The Year Of The Big Fall began with the Denver Broncos going thump, and continued with Mike Tyson being lumped, Brent Musburger being dumped and Jim Valvano getting bumped. All year the high and mighty were unceremoniously Trumped: George Steinbrenner excommunicated; Pete Rose jailed; the Oakland A's rudely swept; Washington's Capitals and New England's Patriots rocked. Steffi Graf was the innocent victim of her father's indiscretions; Kevin Mackey, the victim of his own. The nation wept after Hank Gathers collapsed and died, and shuddered as Go for Wand had to be destroyed.
Years from now, though, the story with the most resonance will have come from Shoal Creek, an all-white country club in Birmingham, host of the 1990 PGA Championship. It was there the wheel inexorably turned. Facing a massive loss of TV sponsor revenue, the PGA Tour took a belated step into the 20th Century by announcing that tournaments would no longer be held at clubs with bigoted policies. Shoal Creek hastily admitted a black member. Augusta National did the same. A few months later, Tom Watson, whose wife and children are Jewish, resigned from his hometown Kansas City Country Club when it failed to admit Henry Bloch.
Ripples from Shoal Creek spread to Arizona: After voters failed to ratify a Martin Luther King holiday, the NFL promised to move the 1993 Super Bowl from that state, the NBA announced it wouldn't hold all-star games in that state, the Fiesta Bowl plunged from a Real Big Deal to No Big Deal, and Phoenix failed to make the short list of National League expansion sites. You might ask if the policies are forged out of conviction or just public relations? But anybody who looks at the furrows in the soil can see the seeds of progress. So, ending The Year of The Big Fall on an optimistic note, let's say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to:
Bryan Murray, Terry Murray, Murray Mehlman.
Greg "We Are" LeMond (We Are Les Enfants).
Bo Kimble, for shooting left-handed.
The Lions of Africa and their home field, Cameroon Outdoor Stadium; Tony Meola.
Ben McDonald, Gregg Olson; Cal Jr., Cal Sr., Cal-Berkeley, Cal Waiting.
Dr. J, Dr. K, Dr. Forrest Tennant, Dr. Kevorkian.
Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Martina Navratilova; Mary Carillo and former mixed doubles partner John "Friendly Skies" McEnroe.
(Quote Of The Year No. 1: Hall Thompson's self-immolating "The country club is our home, and we pick and choose who we want.")
Elmer, last seen in the Hoosier Dome.
The Goodwill Games, DOA, RIP.
Andre Agassi, Lou Holtz, Burnsey, George F. Will and Joe "My Hat's Not On Backwards, It's My Empty Head That Spins Around" Walton, erstwhile targets on whom I've been extra hard; Jerry Tarkanian, Nick Bollettieri, Eric Dickerson and Norm Hitzges, on whom I haven't been hard enough.
Andy "Welcome To My Nightmare" Hawkins; Bucky Dent, you know who's last-ever manager fired.
Henry Tillman (such a sacrificial lamb the waiters at Caesars trailed after him carrying marinade), Alex Stewart.
(Quote Of The Year No. 2: Carlton Fisk to Freon Deion Sanders, "Run it out, you piece of crud.")
Shawn Moore, Herman Moore, Sir Thomas More.
Walt Williams, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Kenny Anderson.
James "Double Or Nothing" Worthy.
Dexter, Doug; Russ Grimm, the last of the great characters.
Scott Burrell and Tate George; Nadav, wherever you are.
Bob Wussler and John Thompson, Roger Clemens and Terry Cooney, Karie Ross and Bubby Brister, Jerry Glanville and Jack Pardee, Sam Wyche and Paul Tagliabue.
(Quote Of The Year No. 3: Brent, before the NCAA title game, "Folks, I've had the best seat in the house. Thanks for sharing it with me.")
Milton Bell, Teyon McCoy, David Edwards, Jerrod Mustaf, Michael Tate.
Oil of Olay's prematurely wrinkling Jennifer Capriati.
Littwin, Lupica, Chad, Albom, Kindred, Hoffer, Ostler, Jenkins; Junior.
David Robinson, Randall Cunningham, Nolan Ryan, Joe Montana.
Nick Faldo, Beth Daniel, Hale Irwin; Patty Sheehan, for the courage to cry.
(Quote Of The Year No. 4: George Foreman's honest self-assessment, "People say George Foreman only fights guys on a respirator. That's not true. I'll fight them eight days off a respirator.")
Cecil Fielder, Chris Patton, Ledell.
Piniella, the horseplayer; LaRussa, the genius.
Earl Strom, Bernard King, the Emir of Kuwait.
Salman Rushdie, Gary Hogeboom, Mark Davis, Ralph.
Bo Jackson, Riddick Bowe, Beau Bridges; Michelle Pfeiffer.
Marge "Love Me, Walk My Dog" Schott, Roseanne Barr, Rich Goins.
Louis Willie, Billy Payne, Milli Vanilli.
Catholics and Convicts.
(Quote Of The Year No. 5: boxing promoter Diana Lewis on why she'd stage a bout with Aaron Pryor, though he's blind in one eye, "He's still got another.")
Olie The Goalie.
Muffin Spencer-Devlin, disqualified from a golf tournament in England after "arguing about seating arrangements at the pre-tournament dinner."
Bill Shoemaker, Neal Olkewicz, Terry Holland; Mark Spitz.
John Williams, thinner by far in person than the photo showed, mea culpa.
The Wilcox Family.