It was a busy summer in the world of sports. A new interesting story seemed to surface every week. While I was glued to the computer reading about the latest development in the Donald Stirling incident, and everyone else was outside enjoying the beautiful weather, I created a list of some of the most interesting stories that took place in sports over the summer.
10. Rory McIlroy has great summer, makes casual fans talk about golf
This summer, we finally saw Rory McIlroy raise his game to the level that many believed he was capable of. McIlroy got off to a mediocre start to the season, but caught fire as the summer wore on. Rory has won the last two major tournaments (The Open and PGA Championships). He also became the first golfer to pick up three straight wins on tour since Tiger Woods did in 2007. With controversy and injuries threatening Woods’ career, McIlroy seems poised to take over as the next big thing in the world of golf.
9. Michael Sam becomes first openly gay NFL draftee
The 2014 NFL Draft started without incident May 8. The Houston Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney first overall. Blake Bortles became the first quarterback selected third overall. Former Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was selected 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. It wasn’t until the last few picks of the draft that another interesting story took place. Michael Sam, a defensive end from Missouri University, was selected in the seventh round, 249th overall by the St. Louis Rams. This made Sam the first openly gay player ever drafted into the NFL. However, Sam still has a long way to go before achieving his dream of playing in the NFL. Since being drafted by St. Louis, he has been cut by the team and added to the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.
8. Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays both having good seasons
It hasn’t been easy being fan of baseball in BC for the past 21 years. Since Joe Carter’s famous walk-off homerun to end the 1993 World Series, fans of baseball in this part of the world have had little to cheer about. The Seattle Mariners have had small periods of success since the Toronto Blue Jays’ last championship, which was also their last playoff appearance. The 1995 Mariners team completed a historic September comeback in order to make the 1995 MLB Playoffs. That team’s American League Division Series win against the Yankees is still considered by many the greatest moment in team history. The 2001 Mariners team also tied the MLB record for wins in a season in 2001 with 116, but failed to do much damage in the playoffs that season. Now, with September here, and the baseball season down to its last 25 games, both the Mariners and Bluejays have a chance at securing a playoff spot, the first for either team since the 2001 Mariners team. As a big Mariners fan who is enjoying important baseball in September for the first time in over a decade, this feels like the biggest story of the summer, but it’s been really neat to see both teams playing competent baseball.
7. LA Kings survive the Western Conference, win Cup
It was obvious to anyone who watched NHL hockey last season that the Western conference was the tougher conference in the NHL. The big question was who was going to win the west, and would they be healthy enough to win another series against whoever was crowned champion of the east. Well, the LA Kings turned out to be the team who survived the west–and “survived” is the best term to describe it. The Kings lost their first three games of the playoffs against San Jose before winning four straight to capture the series. The Kings also became the first team in NHL history to win three game sevens in the same playoffs, all three of those on the road. The only team the Kings didn’t need seven games to defeat was the New York Rangers, who were defeated in five to win the Stanley Cup.
6. Andrew Wiggins selected first overall to Cleveland, promptly gets traded
Andrew Wiggins, considered by many to be the greatest prospect in the history of Canadian basketball, was selected first overall in this year’s NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. A couple of years ago, Wiggins looked poised to become the first Canadian to be selected first overall in the NBA draft. But the Cavaliers who also had the first overall pick in last year’s Top 10 sports stories of the summer draft, used that pick to select Canadian Anthony Bennett. Wiggins’ selection wasn’t a huge shock to the basketball world; it was what happened after that was surprising. The Cavaliers, who made another sizeable acquisition this offseason (more on that later) traded both Canadians, Wiggins and Bennett, to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for power forward Kevin Love. The trade was discussed soon after Wiggins was drafted, but players cannot be traded until a month after they’ve been drafted. Wiggins also became the third first overall pick to be traded before even playing a game in the NBA.
