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Crazy '08: The Best of the Best

By Desmond Bieler
Monday, December 29, 2008

This is the final installment of Throwing It Out There, and we hope you have enjoyed reading it, or if not, at least enjoyed bemoaning its existence. For our finale, we take one last look at the year that was in athletics and ask: What was the most memorable sports event of 2008?

Super Bowl XLIII

What, you were expecting Eagles-Bengals? Nothing from the just-completed NFL regular season, or any other sport, could top the final game of the previous season. The only upset bigger than the one that unfolded in Glendale, Ariz., would have been if our crack staff hadn't voted it No. 1. After all, it's not every year that a classic underdog story plays out on the biggest stage in American sports. The Patriots had actually written a tale much like that just six years earlier, but on Feb. 3, 2008, they were the double-digit favorite, a juggernaut that had amassed an unprecedented 18-0 record, treating opponents along the way like Josh Beckett treats tins of Skoal. In short, they were considered to be nearly unbeatable, even against a Giants squad that had given them a rare tussle just five weeks before. But Plaxico Burress shot a hole in that theory (Too easy? Never!) when, with just 35 seconds left, he hauled in the winning score in a 17-14 thriller. Of course, no slaying of Goliath would be complete without a David, and New York had an all-timer in David Tyree, whose three-ring-circus catch set up Burress's touchdown. The wide receiver had only four receptions during the regular season, so perhaps it's understandable that he thought the way to catch a football was to pin it against his helmet. Considering that the ball only came Tyree's way after Eli Manning had extricated himself from what appeared to be a sure sack, and the entire play was as improbable as Bill Clinton beating Barack Obama in a hardbody contest. But it happened, and nearly a year later, a nation of sports fans (well, minus New England) is still grateful.

Olympic Swimming, Men's 400 Freestyle Relay Final

Michael Phelps's seventh gold medal came, famously, by a fingernail in the 100 butterfly, but the real wonder was that he even had any fingernails left after what transpired five days earlier. Just two events into the Quest for More Gold Than in Lil Jon's Grill (that's what Bob Costas kept calling it, anyway), he was reduced to an anxious cheerleader as teammate Jason Lezak tried to make up ground in the final leg. The unheralded specialist came through in stunning fashion as Phelps went more berserk than over anything he himself did during the Games, and to make things even more delicious, Lezak overtook a Frenchman who had been talking quite a bit of le smack.

Olympic Track & Field, Men's 100 Final

9.69 seconds is not a lot of time. In fact, it's barely enough time to say, "Holy cow, I cannot believe Usain Bolt is so ridiculously fast that he started showboating with 30 meters left and still set a world record!" Bolt is the most aptly named Olympic athlete since East German shot-putter Siegfried Steroidsmuncher.

Wimbledon, Men's Final

Four hours and 48 minutes is a lot of time, and Rafael Nadal needed every second of it to end Roger Federer's dominance at the All England club. Thanks to multiple rain delays, a terrific comeback by Federer and exquisitely clutch shot-making on both sides, Breakfast at Wimbledon turned into Lunch at Wimbledon, then Hmm, Lemme See What I Have to Snack On at Wimbledon. It also turned into a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 6-7 (10-8), 9-7 classic that could well have been the greatest tennis match ever.

U.S. Open

When last seen on a golf course, Tiger Woods was in full Golf-Bot mode, marching relentlessly to another major by tuning out such distractions as tough lies, long putts and a Monday playoff. Oh, and ligament damage. And a broken leg. On the other side of the spectrum stood Rocco Mediate, a journeyman player who matched Tiger for 90 holes while working the crowd like he was running for mayor. They gave us such great competition that it was a shame either of them had to lose, but as Donovan McNabb could tell you, golf tournaments don't end in ties.

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