What a year in sports! 2011 once again demonstrated how a calendar year can bring with it some amazing sports feats and – at the same time – pull at your heartstrings with tragedy and loss.
TOP TEN NATIONAL SPORTS STORIES
1. Scandal at Penn State University – The winningest coach in college football history, Joe Paterno, watches his powerful football machine crumble as a former top assistant, Jerry Sandusky, is charged multiple times for sexual abuse involving minors. The PSU head coach, University president and athletics director are all fired.
2. Labor disputes disrupt the NFL and NBA – Owners lock out players in pro football and pro basketball as talks on new collective bargaining agreements drag on. The NFL season eventually is played in its entirety; the NBA trims its season by 16 games.
3. College Football Realignment – Schools jump from one conference to another including Nebraska’s leap to the Big Ten which is actually now boasting 12 teams!
4. Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl – Aaron Rogers quarterbacks his Pack to its first Super Bowl win since 1997 and earns Most Valuable Player honors in a thrilling victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas.
5. Jim Tressel of Ohio State is out – Despite an apology and the school administration’s vote of confidence, Tressel resigned as OSU coach in May following bad judgment in dealing with players who sold memorabilia.
6. St. Louis Cardinal take the World Series – For the second time in five years, the Cards rule baseball with a thrilling, come-from-behind seven-game series win over the Texas Rangers.
7. Auburn Tigers win the Bowl Championship Series – Hail to the Tigers as they defeat LSU 22-19 to claim the school’s first national football title since 1957. Cam Newton wins the Heisman Trophy and is the game’s MVP.
8. Dallas Mavericks rule the NBA – Mark Cuban finally gets a championship ring as the Mavericks win their first-ever NBA crown. Dirk Nowitzki wins the MVP in the 4-2 series win over the Miami Heat, who feature superstars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
9. Boston Bruins end a 39-year drought – Not since 1972 had the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. The wait is over as they take the favored Vancouver Canucks in seven games; Fans in Vancouver riot in the city’s streets following the loss.
10. USA Women lose World Cup Soccer – Japan upsets the USA women’s soccer team in World Cup, 3-1 on penalty kicks. Goalie Hope Solo of the U.S. cannot stop the inspired Japanese team.
OTHER TOP STORIES: U-Conn men’s team and Texas A&M women’s team win their NCAA Basketball championships; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws a no-hitter (his second), wins 24 games and the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards; Indianapolis 500 two-time champion driver Dan Wheldon is killed on the track in Las Vegas during a horrific wreck; tennis star Novak Djokovic dominates with 41 straight winning matches plus the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles; Rory McIlroy takes the U.S. Open; Charl Schwartzel wins The Masters; Darren Clarke takes the British Open; Tony Stewart claims the NASCAR Spring Cup Series championship on a tie-breaker; So Yeon Ryu wins U.S. Women’s Open (golf); Animal Kingdom takes the Kentucky Derby.
DEATHS: Matty Alou, Seve Ballesteros, Wade Belak, Nick Charles, Gil Clancy, Al Davis, Dave Duerson, Mike Flanagan, Joe Frazier, Woody Fryman, Peter Gent, Armen Gilliam, Walt Hazzard, Dave Hill, Hidecki Irabu, Ernie Johnson Sr., Harmon Killebrew, Bill Kinnamon, Lotomotiv Russian Hockey Team, John Mackey, Jim Mandich, Rick Martin, Jim Northrup, Scotty Robertson, Randy (Macho Man) Savage, Lee Roy Selman, Jim Seymour, Bubba Smith, Duke Snider, Chuck Tanner, Robert (Tractor) Traylor, Grete Waitz, Dan Wheldon, Dick Williams, Johnny Wilson.