Monday, January 03, 2005
As we look back over our shoulders at 2004, we can take some time to reflect. We can reflect on what a frikking amazing year it was to be a New England sports fan (hello Patriots Superbowl, hello Red Sox World Series). We can reflect on how screwed up the US's public relations got (hello rest of the world, some of us didn't vote for Bush). We can reflect on how it was my first full calendar year as a Wolverine (2003 was split between the end of my senior year of high school and the first semester of freshman year). We can reflect on how this was the year I started writing about sports instead of just watching them, and how this led me to the enormous online sports watching/writing/commiserating community (which will be examined obsessively in the RantBlog [which will be posted when I'm on an internet that does not occasionally decide to freeze on me, i.e. when I'm back at school, i.e. sometime after today, probably later this week]).
As we look back, it is time to say some goodbyes.
Goodbye to the Michigan Wolverines' season and graduating class. Well, the season ended on a somewhat low note. You can believe the Texas coach, Mack Brown, when he says that "There will never be a better game in the Rose Bowl," but personally I think there could be. A better game would be one in which Michigan plays Texas, it comes down to a field goal in the waning seconds and, get this, Michigan wins. Now that, that would be the best Rose Bowl ever. As it stands this year's Rose Bowl was a good game, a classic football slugfest between two equally deserving teams that will go down in history as one of the best Rose Bowls ever, but it could have been better. Because, with a little more prudent time management, a little puff of wind, or a second's jump on the ball, Michigan could have won.
And it didn't exactly help that they lost to a team whose quarterback is the poor coach's Michael Vick, whose fans wear burnt orange and steer horns, whose mascot is a large and lumbering bovine, and whose rallying cry is an obscene-looking hand gesture.
The season wasn't a bust by a long shot, though. After all, we did make it to the Rose Bowl, even if we didn't quite make it ours. And we can always relive the Michigan/Michigan State triple-overtime game if we start feeling upset about how things turned out. I think I can wave a fairly fond farewell to the Wolverine season.
I can also wave a happy goodbye to the senior Wolverines, the 5th years, and the potential junior departures. Obviously I don't know who's coming out and who isn't, but I can say goodbye now to some of the people we're pretty sure are going out for the draft. Goodbye Markus Curry, Adam Finley, Marlin Jackson, Ernest Shazor, Tim Massaquoi, David Underwood, Pierre Woods, and of course Braylon Edwards (who is a shoe-in to get drafted in the first round). Goodbye to everyone else who ends up leaving the team this year. They, by and large, did us proud, and I wish them the best of luck in the NFL.
I can't pretend that losing guys like Marlin Jackson and Braylon Edwards isn't going to sting something awful, but it's a little easier to be cavalier about it when your very promising starting quarterback and star running back were both true freshman this season.
Goodbye to the Detroit Lions' season. This was a season that saw the emergence of Kevin Jones as a dangerous running back, the semi-emergence of Roy Williams as a quality wide receiver, and the almost-emergence of the Lions as a contending team. The frankly embarassing road loss streak was snapped. Some moderately good teams were beaten (Texans, Falcons). Some losses were almost wins (the overtime loss in Jacksonville, the 16-13 second half meltdown in Green Bay, the muffed snap against the Vikings). The season ended under .500 at 6-10, but that record shows a steady improvement over the past few years.
Of course, this was also the season that started out with the promising possibility of a Charles Rogers/Roy Williams receiving double threat. That dream came to an unhappy end in the first game of the season when Rogers rebroke his collarbone (the injury that had kept him out last season) so promptly that it was almost funny. Almost. In that I'm-laughing-but-really-this-hurts-rather-a-lot way that Lions fans are so unfortunately familiar with.
This was the season that saw the worst Thanksgiving Day loss in Lions history (41-9, courtesty of Infinite Audibles Manning and the Colts). This was the season that saw one of the worst single-game losses I've ever had the priviledge of viewing (that previously mentioned Vikings game).
So I bid the Blue and Silver a lukewarm goodbye for the season. I'll miss watching them, of course. It's always a little painful to be watching football on the weekends and know your boys aren't going to be out there (I've got the Pats, natch, but it isn't quite the same). Will the demise of the Lions season remove a rather sizable potential source of weekly depression doses from my life? Sure. But I wouldn't be a fan if I didn't say that I would rather watch the Lions lose than not watch the Lions play at all.
Happily, however, it appears as though the Lions have definitely tabbed Joey Harrington as the quarterback for next year. This is very, very good. Not only do I still believe that Joey can be a quality QB, this means that I don't need to shell out the cash for a new Lions jersey just yet. Excellent.
Goodbye to the Miami Dolphins' season. I don't even want to get into this one too much, because I could go on all night. Suffice it to say that they were not ideally situated to win this season. The whole Ricky Williams thing, the inability to choose a quarterback, word circulating about the coach being fired before he actually was--these were freakish things that made the Fins' normal football woes (like their ridiculously inept offensive line) even more damaging. At the end of the season, when they finally settled on AJ Feeley, they started to make some small steps towards respectability.
I think they can continue in that direction next year. They know who their QB is, they don't have a certifiably insane pothead who happens to be a stellar running back leaving their team to become a 'holistic healer'. They have (assuming they can resign the necessary pieces) a very frightening defense. They have a chance to be a real team.
Good riddance to this season, then. Hellooooooo offseason.
Goodbye to the old BCS. With the AP loudly and messily pulling out of the whole voting schtick, the BCS is forced to revamp its system, at least a little bit. With USC, Oklahoma, and Auburn all finishing the regular season undefeated (and small-conference teams Utah and Boise St. also undefeated) surely something's going to change. Auburn beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl tonight, making them 13-0 on the season. Yet they still might not get a share of the national title. What gives? A big conference team who played a respectably tough schedule finishes the season without a single loss, goes on to win in a large bowl game, and isn't automatically given a piece of the pie? How does that even begin to make sense?
Fortunately, I'm not alone in that wonder. If the BCS has been limping lamely along for a while, it's finally getting taken to the orthopedist.
Goodbye to winter break. I say that because this is my last night at home before I have to go back to school. Bugger. My schedule for next semester is murderous, I'm really not looking forward to it. And just when I was starting to get a nice amount of sleep, too. Alas, alas.
Goodbye to the year in which the Red Sox WON THE WORLD SERIES. Sorry, but I can't say that enough. Every Sox fan now alive with remember 2004 with a deep fondness regardless of what went on in their personal lives. If you got fired, or you got dumped, or you were jailed for performing unnatural acts with farm animals, you will still look back at 2004 and say, "Man, that was the year they won it all, reversed the curse, trumped the Yanks, swept the Cards, etc."
It was also the year in which we were priviledged to see our team orchestrate the GREATEST CHOKE IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS. Thank you, New York Yankees, for giving us the opportunity to have some small part in this truly historic event.
The 2004 Sox team will always and forever be a special thing, a special group of guys that individually and as a group formed something that can never be forgotten. Pedro's drama, Schilling's talk radio calls, Wake's knuckler, 'Tek's grit, Bronson's cornrows, Millar's hairdos, Manny's citizenship, Papi's bat, Trot's white hat, Cabby's black helmet, the Derek Lowe face, Mientkie's glove, McCarty's pitching, Kapler's underarmor-encased arms (*wipes drool off keyboard*), Bellhorn's stoicism, Youks' walks, Myers' delivery, Pokey's dances, Mueller's much-discussed posterior, Damon's canonization, and I'm going to stop there before I go through the entire 40-man roster.
This was, and is, the stuff of legend. The year is now behind us, but I'm not waving goodbye to it. Because stuff like that... it'll never die.