2014: The (Sports) Year In Review

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Tales of highlights, lowlights, and one light bulb — that's what we got from Only A Game's analysts when we solicited candidates for significant sports stories from the year just past.

The NFL's Off-Field Problems

"The NFL proved this year that nothing can actually slow them down."

Will Leitch, Sports On Earth

"When you think about Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and off-the-field issues and stories the league has had to deal with, to me that is right up there at the top of the list — with also Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to get drafted to an NFL team. Because when I think about sports and how it impacts our culture, it often goes beyond the games that are played and to the social issues."

Will Leitch of Sports On Earth also focused on the nation's favorite game.

"To me, the biggest story of this years was proof that the NFL may, in fact, be indestructible. This year, this was put to the absolute test with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, and the people are actively questioning 'Can we watch this? Are we contributing to the problem?' And the answer was 'Yes!' The NFL is more powerful than it was at any time in the NFL's history. The NFL proved this year that nothing can actually slow them down."

The World Cup

Brazil, host of the 2014 World Cup, lost to Germany, 7-1, in the semifinal. Laurence (Griffiths/Getty Images)
Brazil, host of the 2014 World Cup, lost to Germany, 7-1, in the semifinal. (Laurence (Griffiths/Getty Images)

Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated senior writer, was also inclined to talk about football, albeit the brand of football in which 90-odd percent of the players on a team exclusively use their feet.

"For me, the most significant single story was Germany 7, Brazil 1, in Brazil in the World Cup semifinals. You look throughout the crowd full of Brazilians who are openly sobbing and weeping, in such a special occasion when it meant so much to everyone that was involved. This is a nation that had won five World Cups and had to acknowledge that their team was totally outclassed on its own soil."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver And Donald Sterling

Michael McCann, who writes about legal issues for Sports Illustrated, had his hands full in 2014. Still, he had no problem focusing on one development:[sidebar title="Changes To The NCAA" width="630" align="right"]Legal challenges to the NCAA business model also dominated headlines last year. 2015 could be a year of change for the notion of NCAA "amateurism."[/sidebar]

"The most significant sports story of 2014 was Adam Silver issuing a lifetime ban and attempting to force out the ownership of Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a far more robust response than anyone predicted, and I think it cemented Adam Silver as a true leader and someone who is completely in charge of the NBA. So, I think there's now a new standard in place for owning a team."

Silver also impressed Dave Zirin, sports columnist for the Nation, but Zirin added a couple of additional candidates.

"We saw athletes in the Black Lives Matter movement get political, and we saw, by the count of Out Sports, 109 athletes, and referees, and journalists come out of the closet. I mean, that to me is the sports story of the year, and it's one I think we should take great hope from."

UConn's Surprising March Madness Run

When I asked Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports for a significant development during the past year, he welcomed the advent of the College Football Playoff. But he was also inclined to talk college basketball ... and more specifically, NCAA men's champs UConn.

"Nobody saw that coming after they were destroyed by 30 points by Louisville to close the regular season. And then they get into the postseason and finally took down the giants from Kentucky in the championship game."

The Sochi Olympics 

Sochi, Russia, played host to the 2014 Winter Olympics. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Sochi, Russia, played host to the 2014 Winter Olympics. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Helene Elliott of the LA Times covered the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi for her paper. No surprise that it was a memorable experience.

"I'm very fond of the one light bulb I had in my room the whole time. You pay thousands of dollars for accommodations, you think maybe you'd get two light bulbs. But, I only got one. I thought about bringing it home as a souvenir, but I figured maybe they'd arrest me at the border. But $51 billion bought them a very nice Olympics."

When I nudged Helene to say something about the LA Kings, winners of the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, she was appropriately SoCal.

"Now here in Southern California, we have to specify, 'Oh, that happened the first time they won the Cup.' Who ever thought they'd ever win it ever?"

A New MLB Dynasty And An Ace

We'll wrap up this conversation with our baseball guy, ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, just because it's January, when we're especially in need of some good baseball talk. Tim is still celebrating the World Series Champion Giants and the Dodgers pitcher who went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA.

"To win three times in five years I think makes the Giants' accomplishment awfully close to being a dynasty, so they are the most significant part of 2014. Close second is Clayton Kershaw's historic year, but the beauty of baseball is he had one of the great seasons any pitcher's ever had, and then he got clobbered in the playoffs. This could only happen in baseball."

You're free to take issue with Helene, Pat, Will, Michael, Mike, Grant, Dave, or Tim. Share with us your candidate for most significant sports story of 2014 by commenting below or on Facebook and Twitter.

This segment aired on January 3, 2015.

Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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