Super Bowl XLII got the sports season rolling for 2008 with the New York Giants stopping perfection by surprising the heavily favored New England Patriots 17-14.
This upset was the first in a line of underdog stories so far this year. The NASCAR season began in February with the talk of a "dream team." Dale Earnhardt Jr. had switched to Hendrick Motorsports and teamed with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. But it has been the guy Junior replaced, Kyle Busch, who has taken the sport by storm, racking up seven victories and a 262 points lead.
He is having a dream season of his own for Joe Gibbs Racing. Not even the smartest of stock car analysts could have seen this coming.
April was again foolish as the favored Memphis Tigers had all but the March Madness crown on their heads. They led the Kansas Jayhawks by nine with 2:12 to go. But four missed free throws and a huge 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers sent this thriller into overtime. The Tigers lost the momentum and with it the NCAA Basketball Championship. Later in the month, it was South African Trevor Immelman outlasting the world's best in Augusta to claim the Masters championship.
The NBA playoffs began with the Boston Celtics being forced to win two Game 7s at home. They outlasted the Hawks and Cavs without winning a game on the road. After the Detroit Pistons stole Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in Beantown, the Celtics were written off as an experiment gone badly.
Four games later, they dispatched the boys from the Motor City and moved onto
The Finals. The rekindling of a rivalry between the game's best franchises was all but being handed to the Los Angeles Lakers. They had Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and a superior bench, proclaimed the highly-paid analysts. After a 24-point comeback in L.A., lockdown defense on the MVP and a humiliating 39-point series clincher, banner No. 17 will be hung in the new "Garden" next fall.
Baseball you say? How about the Tampa Bay Rays? They were only a half game out in the AL East at the halfway mark. This breath of fresh air team has added some much needed intrigue to this division. The smugness that is the Yanks/Red Sox rivalry has taken a backseat to a team whose best franchise finish is a mere 21 games below 500.
The Chicago Cubs' last world championship was exactly 100 years ago. You think the fans on the North Side are hungry for a title? There Cubbies have the best record in the National League and appear to be the favorites come October. Maybe this is the year goats and Steve Barkman can't even stop them.
Finally, what about 45-year-old and Greensburg native Rocco Mediate and his visit to Torrey Pines last month? Once again it was legend Tiger Woods doing what he does best. He won his 15th major championship at the U.S. Open. But wasn't it Mediate who stole the show? One would think it would have been Phil Mickelson or Adam Scott going toe-to-toe with Tiger.
Instead it was Mediate shining in the spotlight and only needing a 15-foot Woods birdie putt to slide by on the 72nd hole to win an unlikely title. As has become his staple, Woods drained the putt and outlasted Rocco in 19 holes the next day. No matter, the chants of "Rocco" will forever echo through the trees of the San Diego golf course.
The sports year is turning out to be one of unexpectedness. At this rate, the Pirates will finish above .500, Notre Dame will win a bowl game and the Houston Texans will be holding the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Craig Andros is a frequent contributor to Voice of the Fan. He resides in Altoona.