WITH PLUCK AND A TUCK, THE PATS WIN IT ALL
Al Davis is probably still fuming. To get by the Raiders in the
AFC semifinals, New England needed a fortunate "tuck" call
(quarterback Tom Brady's apparent fumble was ruled an incomplete
pass) and a 45-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri in swirling snow
so intense he could barely see the goalposts. Vinatieri also
provided the game-winning 48-yarder in a 20--17 victory over the
favored St. Louis Rams in a rare thriller of a Super Bowl,
capping a stunning turnaround for a franchise that had been in
turmoil just a few years ago.
SELIG'S LONG, HOT SUMMER (BUT SMELLING LIKE A ROSE?)
The Commissioner no doubt felt relieved after getting what
amounted to a split. Bud Selig drew heavy criticism when he ended
the All-Star Game in a 7-7 11th-inning tie, but a month later he
averted baseball's ninth work stoppage by reaching a last-minute
deal with the players' union. The unloved Selig may get downright
popular with some fans if he follows through on his rescue of
Pete Rose and helps the tarnished star get into the Hall of Fame.
SCANDAL ROCKS THE OLYMPIC RINKS, BUT STARS ARE BORN
Although rumors about fixed judging have flown around skating for
years, it was still a shock when accusations of chicanery hit the
Salt Lake City Olympics. But the story turned from tawdry to
triumphant when the victims of the fix, the Canadian pair of
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, were elevated from silver to
gold (a prize they shared with Elena Berezhnaya and Anton
Sikharulidze of Russia) and, in a surreal twist, became the
sequined luminaries of these Games. The sullied sport then got
another lift from the elegant Sarah Hughes, who didn't need any
help from a crooked French judge to win her gold medal.
SERENA FLIES BEYOND VENUS AND EVERYONE ELSE
While Venus Williams talked about becoming a fashion designer,
Serena--long thought to be athletically superior to her big
sis--got serious about tennis. The 21-year-old's victories over
Venus in three Grand Slam finals--the French, Wimbledon and the
U.S. Open--suggest that Queen Serena seems to be settling in for
a long reign.
STEROID ABUSE IN BASEBALL: A THICKENING SIGHT
Ken Caminiti has seen little besides trouble since he was named
National League MVP in 1996, and trouble was what he brought to
baseball when he revealed, in an SI interview, that he was a
steroid user when he won the award. Caminiti alleged that at
least half of current players dabble in the illegally procured
muscle enhancers. That charge was impossible to prove--although
Jose Canseco did add his steroids confession to the escalating
controversy--but a testing plan (toothless, say many critics) was
voted in for 2003.
NOTRE DAME FANS ARE THRILLED TO GET A TY
After a nasty resume scandal, Notre Dame finally found the right
man to revive its football program--Tyrone Willingham from
Stanford, the first African-American to coach any sport under the
Golden Dome. With Willingham looking on sternly from the
sideline, Notre Dame won its first eight games, was ranked as
high as fourth and finished with its best record (10--2) in nine
BONDS MARKET: STILL SOARING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Having consigned the still very active Sammy Sosa to the small
print of the home run club, Barry Bonds, at age 38, hit his 600th
home run off Pittsburgh's Kip Wells at Pac Bell Park on Aug. 9.
The often-walked Giants slugger finished his MVP season with 613
career dingers; only Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and
Bonds's godfather, Willie Mays (660), have more.
FOR THE WORLD-FAMOUS PIGEON FANCIER: A DROPPING
Though Mike Tyson won a decision over a Lennox Lewis bodyguard in
the January prelim--a staged-looking donnybrook at a press
conference--Lewis dominated their much-anticipated June battle in
Memphis and finally stopped Tirin' Mike with an eighth-round
combination to retain his heavyweight crown. Logic says it's all
over for Tyson, but commerce says otherwise: At year's end he had
a tune-up fight booked for Feb. 22, and some were chirping about
his getting another title shot.
