Top 18 Moments in Sports in 2018
2018 was a year of firsts, fantastic finishes, and all-around great moments. From teams winning their first championships to players inspiring us with feats of greatness, we can all learn something from the calendar year in sports.
This year’s been so long, there was an Olympics and a World Cup. And there was a lot to cover. If I’ve omitted a favorite moment of yours, I can only apologize and ask why you didn’t text me to make sure I included it in this countdown. That being said, I did my best, and I think this list accurately depicts what the year in sports was like.
And because my list was so long, I went with the top 18 moments in sports for 2018.
Off we go. Buckle up your chin straps and jockstraps.
4/28- Shaquem Griffin is drafted by the Seattle Seahawks
Back at April’s NFL Draft, the Seahawks drafted Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin with the 141st overall pick. Why is this significant? Well, it requires a look at Griffin’s backstory to truly realize its impact. Firstly, Shaquem is the brother of Shaquill Griffin, whom he played with at Central Florida, and whom was drafted by the same team the year before him. Secondly and probably more notably, Shaquem only has one hand. Someone becoming a professional athlete despite a physical impairment like this is a crazy feat. Griffin being drafted shows that anyone can capture their dreams no matter the obstacle if their heart is in it all the way.
8/24- Josef Martinez breaks MLS single season scoring record
In a game in August against Orlando City, Atlanta United Striker Josef Martinez scored his 28th goal of the MLS season, breaking a record held by three men- Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski, and Bradley-Wright Phillips- the single-season record for goals scored in a single MLS season. What’s even more extraordinary is that the Venezuelan national team member had a quarter of a season to go to add to his tally. He finished this season with 35 goals, smashing the previous mark by an astounding seven goals. Martinez’s 28th goal came in game number 26, putting his goals for average at a ridiculous 1.46 per game at the time.
2/24- United States wins its first gold medal in curling
The United States struggled mightily at the Olympics in Pyeongchang. However, their shortcomings were matched only by their surprise successes. One such came two days after the U.S. women won a thrilling gold medal game against Canada, when the U.S. men’s curling team shocked the world by upsetting Sweden, the top-ranked squad in the world, to win its first gold medal ever in the event. When the American lost to Norway to fall to a 2-4 record in round robin play, they were on the brink of elimination. Led by John Shuster, the U.S. team rattled off five consecutive victories, finally defeating Canada in the semifinals, before soundly defeating the Swedes to win the gold- so soundly, in fact, that the Swedish team conceded with several stones left remaining in the 10th and final end. Can we say now that the United States is the new home of curling?
9/24- Gritty is unveiled
Gritty represents everything that is perfect, both about the game of hockey and about the city of Philadelphia as a whole. He burst onto the world stage shortly before the start of the 2018-19 season, and, while everyone was taken back by his bizarre appearance, Gritty’s social media presence simply adds to his mystique. The googly eyes. The scraggly beard. The orange fur. He looks like a coked-out muppet. But for a city that greases its light poles when it wins a Super Bowl for the first time, for a city that is scrappy and struggling and blue color and will fight you to the death about its sports teams- Gritty is perfect. Gritty is everything. We are all Gritt-nesses.
9/30- David Wright plays final game as a New York Met
David Wright did not have a glamorous last few years to his career. He was ridden with injuries to his neck and back, including several painful rehabilitations. But on a cold night in September, the Mets longtime third baseman stepped back onto the dirt for the last time in his fourteen-year career, for one last game at Citi Field. It was business as usual as far as the game goes: Wright walked in the first, and popped to first base in the fourth. In the fifth, the Mets pulled him from the game to a rousing ovation from the crowd, and even the Miami Marlins, who all stood to applaud one of the best third basemen in baseball history. Watch the highlights, and you can see Wright constantly turning around to take in his last few moments on a baseball field. Truly an emotional moment for one of the greats.
