by Rob Joyce
The climate in 2017 is… divisive, to say the least. Say the sky is blue, there will be a faction hammering you that it’s powder blue, not regular blue. But what’s inarguable is that, from a sports perspective, fans have been spoiled silly. Generally once every few years there’s a championship game or a series that can be included among the greatest of all-time. Since the start of 2016 that’s been increased tenfold. Not including any wild regular season or even pre-championship postseason craziness, here’s what we as sports fans have been privileged to see in the last 730 days or so that have determined titles:
2016 College Football National Championship – Jan. 11, 2016:
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson accounted for 478 yards of total offense by himself, but his effort came up just short against Alabama. The Tide used a 50-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run, a surprise onside kick in the fourth quarter and a kickoff return for six in a 45-40 thriller.
2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship – Apr. 4, 2016:
Just the second time a championship was won at the buzzer, UNC’s Marcus Paige nearly became a Tar Heel legend with his double-pump three-pointer to cap a 10-point comeback and tie the game at 74 with just 4.7 seconds left. Alas, Paige’s heroics are a mere footnote. On the final possession, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidacono drove the length of the court, dumped it to the trailer Kris Jenkins, who’s championship-winning three will live on forever. Villanova 77, North Carolina 74.
2016 NBA Finals – June 2-19, 2016:
A rematch between the Warriors and Cavaliers. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving vs. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Golden State looking to cap a 73-win season with a repeat. Cleveland trying to give the city its first championship of any kind since 1964. In other words, there was a lot going on before the games were even played.
Then the Warriors went up 3-1, Green was suspended for Game 5, the Cavs forced Game 7. There, you had LeBron’s block of Andre Iguodala, Irving’s go-ahead three over Curry, then Kevin Love somehow staying with Curry on the next possession, leading to a missed three, and Cleveland could go wild.
2016 World Series – Oct. 25-Nov. 2, 2016:
A seven-game classic between the two teams with the longest active championship droughts in the Cubs (108 years) and Indians (68 years). With Cleveland up 3-1, Chicago came back to force Game 7, which even the greatest writer couldn’t think up.
Up 6-3 in the eighth inning, the Cubs brought in exhausted flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. An RBI double and an improbable Rajai Davis home run later, we were tied 6-6 and Cleveland was in pandemonium. After a scoreless ninth the rain came, forcing a 17-minute delay before extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series. No tension there, right? The Cubs plated a pair of runs in the top of the 10th, the Indians plated one and had the tying run on base when Michael Martinez grounded out, giving Chicago its long-awaited World Series title.
2017 College Football National Championship – Jan. 9, 2017:
The rematch between Clemson and Alabama, the Tigers got the better of the dynastic Tide this time. Down 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter, Clemson scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes, capped by Deshaun Watson finding Hunter Renfrow from one-yard out with one second left to win 35-31.
Super Bowl LI – Feb. 5, 2017:
You might have heard it in the year since, but in case you haven’t: did you know the Patriots were down 28-3 in the third quarter to the Falcons? Well, they were. Then Tom Brady did Tom Brady things, Atlanta collapsed, New England came all the way back to force the first overtime in Super Bowl history, and then won it 34-28. The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history cemented Brady’s status as the greatest of all-time, with this fifth Lombardi Trophy.
2017 World Series – Oct. 24-Nov. 1, 2017:
Not quite as good as the 2016 Fall Classic, but the Astros and Dodgers entertained us with a seven-game thriller nonetheless. The highlight was Houston’s 10-inning, 13-12 victory in Game 5, when baseballs were leaving Minute Maid Park at absurd rates. Game 7 wasn’t as tense, as the Astros opened up a 5-0 lead through two innings and cruised to a 5-1 win for their first championship.
2018 College Football National Championship – Jan. 8, 2018:
An All-SEC affair, Georgia opened up a 13-0 halftime lead on Alabama. Then Nick Saban made the bold move to turn to freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and it worked. Both he and counterpart Jake Fromm played like true freshmen at times, but the two went back and forth, ending with a 20-20 tie with three seconds left in regulation. The Tide missed what would have been a game-winning 36-yard field goal, so to overtime we went.
In OT, Georgia’s Fromm took a bad third down sack, but his kicker bailed him out with a 51-yard field goal. On Bama’s possession Tagovailoa did the same, taking a bad sack on first down. But on the very next play he found DeVonta Smith from 41 yards out for a touchdown and a national championship.