2014 was overall a pretty unique and special year. Sure we had our ups and downs, but that’s life. In the world of sports, 2014 gifted us with a controversial yet entertaining Winter Olympics back in February and same goes with the World Cup in Brazil where everyone wasn’t too sure if Brazil had everything done in time for the first match between Brazil and Croatia.
March Madness stuck to it’s status quo and was absolutely absurd, as it always is and will be. The Little League World Series was special in all kinds of way this year and Michael Sam changed sports forever for the greater good. Richard Sherman batted a ball down, gave the greatest postgame interview ever, then the Seahawks dominated one of the best offenses in NFL history in the Super Bowl and the Captain said good-bye and LeBron said hello to his hometown.
That’s only half of the storylines that grabbed headlines in 2014. There was no way I was ranking all these moments in a countdown starting at ten like in years past, too much happened.
So I’m splitting all the years best moments into three parts. The first, which will be discussed shortly, is called the “Memorable Moments and Games” section which is exactly what it sounds like, we look back at the best games, playoff runs and much more.
The second part is known as the “Broke Twitter” section, because we judge how incredible and big moments in sports get nowadays based off of a social media platform, welcome to the 21st century.
The third and final section will be called, “Stuck in the moment” because sometimes sports make you stop whatever you are doing, even if it is just for a moment, and you simply watch. These were some of the biggest stories of the year.
So buckle your seat belts and let’s look back at the year that was, 2014.
The Kansas City Royals were not suppose to be here by any means. For the past nearly 30 years, they were one of the most atrocious teams in baseball, they hadn’t won a playoff game (or even been to the postseason) in that time span. I was lucky enough to be watching the games only a hour and a half away from it all with friends that were Kansas City sports fans witnessing their baseball team in the playoffs for the first time in their collective lives.
In the AL Wild Card game, the Oakland A’s had everything going for them heading into the 8th, the game nearly locked up with the best bullpen in baseball about to finish off the ‘Yals. And then baseball happened. RBI hits from Lorenzo Cain and Billy Butler, along with a wild pitch allowed the Royals to score 3 in the 8th, heading into the 9th with all the momentum down one run.
Then Jarrod Dyson did this.
And of course, this too.
Dyson would score on a sacrifice-fly sending the game to extras. In the 12th inning, a struggling Salvador Perez slapped a ball passed the All-Star 3rd basemen Josh Donaldson that sent Kansas into complete hysteria. Royals win, 9-8.
The Royals would proceed to win every single game on their way to the World Series, they were magic, a team destined for being placed into eternal baseball glory. But in a seven game classic World Series, only one man could stop their improbable run.
The South Paw hero.
Madison Bumgarner was batman in baseball form, there is no other way to put it. If you watched the Royals, you knew that that team was going to win the World Series, nothing was stopping them. Bumgarner did it as if he was pitching in the middle of the dog days of July.
In 30 postseason innings he has posted a 1.03 ERA, third lowest in history per ESPN Stats & Info. He is the first to ever win two games, record a shutout and save in the World Series. In the 21 innings he pitched in the series, his ERA was a mind-blowing 0.43, only Sandy Koufax in the 1965 World Series did better with a 0.38 ERA, per MLB Stat of the Day. Now a 3-time World Series Champion, in the 36 innings he has pitched in the WS, he owns a 0.25 ERA, good for best of all-time among pitchers who have pitched 25 innings or more in the series, per MLB Stat of the Day.
All those stats are indicative that what Bumgarner did against the Royals is almost impossible to be repeated again. It will go down as one of the greatest pitching performances we have ever seen. So go ahead Madison, have a beer or two.
On we go to the team in San Antonio that has been making the NBA it’s personal playground for 15 years now.
Go Spurs Go.
Few teams suffered a more gut-wrenching defeat than the Spurs in the 2013 Finals. Game 6, up three and thirty seconds away from another championship. Then Ray Allen drained a miraculous game-tying three, forcing Game 7 in which the Heat ended up winning. Few, if any teams can regroup for another run as impressive as the 2013 Spurs had. Except of course, the 2014 version did that and then some.