5/11- Jonny Venters returns after three and a half Tommy John surgeries
A single Tommy John surgery is probably the most notorious medical problem a baseball player can have. It involves taking a ligament from another part of the body and using it to repair a ligament damaged in the throwing arm. It’s a season-ending procedure. Now, that’s just one. Think about having three and a half of those. That’s what journeyman pitcher Jonny Venters endured, having missed the 2006, 2013 and 2015 seasons due to the procedures. His arm troubles had allowed the Atlanta Braves to cut him. But finally, in April of this year, the Tampa Bay Rays, having signed Venters to a minor league contract the year prior, finally called him up to pitch- his first major league outing in 2,048 days. He pitched against the Orioles and got Chris Davis to ground out on four pitches. He was then traded back to his hometown Atlanta Braves, where he finished 2018 with a 5-2 record, a 3.67 ERA, and the National League Comeback Player of the Year award.
The Top 18:
18. 2/22- United States edges Sweden for cross-country gold
The Olympic Winter Games are a trap, and they’re a trap that wasn’t made for Americans- It’s a trap because it was made for the snow people of Norway, Sweden and Finland to show that everyone who lives there is half-human, half-snow leopard. This being said, it is no surprise that the United States had never won a gold medal in cross country skiing. That was, until Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins edged Norway by .19 seconds to end the Americans’ 42-year medal drought. In the team sprint, the Americans stuck with the favorite Swedes throughout the entire race, with Jessie Diggins making a final push to jump from third to first. Diggins gave it her all in the final 100 meters, stretching the boot at the end to edge Charlotte Kalla and Stina Nilsson by .19 seconds. The United States may not have won a lot of medals in Pyeongchang, but the ones they did were thrilling and emotional.
17. 10/8- Drew Brees sets NFL career passing yards record
When talking about the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Drew Brees should be in the conversation. He has had a long career that has included a Super Bowl championship and game MVP, as well as holding numerous career passing records. On a Monday night in October at the Superdome, Brees sat only 201 yards back of Peyton Manning for first all-time on the career passing yards list. During the second quarter, Brees hooked up with Tre’quan Smith for a 62-yard touchdown pass, securing Brees firmly at the top of the list. Brees removed his helmet, offered a wave to a sea of standing Saints fans, and shared a hug with his wife and children on the sidelines. What record hasn’t Drew Brees broken at this point?
16. 4/5- Daniel and Henrik Sedin go out together with tandem OT winner
Henrik and Daniel Sedin never won a Stanley Cup, but they have been members of the Vancouver Canucks core through their entire careers, having been drafted one after the other in the 1999 NHL draft. The twins effectiveness as a tandem is legendary throughout the game of hockey. But after 17-year careers, the brothers finally decided to hang up the skates. In the Canucks’ final game at Rogers Centre against the Arizona Coyotes, the score was tied 3-3 in overtime. Henrik fed Daniel with a pass into the high slot, which Daniel rifled past Darcy Kuemper, sending the Vancouver crowd into a frenzy, showering with admiration the players who had brought such excellence to the ice after such long careers. This is a moment you could not have scripted any better.
15. 9/20- The Browns beat the Steelers, 21-21
For the first time since December 2016, the Cleveland Browns did not lose a football game. Technically, they didn’t win until week three, but week one saw one of the most interesting contests we’re ever likely to see between two franchises that are night and day- the Steelers the epitome of excellence, and the Browns the hapless loser franchise. With a redesigned team featuring some good offensive talent, Cleveland fans were anxious to finally see their team win a game after going 0-16 in 2017, and 1-15 the year before. What followed in week one was the most amazing (or disgusting, depending on how you look at it) display of football I have ever seen. Down 21-7 in the third, the Browns defense made a big play forcing a James Conner fumble, and capitalizing for a touchdown a few plays later, 21-14. With only two minutes to play in the 4th, the Browns tied the game on a Tyrod Taylor pass to Cameron Sutton. Cleveland would even get close with 20 seconds left and in field goal range, but Taylor’s pass to Josh Gordon was intercepted at the Pittsburgh 5. With the score 21-21, the game headed to overtime. The new NFL overtime period is only 10 minutes long- something greatly affecting this moment. The Browns won the toss for OT but had a punt nearly blocked, giving the Steelers good field position and setting up a potential game-winning field goal for Pittsburgh. Chris Boswell yanked it left, giving all of Cleveland hope. Unfortunately, the Browns gave it right back on a three and out with 1:17 remaining. But with 45 second left, Ben Roethlisberger was hit while throwing, forcing his sixth interception of the day, and putting the Browns inside the Pittsburgh 15 with only 30 seconds to go.