VEDDY BRITISH SKIES RAIN ON TIGER'S PARADE
That "8" on Tiger Woods's scorecard just couldn't be right, could
it? But, alas, a third-round 81 at the British Open, put up
during a day of cold rains and powerful gusts, derailed the
heavily hyped Grand Slam bid of the game's best player in the
year's third major. Tiger's 28th-place finish at Muirfield
rendered largely moot his second-place finish a month later at
the PGA, which turned into a feel-good story when an ex--stereo
salesman named Rich Beem went toe-to-toe with Tiger down the
stretch and won.
AFTER 42 YEARS THE ANGELS FINALLY GET TO HEAVEN
The twin prospects of contraction and labor unrest took a lot of
the fun out of baseball early in the season, but the first World
Series to feature two wild cards, Anaheim and San Francisco, put
a lot of fun back in. Long-suffering Angels fans whapped their
Thunderstix, shook their Rally Monkeys and called up tender
memories of their team's first owner, Gene Autry. And after a
slugfest with Barry Bonds & Co. that produced a combined 21
homers and 85 runs, both records, the Angels found themselves,
like the ol' Singing Cowboy, riding high and celebrating the
first title in franchise history.
HOOTIE JOHNSON DRAWS A LINE IN THE SAND TRAP
Who knows what would've happened had Augusta National chairman
Hootie Johnson offered a diplomatic response to a demand by
National Council of Women's Organizations chair Martha Burk that
his club lose its single-gender status? But Hootie let out a loud
hoot, Green Jacket Land found itself on the front page, and Burk
was a new sports star, of sorts. Johnson stood firm, the story
became daily news, and by year's end two Augusta members had
resigned in protest. Where will it lead? Look for Jesse Jackson
at the '03 Masters.
ARMSTRONG PUTS HIS METTLE TO THE PEDAL
Lance Armstrong has made the spectacular seem routine, so
probably not many spectators gasped when the Austin Accelerator
took the lead with 10 days left and never relinquished it in
winning his fourth straight Tour de France. He beat runnerup
Joseba Beloki of Spain by 7:17, Armstrong's second-biggest margin
of victory. The athletic world's most famous cancer survivor
became the first American to win the event four times and was
later named SI's Sportsman of the Year.
SOCCER MOMS, REJOICE: THE KIDS WERE ALL RIGHT
A lightly regarded American team surprised the soccer world and
made history by playing its way into the World Cup quarterfinals.
Highlights included an unprecedented place on the World Cup
All-Star team for midfielder Claudio Reyna; the play of goalie
Brad Friedel, who stopped Mexico 2--0 for America's first Cup
shutout since 1950; and 20-year-old star Landon Donovan, who
became a household name in the soccer-challenged USA.
A MING DYNASTY IN THE NBA IS NO TALL TALE
The phrase "international basketball" brought only a queasy
feeling around the NBA for most of the year. In September the
U.S. was shockingly and thoroughly beaten at the world
championships in Indianapolis, losing to Yugoslavia, Argentina
and Spain. Meanwhile, though, Houston jumped through diplomatic
hoops to sign the No. 1 draft choice, 7'6" Shanghai resident Yao
Ming. Their ballyhooed prospect started slowly, but by year's end
was making headlines with his big numbers and skilled game,
giving the NBA a bright new international star.
TEDDY BALLGAME'S FROZEN MOMENT
Ted Williams was never a fan of newspapers when he played, so
it's more than mildly ironic that his funeral arrangements became
a made-for-the-tabloids tale. All blame, however, rests with his
son, John Henry, who claimed that the Splendid Splinter wanted to
be the Immortal Icicle and have his body cryonically frozen.
Williams is currently being kept at --320° in a lab in
IN JUNE, SHAQ WAS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER
All season long Shaquille O'Neal had to answer questions about
his conditioning, his Lakers' penchant for losing to bad teams
and his frustration with the physical way he was defensed. But
once he led L.A. past the Sacramento Kings in a riveting
seven-game Western Conference final, the season's denouement was
clear: The New Jersey Nets had no one to shackle Shaq. The Big
Aristotle won his third straight Finals MVP award in a sweep that
gave Phil Jackson his third three-peat.