5. Canucks clean house, restore respect to organization
Last season was a pretty disappointing season to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks. The team, who had won two of the last 14 playoff games they had been in, made few changes this offseason. The largest change the team made during the last offseason was replacing head coach Alain Vigneault with controversial coach John Tortorella. It would be an understatement to say the coaching change backfired terribly. Tortorella was fired after one season—less than one if you don’t count the time he spent suspended for trying to storm into the Calgary Flames dressing room and attack Bob Hartley during a game in January. The team also fired General Manager Mike Gillis before the season ended. Gillis’ firing was well-received by the Canucks fanbase, who disliked watching Gillis trade away two world-class goaltenders for less than market value returns. This offseason, the Canucks organization promised change, and so far they have delivered on that promise. The Canucks started by hiring former great Trevor Linden as president. Linden’s first move was hiring former Boston Bruin Assistant GM Jim Benning to replace Gillis. In his short time as GM, Benning has made multiple big moves. He started by trading disgruntled forward Ryan Kesler to Anaheim. Benning then signed free agents Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata. Miller comes to Vancouver hoping to return to his status as elite goalie in the NHL after a less -than-stellar playoff run with the St. Louis Blues. Vrbata, a former 30-goal scorer, looks to slot in on the wing of the Canucks’ first line alongside the Sedins. These moves, along with a few others Benning has made since the NHL draft, puts the Canucks in position to rebound from last year’s disappointing season.
4. Germany wins extremely high scoring 2014 World Cup
The 2014 World Cup took place this summer ,and was not without its share of surprises. The biggest surprise was the elimination of defending champion Spain, after two matches, including an embarrassing 5-1 loss at the hands of the Netherlands. This instalment of the World Cup was one of the highest scoring in history, with the tournament only having three games finish in a 0-0 tie. In the end, Germany was crowned champions as they defeated Argentina 1-0 in the final. The German team also defeated the host Brazilian team 7-1 in the semi-finals, which might be the biggest embarrassment in sports history.
3. Washington Redskins name controversy resurfaces
The long-running debate about whether or not the Washington Redskins is a racist name for a professional sports franchise picked up once again this summer, but this time it seems like the cries for a change are starting to pick up more steam. First, it was former Redskins star Champ Bailey who stated that he thought the name should be changed. President Obama discussed the issue, stating during an interview that if he was the owner of the team he would look into getting the name changed. The Redskins organization has since released a statement that they don’t feel the name is racist. Instead, the Redskins organization feels that the team was named the Redskins in order to show respect for the accomplishments of Native Americans, including the team’s aboriginal head coach they employed at the time of naming. With influential names such as Obama and Champ Bailey making public comment, it seems like the time is drawing closer and closer to the name finally being changed.
2. Donald Sterling racist comments leaked
Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling caused quite a stir this summer as comments that he made during a phone conversation to a “special friend” surfaced to the public. Sterling was heard telling his friend that he didn’t want her bringing African Americans around his games or posting pictures with African Americans on her Instagram. This was in response to photos that were posted by his friend on Instagram of her with NBA legend Magic Johnson. The backlash from Sterling’s comments were extreme as new NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed Sterling a lifetime ban, which barred him from any events involving the NBA. This included all practices and team events. The LA Clippers protested against their owner, and the team laid their warmup jackets on center court and warmed up with their practice jerseys inside out. The series of events eventually led to the sale of the team by Sterling’s wife to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for two billion dollars, putting an end to one of the most disgraceful periods insports history.
1. Lebron James returns to Cleveland, and everyone in Cleveland forgets they hate him
It didn’t take long after the NBA season for the focus to shift to free agency, especially with the league’s best player opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent. That is exactly what Lebron James did after the Miami Heat’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Championship; it was the Heat’s fourth consecutive appearance in the finals. The moment James declared himself a free agent the frenzy started. Every team who could afford it broke out all the stops in an attempt to try and land possibly the greatest player in NBA history. Much of the speculation from the start of free agency had Lebron either returning to Miami at an increased deal or returning to Cleveland, the city he left a few years earlier, leaving people to burn their Lebron merchandise in the streets. In the end, Lebron decided to take his talents back to Ohio as he signed a two year deal with the Cavaliers. The move turned Cleveland into an instant NBA Championship contender. But look for the whole free agent frenzy to happen again sooner rather than later, as Lebron’s contract includes an optout clause after this season.