And in true Cleveland Browns fashion, the game-winning field goal was blocked, and the game ended in a 21-21 tie.
The Browns would win their first game in week 3 (thanks to the emergence of someone named Baker Mayfield), but this tie was probably the most Cleveland Browns win ever.
14. 6/9- Justify wins the Triple Crown
With American Pharoah becoming the first horse to the Triple Crown for the first time in 37 years back in 2015, the trifecta has lost a bit of its luster. Still, Justify’s run is notable because of his undefeated run, followed by his subsequent retirement. Justify did not race as a two-year old, making him the only of the thirteen Triple Crown winners to not do so. His win at the Santa Anita Derby made him the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, which he did by 2.5 lengths. At the Preakness Stakes, Justify overcame tough, muddy, foggy conditions to capture the second leg of the trifecta by a half length over Bravazo. At the Belmont Stakes, Justify drew first position, meaning a poor start would trap him on the rail, making it difficult to come from behind. Fortunately, he had a great start, earning a wire-to-wire, 1 and ¾ length victory over Gronkowski becoming the thirteenth Triple Crown winner. Justify would retire only a few weeks after the Belmont, ending his career undefeated.
13. 7/1- LeBron becomes LABron
We all knew this was coming, but it’s a moment nonetheless. Coming off a huge NBA finals stinker, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar opted out of his contract, and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on a 4-year, $153 million dollar contract. LeBron’s second departure from Cleveland was less criticized than his first one (see: The Decision), and LeBron even began plans to set up a public school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, to soften the blow. Still, the signing was major sports news, and represented a major shift of power in the NBA, from the East to the West, now teeming with top-tier talent.
12. 2/20- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir capture hearts and strengthen thighs
This was the best figure skating routine of the Olympics, and it won Canadian pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir a gold medal. Watch the routine HERE as they skate to a selection of music from the film Moulin Rouge, culminating in a dramatic finish, with Virtue literally standing on Moir’s legs to the climax of the song “Come What May.” It’s heartrending. Get the tissues ready!
11. 10/30- Red Sox win the World Series
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see this happening. Though the Red Sox won 108 games, the most in the majors during the 2018 season, they had their struggles in August and September, and major question marks about the strength of the bullpen began to rise. And still, the Red Sox dismantled the Yankees in five games, then battled back from a 1-0 deficit at home to win in five games against the Houston Astros, one game thanks in part to a fantastic catch by Andrew Benintendi. Finally, in a thrilling series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, including one game that featured a back-and-forth, 18-inning contest, the Red Sox won their fourth World Series championship since 2004, spearheaded by help from unlikely sources: Nathan Eovaldi (who pitched lights out in just about every game he appeared in) and Steve Pearce (the World Series MVP, who had clutch home run after clutch home run, including two in the decisive game five), neither of whom were on the team when the season began. Look at it this way: teams don’t win 108 games just by being lucky.
10. 2/4- Eagles win Super Bowl LII
The Eagles won the goddamn Super Bowl. We don’t have to talk about this one. We don’t have to talk about how Nick Foles, a backup quarterback, torched a garbage Patriots defense for 373 yards and three touchdowns (even though Tom Brady lit up the Eagles for 505 yards and still lost). We don’t have to talk about the Patriots’ missed attempted trick play, and the Eagles subsequent “Philly Special” to put the Eagles up 22-12 right before halftime. We don’t have to talk about the city of Philadelphia winning their first sports championship in 10 years and their first football championship since 1960. But we won’t. No thanks.