THE DAY THE FUN STOPPED FOR JAYSON WILLIAMS
Former NBA player Jayson Williams had stayed on America's radar
with his comical manner on NBC's NBA show. But the darker side of
Williams's life was exposed when Costas Christofi, a limousine
driver he had hired for an alcohol-fueled evening, was shot to
death in Williams's convention-center-sized New Jersey estate.
Williams, who admitted he was the triggerman but said he fired
accidentally, goes on trial in February for aggravated
manslaughter and other charges, which could land him in prison
for 45 years.
'TIS THE SEASON FOR A HAPPY ANNIKA
Once you could debate whether Annika Sorenstam or Karrie Webb was
the superior player. No more. When she won the season-ending ADT
championship by three strokes, Sorenstam completed one of the
best years in LPGA tour history with 11 victories (two fewer than
Mickey Wright's 1963 record), $2.8 million in earnings and a
Tiger-like domination over her competitors.
A TRAGEDY OFF THE ICE RAISES THE NETS IN THE NHL
Violence has been a topic in hockey for decades, but the dangers
of the game were driven home dramatically when 13-year-old
Brittanie Cecil, sitting 19 rows from the ice at a Blue Jackets
game in Columbus, was hit in the head by a deflected puck and
pronounced dead 48 hours later. The NHL acted quickly, ordering
that all league rinks install protective netting behind each goal
for the current season.
BOWMAN GETS NINE, AND HIS CUP RUN IS OVER
While the NBA world was comparing the accomplishments of the
Lakers' Phil Jackson with those of Celtic immortal Red Auerbach,
the NHL world saw the retirement of a truly incomparable coach:
Scotty Bowman. Before he left the stage, though, Bowman's Red
Wings--including dominating goalie Dominik Hasek, who also
decided to hang up his skates--beat Carolina in five games,
giving the coach his record ninth drink from Lord Stanley's cup,
one more than the Canadiens' Toe Blake.
HURRICANE WARNING: MIAMI STILL UNBEATEN
The Hurricanes got too much attention for being college
football's bad boys during the '80s and '90s; this season Miami
got too little for a run-the-table performance that extended its
winning streak to an astounding 34 games. Coach Larry Coker
(could you pick him out of a crowd?) has now won all 24 of his
games. He and quarterback Ken Dorsey (a shunned fifth in the
Heisman voting) will lead Miami into the BCS national title game
against Ohio State on Jan. 3, looking for some props.
LEBRON LENDS NEW MEANING TO 'I CAN'T AFFORD COLLEGE'
The monumental publicity about Ohio schoolboy basketball
sensation LeBron James has crystallized the debate over Too Much,
Too Soon. But in between an SI cover in February and a nationally
televised game in December, the 6'7", 225pound 18-year-old James
did nothing but get better, and he will almost certainly be the
first pick if--as everyone expects--he eschews college for the
TONY AWARD: NASCAR'S BAD BOY MAKES GOOD
A quick glance at Tony Stewart's year reveals a last-place finish
at Daytona and a set-to with a pitside photographer that earned
him a NASCAR probation for the second year in a row. Sounds bad,
huh? But Stewart, never a favorite of the authorities, thrives on
adversity and used three wins and 12 other top five finishes to
win the Winston Cup, stock car racing's top prize.
TERRAPINS CLIMB BACK SLOWLY AND WIN THE RACE
It hasn't been easy for Maryland fans to watch Gary Williams
agonize on the sideline for so many years. But the coach who
wears everything on his sleeve finally won the big one in April,
routing a surprise (Knightless) Indiana team 64-52 in the NCAA
final. That completed the return to prominence of a Terrapins
program that had languished after the drug-related death of Len
Bias in 1986, and later probation, neither of which occurred
under Williams's watch.
PETE SAYS 'NO MOSS' AND WHIPS AGASSI IN THE OPEN
Most of the talk about Pete Sampras in '02 was to say he should
hang it up, so desultory was his performance in the first eight
months of the year. But Sampras conjured up his old power game at
the U.S. Open and beat Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in a
memorable final that broke a two-year winless drought and added
to his record number of Grand Slam titles, now 14.