by Carlos Nazario,
December is here and another year of sports has come and gone. There were some good and some bad throughout the year. Now that the new year is rapidly coming upon us, we will recap the year of championship runs that has just passed in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.
In the NFL, the Green Bay Packers played the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Aaron Rodgers finally came out of Brett Favre’s shadow and showed he could cast one of his own. He capped one of the best playoff performances by going 24-39 for 304 yards, 3 TDs and the Super Bowl MVP in the Packers’ 31-25 victory.
The Packers were in deep trouble with two games remaining in the regular season. They had to win against the New York Giants and archrival Chicago Bears just to get to the playoffs. In the playoffs, he completed 90 passes in 132 attempts (67.8%), 1094 yards, 9 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.
In the NBA, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose solidified their superstar statuses over the course of the season. Durant won another scoring title and led his team deep into the playoffs. Rose had a superb all around season, being the only player in the top 10 in both scoring and assists, and finished the season as the youngest MVP in league history, leading his team to the Eastern Conference finals.
The attention was on the Big 3 of the Miami Heat. They were playing their first season together after Lebrons’ “The Decision” was made. As they played, they left a long trail of fan adoration in Miami and booing and mocking of them everywhere else. They were having trouble in close games and found that the road to the Finals would not be as easy as they claimed. They found their groove and beat the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls each in 5 games. They made it to the Finals and faced the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavs flew under the radar throughout the season. After having high expectations and failing to live up to them over the years, not many thought they would make much noise this time. They had a tough first round against the Portland Trailblazers, but escaped. Then they played the Los Angeles Lakers and dominated them in a 4-game sweep. After that incredible series, they went on to take down the Oklahoma City Thunder before facing the Heat in the Finals.
In the Finals, the Heat came out strong and had an easy game 1 win. Suddenly, it seemed as if the public boasting of the Heat and their fans were justified. In game 2, with a 15 point deficit and the season on the line, the Mavs struck back. They went on a 22-5 run to end the game and keep the season alive.
In game 3, the Heat’s stars came through and erased the memory of that game 2 loss and they came away with a hard-fought, 88-86 victory.
After that game, however, the Mavs took over and did not look back. Their big men took over, their guards did not miss shots, and Lebron James disappeared in the fourth quarter. The Mavs won game 4, another tough close game, 86-83. In game 5, they won a shootout 112-103 and finished off the Big 3 in game 6 105-95. They shocked Miami and the basketball world by finally winning a title when they were not expected to win.
In MLB, 2011 was a crazy season. There were high expectations again for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. They did have good seasons, but there appeared to be a changing of the guard. The Yankees finished with the best record in the American League, but lost in the first round to the Detroit Tigers. The Phillies had the best record in baseball, but also lost in the first round, to the St Louis Cardinals. The Red Sox were in control for a Wild Card spot in the American League but blew a 10 game September lead and failed to reach the playoffs.
In the playoffs, the Texas Rangers were looking to defend their American League title. It did not start off well, however. The Tampa Bay Rays blanked them 9-0 in game 1 to show that they would be a formidable opponent. The Rangers won the next 3 games in tight, well-played games to advance to the ALCS, where they met the Detroit Tigers, who eliminated the Yankees in an exciting series that went the full 5 games.
Texas showed how much they wanted to go back to the World Series to make up for not winning the previous year. They beat the Tigers 4-2 in a series that no matter what the Tigers did, the Rangers had an answer. The run through the American League was finished and the Rangers repeated as AL Champions.
In the National League, the St Louis Cardinals, who were left for dead several times during the regular season, won exactly the number of games needed to qualify for the postseason. They beat out the Atlanta Braves, who led in the Wild Card hunt pretty much the entire season.
The Cards used the momentum to give the Phillies everything they could handle. Again, the Cards had their backs against the wall, only to come storming back. Down 2-1, they won the last two games, including a 1-0 game 5 classic, to eliminate the best team in baseball. Next up was the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brew Crew won the NL Central over the Cardinals and had a nice rivalry going with them. In a tense series in which many thought a big brawl could break out at any moment, the Cards this time did not have to go to the limit. They won the series 4-2 and headed onto the World Series.
The Rangers and Cardinals hooked up for one of the best World Series in history. They went all 7 games and had some classic games. The Cards took game 1 in a close 3-1 score.
In game 2, it was the Rangers whose season was at a brink. Down 1-0 in the ninth inning and facing a 0-2 deficit, they rallied for 2 runs in that ninth and came away with a 2-1 victory. In that ninth inning, Albert Pujols, the Cards’ all world first baseman, made a huge error that allowed runners to advance and eventually score without the benefit of a hit. Afterwards, he refused to talk to the media.
Pujols would let his hitting do the talking in game 3. He joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to ever hit 3 home runs in a single World Series game. He went 5 for 6 in the game with the 3 homers, 6 runs batted in and 4 runs scored. The Cards destroyed the Rangers 16-7 that was not as close as the score indicated.
The Rangers recovered from the game 3 beat down by shutting out the Cards 4-0 in game 4 and again coming up big late in game 5 to take a stranglehold of the series. The Cards again were with their backs against it. They would not want it any other way.
In game 6, the two teams played one of the all-time classic World Series games. The Cards were down 7-5 going into the bottom of the ninth. Again, this was no problem for the Cardiac Cards. Down to their last strike, they tied the game with a David Freese 2-run triple. They just refused to go down.
It seemed like the Rangers would finally get the title they were hoping for when Josh Hamilton hit a 2-run homer in the 10th inning. The Rangers and their fans just did not understand that the Cards really wanted this title. Again, down to their last out, the Cards tied it with 2 in the 10th.
Finally, in the 11th inning, David Freese struck again. He hit a walk-off home run to put an end to this classic and send the series to a game 7, winner-take-all final.
The Rangers scored two runs and took the lead in the first, only to have David Freese once again get a big hit and tie it with a 2-run double in the bottom half of the first. The Rangers’ resolve finally appeared to be broken after that. By the 5th inning the Cards owned a 5-2 lead and cruised to a 6-2 win and their 11th World Series title.
NFL, NBA and MLB fans were left breathless by 2011’s postseason. There were some great, classic games played and it was a pleasure watching these athletes play at the highest level with pressure at its peak. Let’s hope that 2012 brings with it more great memories. It will be tough to top those created by 2011.