9. 5/20- Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final
It is not uncommon for expansion teams to suck in their first season in the league. It is extremely uncommon for expansion teams to have the strongest first season in North American sports history and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. But still, the Vegas Golden Knights defied the odds and did it. First there was their 51 wins, setting the record for most wins in an inaugural campaign. Then came the points record for a team in its first season with a division-best 109 points. Then it was the sweep of the Los Angeles kings in the first round, followed by a dispatching of the San Jose Sharks in six. Finally, in the Western Conference Finals, the Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in a hard-fought seven game series, to advance to the Cup final, the first expansion team to do so since the St. Louis Blues in 1972. Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, they were defeated by the Washington Capitals in five games, as the Caps won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. But for a group of castoffs from 30 other NHL teams, the Golden Knights gave underdogs everywhere a chance to believe.
8. 3/29- Blackhawks play emergency backup goalie Scott Foster
On the day of the game on March 27th, Scott Foster was at his accounting job. By the end of the night, he was a Chicago hero. During the Blackhawks regular-season contest against the Winnipeg Jets, the Hawks were up 6-2 with 12 minutes to play, Chicago goaltender Collin Delia was injured. Funny enough, Delia was serving as the backup goaltender, as primary goalie Corey Crawford was sidelined with a season-ending concussion, and his initial backup, Anton Forsberg, was injured prior to the game. So, with just over half the period left to play, and a four-goal lead, the accountant and rec league goalie entered the action. Foster stopped one shot, and then another, and then another, preserving the four-goal lead and a win with seven stopped shots in the game. Think about it- it’s a pretty cool thing to happen: you start your day as an accountant, and end your day as the first star of a Chicago Blackhawks game, with a 1.000% save percentage. “I think I’m just hitting my prime,” joked Foster in a postgame interview.
7. 4/16- Mary Shertenlieb finishes the Boston Marathon
If you’re from Boston and listen to 98.5 The Sports Hub on the radio in the mornings, you are familiar with Toucher and Rich. Rich Shertenlieb’s wife, Mary, is a cancer survivor who ran the Boston Marathon this past April, raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer institute. The conditions for the marathon this past April were atrocious: rain, wind, sub-50 degree weather; torturous for any runner. For Mary, who was running her first marathon, the toll was even worse. Rich does a better job of describing what happened (if you feel like listening to the podcast link found HERE- and I promise it's well worth your time), but Shertenlieb, after stopping for a few hours to keep warm, and even wanting to quit at times, finally went out and finished the race with her husband Rich by her side. They were the last two people to finish. Take a listen. This is quite the story.
6. 9/7- Serena Williams passes the torch to Naomi Osaka
Let’s get something clear. Serena Williams was not in the wrong for displaying her aggravation with the court judgements during the U.S. Open final. She couldn’t have won the match anyways even if she hadn’t been penalized for her outburst- Osaka was playing better tennis, that much is certain. But Williams was not in the wrong for calling the double standards in tennis that benefit white, male players who are able to throw fits on the court with no repercussions. The scene itself was messy, but the aftermath was, strangely, elegant. Serena stood up for herself, her fellow players, her daughter, and for all women. The evidence is clear during the trophy ceremony. These two women left it all on the court, and they appear drained both physically and emotionally. This is one of the more dramatic moments of the year, but it is probably the most important.
5. 3/16- #16 UMBC upsets #1 Virginia
135-0. That was the all-time record of #1 seeded teams in the NCAA tournament against #16 seeds. A few #16’s got close, but it was always the #1 seeds that came out on top. That was until the UMBC Retrievers met the #1 overall Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the NCAA tournament this past April.
And the Retrievers didn’t just defeat the Cavaliers. They blew them out of the water.
In a 74-54 thrashing, #16 UMBC pulled probably the greatest upset in the history of the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers shot 39% from the floor in the first half, and entered halftime tied at 21 (something else a 16-seed had never done before). But the momentum never left UMBC’s side, as they converted three-pointer after three-pointer at a seemingly astounding rate. Virginia, which also (as the top team in the nation) lost a game to Chaminade College in Hawaii in another great NCAA upset, allowed 74 points, their worst defensive performance of the season. 99.4% of brackets had the Cavaliers winning this game.