From Tony Parker, Tim Duncan to Matt Bonner and Patty Mills, this team was a well-oiled machine. They were up against a Miami Heat team at the peak of their powers with LeBron James at the apex of his career, destined for a three-peat. And San Antonio right from the opening tip of Game 1, surgically picked a part Miami in five games. Danny Green was hitting threes from other planets, Tim Duncan dominated even at 37 years young and Kawhi Leonard (Finals MVP) gave James everything he could handle at both ends. The basketball they played orchestrated under the mastery of Greg Popovich was pure beauty. Their ball movement and unselfishness from top to bottom dusted the Miami dynasty, and extended their own, 5 championships in a decade and a half.
The Battle of the Madrid’s.
The UEFA Champions League Final was between two Spanish rivals separated by a only five miles. Atlético Madrid under charismatic manager Diego Simeone were amidst nothing short of a Cinderella season. A week before, they clinched the La Liga title over Barcelona and Real Madrid who had been going back and forth with it for the past decade. In the Champions League, they went through traditional powers AC Milan, Chelsea and rival Barcelona just to get to Final and they never lost once along the way.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s tournament record 16 goals destroyed everyone in their path, including Bayren Munich who won the year before. Los Blancos had not won the big one, known as “La Decima” in nearly thirteen years, what better way to do it then against your city rivals.
But it was Atlético who were off to the hot start, in the 36 minute captain Diego Godin lofted a soft header over the out-stretched arms of Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas who was pre-maturely off his line. Los Colchoneros 1-0. For nearly the rest of the game, Atlético did what no other team in the world, let alone the tournament could do, they smothered Bale and Benzema, isolated Ronaldo and made him invisible the majority of the match. In the second half, Diego Simeone’s defense was content with sitting back and fending off Real’s onslaught of counter-attacks, corners and shots. The title was theirs, the emphatic double was in their grasp. Then came extra time where Center Back Sergio Ramos flipped the best match of 2014 on its head.
With only a few ticks left in the four minutes of stoppage time, surely the last corner, Ramos met the ball and redirected it into the back of the net, just past the spectacular goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois reach. Carlo Ancelotti’s men had new life in extra time, while Altético were exhausted and stunned.
In the next 30 minutes, Real displayed their true selves, playing with overpowering speed and beauty that led to three straight goals including what would be the game clincher in Gareth Bale’s wonder-header off of an Angel Di Maria deflection. A goal so important to the Los Blancos faithful you can only describe it in the native language.
Once again, Real Madrid were the best club in the world, for a record 10th time.
T.J. Oshie serves the United States Breakfast
Russia vs. USA, its got a nice ring to it. Everyone knows the history, even if the USSR are (thankfully) no longer in existence, whenever these two Hockey giants get together in the Olympics with both having high hopes for gold (Russia being in their own country, their hopes were through the roof) you were lying if Al Michaels yelling, “Do you believe in miracles?! YES!” wasn’t playing in the back of your mind throughout the game. No? Ok well then, maybe just me.
The game in actuality turned out to be a classic. Russia scored first and chaos ensued, surely this was their game to win. Then the U.S. tied it up and in the third, would take the lead on a Joe Pavelski goal. But the lead would be short lived as Russia tied it once more (Russia Captain Pavel Datsyuk, again) and the game would be sent into a shootout.
Olympic rules allow the first three players on each team in a shootout to be different, after that it’s fair game. When tied at 3-3, Russia opted for a combo of Ilya Kovalchuk and Datsyuk while the fate of the game was in the hands of St. Louis Blues forward, T.J. Oshie.
Oshie’s build up in each attempt added to the already incredible nervousness and anxiety of the shootout, he slowly swooped right, then almost as if he was in slow-motion creeped back into the middle where he would shoot. It took six attempts of back-and- forth between Oshie and Russia until Oshie broke through for the win, and everyone went nuts:
Although it was only a round robin match between the two, Oshie was already being called an American hero, but he declined the title saying, “No. The real heros wear camo. I’m not one of them.”
All of it happened before Americans scrambled their eggs in the morning.
Coming up next in Part 2: The moments in sports that “Broke Twitter”