By Michael Battista
Another school year is coming to a close, and what a year it was for sports across the board.
In an almost-cruel twist of fate, the year is ending how it started: focusing on how big Patriots quarterback (QB) Tom Brady’s balls are. Coming into the year, the question was whether the four-game suspension will hold, and once again, one judge’s recent ruling has thrown that question out.
However, the 2015-16 school year in sports has been full of little guys, fighting to prove they belong.
The final four teams in the 2015 World Series were all — to be blunt — former losers. A few years ago, the Toronto Blue Jays would never have been looked at as a playoff team, back when the American League East was respectable and the Chicago Cubs were on the verge of breaking a curse that is more than 100 years old.
But the last two — the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals — battled to bring home a trophy that neither of their teams have held since the mid-1980s. While Mets pitcher Matt Harvey sunk to unimaginable lows after his Game 5 collapse, Royals catcher Salvador Pérez and his team helped bring a city to its feet.
Then there’s my favorite story of the year — that of NHL enforcer and All-Star Most Valuable Player (MVP), John Scott. The man who started out as a joke vote for Pacific Division captain in the 61st NHL All-Star Game quickly became a fan favorite. His upbeat personality — even when shady dealings landed him in the American Hockey League — made him the underdog that hockey fans wanted to support. With only five goals to his NHL career, Scott went out and scored twice for his team en route to winning the newly-created All-Star tournament and being named MVP. Now that should make his four kids proud.
Something else that has been going on this year is the surgence of women in sports, and good ones, at that.
The continued success of mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey and her eventual defeat at the hands of Holly Holm was constantly in the public eye. Rousey brought prominence to a sport that was both niche and heavily dominated by men — and the best part is she isn’t even done yet.
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team fought to show they were the best in the world during the 2015 Women’s World Cup, prior to the school year. Now, they are fighting to prove they deserve just as much as the men’s teams do. No matter what side you’re on in the debate, it’s admirable to see women like Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan all fight to be paid as much as their less-successful male counterparts, which will be interesting to watch as time goes on.
The Golden State Warriors weren’t fighting to prove they belonged in the NBA — any fan could tell you that. They fought for their chance to go down in history as one of the most dominant squads of all time.
Coming off their 2015 NBA Championship, the Warriors started the 2016 season strong with 24 straight wins. As the season progressed, more and more people began to realize they could beat the 1995-96 record held by the Chicago Bulls, considered one of the best teams in the game’s history. The Warriors, lead by Steph Curry, not only set a new record at 73-9, but Curry is well on his way to becoming an NBA MVP after a season filled with 400 plus 3-pointers and regular baskets each. He’s proven Lebron James isn’t the only great export to come from Akron, Ohio.
Finally, what might be one of the biggest upsets this century is taking place across the pond in the Barclays Premier League. Leicester City F.C. started the season this year coming off an 11-8-19 record, four places above being relegated to the lower Football League Championship, and had a 5,000-1 longshot to win the league this year. Fast forward a few months and now they stand at he mounain top as league champions for the first time in the club’s 132-year history. Headed by players like striker Jamie Vardy, who leads the team with 22 goals, and midfielder Riyad Mahrez, second with 18, the team has defied all expectations, making it to the UEFA Champions League, also for the first time in team history, and is now crowned the best team in England.
It’s been incredible not only to watch, but to cover in The Signal, as well. The NHL and NBA Playoffs will continue, as will MLB’s regular season and the NFL Draft, but it’s important to look back on the amazing things that have happened in the last few months to make sports fans appreciate what they saw.
In the words of the late, legendary New York Yankees catcher Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”