4. 2/22- United States women's hockey team is golden
As I have said before, the United States did not fare well at the 2018 Olympics. But we did see a golden performance from the women’s hockey team, capped with a shootout win against Canada (whom they had lost to in dramatic fashion four years earlier) for the gold medal. Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, the Americans tied it up on a breakaway goal by Monique Lamoureux. After an overtime period during which the Americans were on the penalty kill, the goal medal was decided in a shootout. The Canadians went ahead 2-1 after three and a half rounds, but the American rallied with a great goal from Amanda Kessel. Finally, in the sixth round, it was Jocelyne Lamoureux who deked out Shannon Szabados and found the lower left corner of the net to put the United States up 3-2 in the shootout. On the next shot, U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney came up with the stop to seal the win for the Americans. For the first time since 1998, the United States had earned a gold medal in women’s hockey- in a game that can definitely be considered one of the best of the year.
3. 6/7- Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup
It finally happened. Alexander Ovechkin, for years being the best player in hockey to have never won the Cup, finally won the Cup. It took the Capitals three tries to finally slay their white whale in the Pittsburgh Penguins. It took a tough seven game series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, during which the Caps lost three straight after winning the first two in dominating fashion. But, with a win in five games over the Vegas Golden Knights, and spoiling their Cinderella run to the Cup, the Capitals finally reigned supreme over the game of hockey, earning the city’s first sports championship since 1992. The Stanley Cup weighs 34.5 pounds. But when Gary Bettman handed the Stanley Cup to Alex Ovechkin, it probably felt lighter than air. Watch the celebration, and, pair it with the music (which is from Remember the Titans- dammit, Vegas, you know how to make the moment special), and get ready for the chills to creep up your spine.
2. 9/23- Tiger Woods walks up the 18th at East Lake
There is a reason golf is cool. Tiger Woods is the reason golf is cool. Tiger’s had a long road since his career went off the rails almost 10 years ago, and it had been five years since he last won a tournament. But 2018 was the year of the tiger, especially in the latter half of the PGA tour season. He was close at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, and was even closer at the British Open at Carnoustie, but he could not close the door on major number 15, despite getting close. Finally, in the last tournament of the year, the Tour Championship at East Lake, Tiger’s hard work came to fruition. He led by two strokes even after consecutive bogeys on 15 and 16, and walked down the 18th fairway surrounded by literally throngs of fans. Watch this highlight and name another golfer that has had THIS kind of effect on people. You cannot. Tiger Woods is the best thing that has ever happened to golf, and his winning of this tournament might just signal the start of one last great run for the king of the golf course. Who would have thunk that the shot of the year would be a two-foot tap in putt? It’s the best.
1. 3/31 and 4/1- Arike Ogunbowale's back-to-back buzzer-beaters win Notre Dame a National Championship
No player had ever hit two back-to-back buzzer-beaters in an NCAA tournament before Arike did it. But Arike did it in the national semifinal, and then again in the national championship. Arike did it first against UConn, the terrorizers of the women’s college basketball world, and then against Mississippi State, last year’s runners-up.
After blowing a five-point lead in regulation against UConn, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame managed to keep the game tied and send it to overtime. With only seconds remaining, and the score tied at 89, Arike Ogunbowale pulled up to hit a long two with only one second to go.
UConn’s inbound was intercepted, and the Irish were off to the National Championship.
In the final, the Irish once again had to come from behind, trailing by five with under two minutes to play. But they rallied to tie it at 58 with just over forty seconds left. With three seconds remaining, the Irish managed to get the ball back, and inbounded it to Ogunbowale once again. She launched an off-balance three, seemingly falling away from the play.
And she found the bottom of the basket, winning the National Championship for Notre Dame.
No team had ever won a National Title when trailing by double digits twice in two different games. But Notre Dame did that. No player had ever hit two buzzer-beaters in a tournament before. But Arike Ogunbowale did that.
Kobe Bryant tweeted at her after the first buzzer-beater. Arike responded with another.
That’s Mamba Mentality right there, and it’s our top sports moment from 2018.
What were some of your favorite sports moments from 2018? Leave a comment down below.
And be sure to check out more of According to Andrew's Best of 2018 spread by clicking HERE.