rice, Packers fan and law student—his weekly installment, ‘aMoosed,’ will continue in 2019 as we wait for the release of his magnum opus, “Captain’s log.”
Throughout the years, variables are liable to change. When it comes to sports, this is especially true. In my calendar year, there were four big moments.
The first was an invaluable asset acquired by the Utah Jazz. When Donovan Mitchell was drafted in 2017, like all the other rookies, I turned an eye. I’ve been seeking an NBA team with which to align myself for the better part of my life. Outside of the Celtics acquisition of their Big 3 of Rondo, Scalabrine, and Glen “Big Baby” Davis, I had never wanted to see how a single NBA team has performed watching only the playoffs. When the Jazz gained me as a lifelong fan, they surely rejoiced wondrously. I have since acquired a shirt with their logo on it. When I wear a team’s apparel it is for life and I hope they’re as happy as I am, although we are still in the honeymoon phase.
The second NBA headline that has engulfed me like a virgin is LABron James signing with the Lakers. This team is a wonderfully dizzying headline machine that will never be paralleled as long as I live. By signing arguably a top 20 all-time HBO talk-series host, the Lakers sought to keep Lavar Ball’s name out the mouths of reporters globally. After all, how do we not talk about the best basketball player of all time when his son, Lonzo (all-time name by the way), is now playing with LeBron James Jr.’s dad? LeBron is who we thought he was and will hopefully have some cameos in upcoming films where we all chuckle at his sub-par acting because we don’t know how to handle seeing him outside of the barbershop where he talks to other people, such as John Stewart (speaking of famous people, when will I be asked to appear as a guest? Updates to come, I’m sure.) When he signed with the Lakers, people all said he wouldn’t make a big difference on a playoff-bound young core in Los Angeles. Well, without the resident sommelier, the Lakers have gone 1-4 and are practically begging Lavar to suit up.
Like any good American, I prefer women’s basketball to men’s. I find that it is more respectful of the game without the flashy dunks. Rather women’s basketball is just like watching 10 Tim Duncans going out and working on the fundamentals of the game. The only thing that could make it better is if they played with peach baskets. Recently, women’s NCAA powerhouse UConn lost their first regular season game in almost 47% of a decade and they did so at Baylor. I have been waiting for this day since I started puberty. They’re basically the patriots of the NCAA but act like they aren’t good. If there’s one thing people hate, it’s when other people act humble. If you’re that good, just admit it and move on. Thank you Baylor for reminding us that we all shall fall.
[editor’s note: this UConn loss occurred in 2019. Confound your facts!]
Now it’s time for my favorite headline of 2018. Ding dong the f**king witch is dead baby. Mike McCarthy is finally doing what he was destined to do and collecting unemployment. As an owner of the Packers, I have been calling for his head on a stake for years. Annually, Bull and I will discuss the trials and tribulations. Like any good fan, we analyze in-depth every minute aspect of every game. Since 2015 I have been willing to die on my hill that McCarthy is wasting the talent we have. Our other take was that Aaron Jones was the best running back on the roster. Boom baby 2/2. Now Dirty Mike and the boys will likely be taking their talents to Cleveland. As we go on, I’ll remember all the times I hated Mike. I’ll remember how he pushed out Brett Favre, the ultimate locker room presence for arguably the most bleached a**hole with an arm made of gold. Week 1, there was a glimmer of the days of old. Rodgers comes back in the most Favre-esque manner I have seen since Bountygate. Loaded on painkillers and eyes bloodshot like Seth Rogen in high school, Rodgers was asked what his injury was and how he finished the game, the only response he could muster was, “my knee”. THATS MY QUARTERBACK. It was in that moment I knew this season would end in either a super bowl berth because Thanos strapped on a #12 jersey and was ready to watch some sh*t burn, or I thought we’d go 6-9-1 (as close to 69 (nice) as a record can get) and we’d fire McCarthy. So technically 3/3 I guess. At this point I’m expecting a call from a front office. Mike, you were basically herpes. “Good riddance”- Green Day