WHAT MOMENT FROM 2003 WILL WE STILL REMEMBER IN 2023?
Jim Valvano looking for someone to hug after N.C. State shocks Houston for the NCAA hoop title. Tom Osborne opting for a failed two-point conversion as mighty Nebraska falls short and Miami (Fla.) wins its first national title. John Riggins bursting through the line to give the Redskins their first Super Bowl crown.
All that happened 20 years ago, but we can still see those images in our mind's eye. So, what will stand the test of time from 2003 in 2023?
How quickly we forget ... | From Dan Shanoff
Almost two months of the Writers' Bloc, and you old fogeys still don't get it: No one remembers anything beyond what happened last week.
Help me forget ... | From Patrick Hruby
As for what will be remembered about the year that was, it's simple:
O.J. failing to catch the real killers. Again.
All chasing Lance | From Robert Lipsyte
Maybe it's because he is such a consistently honest hardass, even off the bike. Last year, at a Stanford panel his cancer foundation sponsored and I moderated, he was asked how his belief in God had helped him as a patient. No politician, he replied with a bracing directness: "Everyone should believe in something, and I believed in surgery, chemotherapy and my doctors."
Maybe it's because his success, as with many great athletes, came with such an emotional price. His mother was 17 when he was born. His biological father left two years later. He was abused by a stepfather. In cycling, he has said, he found a way to inflict physical pain on himself that smothered the psychic pain.
But enough about me. Why should Lance Armstrong be the Writers' Bloc Jock of the year?
That's simple -- nothing else in sports comes close to demanding as much talent, stamina, sacrifice and drive as five straight Tour de France victories.
Gender equity? | From Melanie Jackson
That both subjects generated a great amount of debate is no surprise. Bryant is an NBA All-Star whose image had been squeaky clean, even after jumping straight from high school to the pros. As for Sorenstam, playing with the boys is always a controversial topic.
I love the debate that sports generate, and the only other time I've ever seen our ESPN.com office in Bristol more divided is when the Yankees and Red Sox play. I was shocked at how many people I knew desperately wanted Sorenstam to miss the cut. In June, I was shocked at how many instantly believed Bryant's accuser was a liar.
Why were so many people -- men, in particular -- so threatened by the fact that a guy they idolized and might have fancied as their hero really isn't such a great guy? What was so wrong about the possibility that Sorenstam, who said she was playing in the Colonial to challenge herself to play at a higher level, really could be good enough to hang with the guys?
In 2002, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Title IX. This year, though we saw Serena Williams, Diana Taurasi and emerging faces such as Abby Wambach dominating courts and fields across the country, I was reminded just how far women still have to go in our male-dominated sports world.
You should know Damian Costantino | From Jim Caple
But what should be remembered most from our year of sports in a year of war is Damian Costantino. Not for breaking the NCAA-record for longest hitting streak at 60 games. But for what he did during the streak -- serving a two-month tour in Afghanistan in the Army Reserve and also beginning to say good-bye to his father (who died of stomach cancer in September).
And we were impressed by what Barry Bonds and Brett Favre did?
No Little matter | From Chuck Hirshberg
I don't even have to explain to you what I mean, do I? You know exactly what I'm talking about. Grady Little is not a person's name anymore. It's a phrase -- Gradeelittle. Someday in the future, it'll be a bona fide word in a bona fide dictionary: "Gradeelittle [vb]: To overuse a good thing, despite ample, or even excessive, evidence that this good thing has been entirely used-up, while other good things remain on the shelf, unused. As in: 'Sheesh, that was a great Porsche I used to own, but I drove it to death. I wish I'd taken my BMW out for a spin every now and then, just to give that Porsche a rest. Instead, I just GRADEELITTLED that Porsche to death.' "
Nope, none of the above. The most memorable part came when the catastrophe was over. Sure, he'd made a stupid mistake, but who hasn't? We elderly fans could still recall the deciding game of the 1985 National League series, when Tommy Lasorda inexplicably ordered reliever Tom Niedenfuer to pitch to the Cardinals' Jack Clark, instead of walking him in favor of Andy Van Slyke, whose playoff average was .091. Clark hit a gopher ball clear to Uranus. Afterward, Lasorda sat his team down and wept, admitting his mistake and accepting complete responsibility. "I feel like jumping off the nearest bridge. ... Even my wife knows I should've walked him." As Tom Boswell put it, "in the worst moment of his career, Lasorda took the blame and acted like a leader."
Not Grady. What had he learned from his mistake? "I learned that you need to have a closer," he growled, blaming a bullpen that had, in fact, pitched marvelously for him throughout the postseason. Later he added, "If Grady Little is not back with the Red Sox, he'll be somewhere. I'll be another ghost, fully capable of haunting."
America had much empathy for Grady Little. But, alas, he opened his mouth and gradeelittled it away.
That was the most memorable sports moment of 2003.
The cold truth | From Gerri Hirshey
All hail King James | From Ralph Wiley
(Roadus Dogus adds: "Easy. It's Yo-Yo Year 1 in the long, mad, terrible, crunkish rule of LeBron. It's being written and done up right now in the King James jernt. I mean, version.")
What we missed in '03 | From Eric Neel
Kobe wasn't a superstar (though he was still an icon). Vick wasn't bobbing and weaving. USC wasn't in a tussle with Oklahoma. And A-Rod wasn't trying on the red-and-blue.
2003: The year that wasn't.
Shall we meat again?
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Mandy Block, the 19-year-old girl inside the Italian Sausage that Randall Simon bunted.
Now we know what's inside a sausage: goodness.
A dope development | From Shaun Assael
WADA's chief executive, Dick Pound, managed to get into screaming matches with Manchester United, Major League Baseball, USA Track & Field and the Bush Administration. Not bad for a tax lawyer.
At the same time, WADA's satellites here and in 23 other countries finally started getting some respect, thanks in part to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's unmasking the designer steroid THG. As Frank Shorter, the founding chairman of USADA, puts it: "The difference between 10 years ago and today is that the good guys have somewhere to go if they want to blow the whistle."
Think of it as Interpol for the sports world. Maybe soon it will finally succeed in blowing away the cheats.
We'll always have Paris | From Alan Grant
Twenty years from now, we shall also remember that is was during that particular telecast when it became painfully clear that crazy wealth and privilege cannot, does not, and will not ever make any young heiress any less of a sleazy opportunist.