It’s New Year’s, a time for reckoning. With the notable exception of the Celtics, the past twelve months were tough on my teams, starting with a huge, unforgettable disaster: Despite winning every game en route to Super Bowl XLII, instead of becoming champions, the Patriots became eternal icons of choking, replacing the 2004 Yankees and Mama Cass Elliot. I was finally recovering when the University of Memphis Tigers men’s basketball team, having set an all-time NCAA single season record with 38 wins, lost the final game of the Big Dance to Kansas. Being a Memphis alum, that defeat really, really hurt. Right after that game I got a brief e-mail from my friend Ted Cassley that summed it up perfectly: That had to have been a kick in the balls.
And it didn’t stop there. Roger Clemens, whom I have loved since I was thirteen (a quarter freakin’ century ago), was named in the Mitchell Report. As if that wasn’t bad enough, with the help of a former trainer, several lawyers, and some bikini shots of his wife, Clemens suffered the most disheartening public unraveling that a one-time hero could endure. Maybe it’s unfair, but the whole thing forever tainted my perception of the Roger the Rocket. And yes, I know that people whom we consider great occasionally let us down by appearing merely human.
Take Tom Brady, who lost some luster this year, too, and not because of his Week One injury. That could happen to anyone (ask Ki-Jana Carter). However, I think that jetting around with a supermodel when your ex-girlfriend just had your baby makes you kind of a cad. Not a Bill Clinton-level cad, but Brady keeping a lower profile with his new romance would have shown more consideration for the mother of his child, whatever the status of their relationship. Instead, Tom Terrific is out clubbing with Earth’s hottest woman while his ex’s episiotomy is still healing. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s not cool. Slow your roll, player.
2008 wasn’t all bad. Locally, the Sea Dogs and the Pirates both made exciting postseason runs, although neither ultimately prevailed. In another bright spot, one of my favorite fighters, the 43-year-old Bernard “the Executioner” Hopkins, dismantled the much-ballyhooed, undefeated, and 17 years younger Kelly “the Ghost” Pavlik. That was all pretty sweet, but what was my most transcendent sports moment of 2008? I’m almost ashamed to say.
Leaving a New York Giants game in the Meadowlands a couple weeks ago, I was right behind Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, on the escalator. We were closer than two drunks trying to whisper to each other in Ruski’s when it’s crowded. I wasn’t going to say anything, but then some tri-state guidos spotted O’Reilly and started shouting, You rock, Bill! You tell it like it is! You’re the man! O’Reilly waved, loving the attention. That was too much, so I leaned in and, talking right into his ear, said, “I think you’re full of shit, O’Reilly.” Since I’m an equal opportunity offender, when we got off the escalator, as O’Reilly hurried away, I added, “Olbermann sucks, too!”
I know, it wasn’t classy, and picking on pompous celebrities like O’Reilly is nothing to be proud of, but that’s kind of my point. Despite all that, it was still my most memorable moment in an arena or stadium this past year. That’s kind of sad, and not just because I should grow up. 2009 has to be better, right?
God, I hope the Celtics repeat.
Rick Wormwood can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.