10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 2

#5: Bart Ruth

When the Mets signed Bartolo Colon to a 2 year deal before the 2014 season, they viewed him as a mentor to the young, talented pitching prospects.  Over time, Colon became a folk hero to Mets fans, through his solid pitching and comical at-bats.  Before signing with the Mets, the only time Colon spent in the National League, where the pitchers would take at-bats, was when he was traded to the Montreal Expos shortly before the 2002 trade deadline.  The 5’11, 285 pound Colon was viewed by fans as an out-of-shape, middle-aged man who could keep up with these other athletes.

Colon’s at-bats became must-see TV, as he would wildly swing at pitches, no matter where the ball was located, with his helmet occasionally flying off his head.  His at-bats became hits on the Internet, especially during the times in which he would get hits.  The Internet was even going crazy during batting practice in spring training when it was reported that Colon hit a homer that knocked a tree branch off a tree.

On the fateful day of May 7, 2016, at PetCo Park in San Diego, Big Sexy stepped into the box against James Shields with a runner on second and two outs.  Colon belted the 1-1 pitch 365 feet, well past the leftfield wall, for a two-run homer.  The crowd, Internet, and even teammates, went crazy as Colon rounded the bases.  At 42 years, 349 days, Bartolo Colon surpassed Randy Johnson as the oldest player to hit his first career MLB homer.  As Colon finished rounding the bases, SNY announcer Gary Cohen summed up the moment, saying “This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball.”

#4: Tavares, Greiss, Lead Islanders to End Drought

The New York  Islanders entered the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Florida Panthers having not won a playoff series since 1993.  John Tavares and the Islanders were looking to end this drought.  The Islanders would be playing the series without their starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, who had been sidelined with a groin injury.

Thomas Greiss ended up stepping up in a big way, playing solid goaltending throughout the entire series.  The Islanders, thanks in large part to overtime victories in games 3 and 5, entered game 6 at the Barclays Center with a 3 games to 2 lead in the series.  Jonathon Huberdeau put the Panthers on the board when he scored with just over a minute left in the first period.  It would remain 1-0 going late into the third period.  With a little over a minute left in the period, and the Islanders net empty, it looked as though the Panthers were about to make the empty-net goal, but Vincent Trocheck’s shot was blocked by Nick Leddy, who then brought the puck down the ice, setting up Nikolay Kulemin for s great opportunity.  Kulemin’s shot was stopped by Luongo, but the puck squirted out from under him, allowing Tavares to poke it in for the equalizer with 53.2 seconds remaining in the third period.  The game would remain tied 1-1 after the first overtime period came to a close.  With just over 9 minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Tavares took a wrist shot from deep in the right circle, but was stopped by Luongo.  Tavares picked up his own rebound and wrapped around the net, beating Luongo for the series-clinching victory, ending 23 years of playoff ineptitude.

#3: The Death of Muhammad Ali

When people are asked as to who they believe the greatest boxer who ever lived was, the odds are that most would answer with Muhammad Ali.  Ali was more than just a boxer.  Ali was an advocate for Civil Rights.  He refused to serve in the war with Vietnam after being drafted, citing religious reasons.  He even went on to make social commentary on the war, saying “I got nothing against no Viet Cong.  No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”

Ali was known for being very outspoken, even during matches.  He was a wordsmith as well, coming up with many mottos and terms, such as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and the “Rope a dope” strategy.  Despite being unable to box during his prime years, due to being suspended for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War after being drafted, Ali finished his boxing career with a 56-5 record, with 37 wins by knockout.  He fought in some of the most thrilling matchups, such as the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier, often considered the greatest boxing match ever, or the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman.  Ali won both of these fights.

Unfortunately, boxing took its toll on Ali over the years.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984 as a result of all the blows he took while boxing.  By the time he lit the Olympic torch for the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, Georgia, he was a shadow of the man he once was.  For the rest of his life, he would be constantly shaking as a result of his illness.  The man who would never shut up was barely able to speak in his later years.  The world lost the man known as the greatest on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74. There may never be a more dominant, charitable, and entertaining athlete to live more than Muhammad Ali.

#2: Cleveland Finally Wins a Championship

The city of Cleveland, Ohio is home to many sports teams, including the Browns, Indians, and, of course, the Cavaliers.  However, the city of Cleveland hadn’t had any of their sports teams win a championship since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, when they defeated the Baltimore Colts.  Despite being home to LeBron James, arguably the best NBA player since Michael Jordan, even he couldn’t win a title for Cleveland.  Fans became outraged when James announced that he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010, ruining their best hopes at ending their drought.  However, when James returned to the Cavs in 2014 after winning two titles with the Heat, he announced that his goal was to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland.

After losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in 2015, the Cavs were set up with a rematch the following year.  The Cavs were huge underdogs to the Warriors, who went 73-9 in the regular season, the best regular season record ever recorded by an NBA team.  After trailing 3 games to 1, the Cavs went on to win games 5 and 6, forcing a game 7 in the Warriors home wood.  Thanks in large part to a key block by an exhausted LeBron James and a three-pointer by Kyrie Irving late in the game, Cleveland completed their epic comeback with a 93-89 victory, ending the drought in Cleveland.

#1: Joy in Wrigleyville

Every sports fan knows about the how the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908.  The Curse of the Billy Goat is one of the most notorious curses in the history of sports.  The curse was put on the Cubs when a bartender’s goat wasn’t allowed admission to the 1945 World Series.  The Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in 7 games.  This was the last time the Cubs were in the World Series.  From  the black cat crossing the Cubs dugout’s path at Shea Stadium as they blew their division lead over the Mets in 1969, to Leon Durham’s error in the 1984 NLCS, to the infamous Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS, to them getting swept by the Mets in the 2015 NLCS, the Cubs have been within reach multiple times of returning to the Fall Classic, only to choke it away.

Coming into the 2016 season, there were high expectations for the Chicago Cubs.  Led by a solid starting rotation consisting of Jon Lester, 2015 Cy Young award winner Jake Arrietta, and Kyle Hendricks, and bolstered by a strong lineup consisting of players like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and 2015 N.L. Rookie of the Year award winner Kris Bryant, the Cubs steamrolled their way to a division title, with a 103-58 season.  The Cubs defeated the Giants in the NLDS in 4 games before beating the Dodgers in the NLCS in 6 games, winning their first pennant since 1945.

The Cubs, like the Cavs, fell behind in the series 3 games to 1 against the Cleveland Indians. After winning game 5 at Wrigley, the Cubs dominated in game 6 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, thanks in large part to a grand slam by Addison Russell.  Game 7 started on a good note for the Cubs, with Dexter Fowler leading off the game with a homer.  The Indians tied it up in the third on an RBI single by Carlos Santana.  However, the Cubs struck right back in the fourth, scoring on a sac fly by Addison Russell and a two-out RBI double by Wilson Contreras.  The Cubs scored two more runs in the fifth, thanks to a homer by Javier Baez and a two-out RBI single by Anthony Rizzo, putting them ahead 5-1.  The Indians answered by scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth on a wild pitch.  The Cubs answered again in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by David Ross in his final game of his career.  However, in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians were able to rally against Aroldis Chapman thanks two a two-out RBI double by Brandon Guyer and a game-tying, two-run homer by Rajai Davis.  The game remained tied 6-6 after 9 innings.  As if the game couldn’t have any more suspense, there was a 15 minute rain delay before the start of the tenth inning. The Cubs were able to pull ahead in the tenth thanks to an RBI double by Ben Zobrist, before tacking on an insurance run on an RBI single by Miguel Montero.  The Indians didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the tenth, scoring once on a Rajai Davis RBI single.  However, the Cubs were finally able to end 108 years of suffering on a groundout by Michael Martinez.  For the first time since 1908, the Cubs were World Series Champions.

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