Best in Sports 2011: A Fan’s Take

The year 2011 has been quite a year in sports. The Green Bay Packers haven’t lost a game the entire year (including Super Bowl XLV), the Dallas Mavericks were finally able to break through and capture their first NBA championship, and the St. Louis Cardinals made a historic run – although they were helped by the Atlanta Braves’ epic September collapse – all the way to the World Series.

These teams were led by incredible athletes like Aaron Rodgers, Dirk Nowitzki, and Albert Pujols, each of whom excelled on the field and on the court, whereas other major sports figures experienced difficult times (people like Joe Paterno, who lost the respect of many thanks to the Penn State scandal; Peyton Manning, who has missed the entire NFL season following neck surgery; and the entire NBA, which went through a five-plus month lockout, with the regular season not tipping off until Christmas Day).

So, taking all of this – and more – into account – I decided to compile a list of the best and worst in sports for the year 2011. This week, I tackle the best, which are as follows:

· Best Team: Dallas Mavericks

This award was a toss-up between the Packers and the Mavericks, but I decided to go with the Mavericks because I feel that they shocked people at every turn throughout the entire season. People said for years that Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t win a ring and that he was soft, but this year he proved that he’s one of the best seven-footers in NBA history, leading his Mavs to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title. He had help from guys like center Tyson Chandler and veteran guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, among others, but the fact remains that owner Mark Cuban was able to surround him with enough of the right players to win it all. This team really gelled well together and it showed when they knocked off the Portland Trailblazers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Miami Heat in succession en route to the aforementioned championship.

· Best Athlete: Aaron Rodgers

Just like the previous award, this one came down to the best player for the Packers (Rodgers) and the best player for the Mavericks (Nowitzki), with me mainly deciding to give this one to Rodgers because I gave the last one to the Mavs. And while Nowitzki has firmly cemented himself as one of the NBA’s top players, Rodgers has become, at least to many, the top quarterback in the NFL. Green Bay has not lost a game since Week 15 of the 2010 season, when they were defeated by another one of the league’s elite QBs in Tom Brady. And he has seemingly gotten better as the year has progressed, having totaled over 4,000 yards passing while tossing 39 touchdowns and just six interceptions prior to Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It goes without saying that the Packers would not be nearly as good as they are without Rodgers at the helm.

· Best Rookie: Cam Newton

While the NFL has several promising young signal callers, Newton is clearly the cream of the crop. Many people, myself included, questioned whether he would ever make it as a professional quarterback, given that he only ran the spread offense at Auburn. However, Newton has quieted the doubters and proven that he is more than capable of running a pro-style offense. His Carolina Panthers are not in the playoff picture and this year would probably best be characterized as a rebuilding year, but going forward, they are a team that no one is going to want to play. Newton is the biggest reason for this, as he is a natural born leader as well a natural born winner. He has broken numerous records this season, including the all-time record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, a mark that had stood for over 40 years before he broke it earlier this month against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the main reason for his success is that he always puts the team first. He may break records, but he’d rather win rings.

· Best Transaction: Albert Pujols signs with the Los Angeles Angels

This was another tough one to decide, as it was really hard not to pick the recent trade that sent Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers, teaming him with young phenom Blake Griffin, who burst onto the NBA scene last season and did for the NBA what Newton has done in the NFL. However, I will stay in the same city and talk about the free agent that the Angels were able to bring in (the $254 million man). When they signed nine-time All-Star, three-time MVP, and two-time World Series champion Albert Pujols, the Halos instantly became one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. It will be weird seeing “The Machine” in something other than a St. Louis Cardinals uniform (he spent his first 10 seasons with them), but it would be ridiculous to think that a player with his work ethic and skills would not succeed in the American League – or any league for that matter.

· Best Game: Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals (World Series Game 6)

I just couldn’t give this award to another game. After all, this year’s World Series between the Rangers and the Cardinals, which went the full seven games, was one of the best World Series’ of all-time. It had everything you could ask for: drama, excitement, and the need for Alka-Seltzer. While I was pulling for the Rangers and would have loved to have seen the game end after Josh Hamilton’s home run in the top of the 10th inning (it would have been quite the storybook ending, in my opinion), which gave Texas a 9-7 lead, the Cardinals were able to push across two runs against Rangers closer Neftali Feliz in the bottom of the same inning. Then they were given the win when third baseman David Freese socked a walk-off homer in the 11th, making the final score 10-9 in favor of the home team and propelling them to an eventual World Series title. My heart was literally about to explode with every pitch, which is exactly the kind of feeling the best games should give you (although too many of them and you will likely see your blood pressure skyrocket).

· Best Play: Wisconsin loses on a Hail Mary – twice!

Following a 6-0 start to the college football season, the Wisconsin Badgers, led by quarterback Russell Wilson, were defeated by not one, but two, last-second Hail Mary passes. I won’t try to describe the plays, though. I’ll let you see them for yourself:

Vs. Michigan State –

Vs. Ohio State –

I’ll be back next week for part two, in which I will discuss the worst in sports for the year 2011.


People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *