Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Boxing Banter

The first big fight of the year was held yesterday, but aside from that there's not a lot of in-ring action to discuss this week. Here's the (short) return of Boxing Banter:

1.) Shane Mosley (46-5-1; 39 KO) won his first full-fledged (i.e. non-interim) championship belt since 2004 by defeating Antonio Margarito (37-6; 27 KO) at the STAPLES Center last night to take the WBA Welterweight crown. That puts Mosley at 7-1 since losing multiple light middleweight belts to Ronald Wright in '04. His only loss in that stretch was, incidentally, to Miguel Cotto -- who in turn has only lost to Antonio Margarito in his 33 fight career. That makes for a rather interesting triangle, and could mean that a rematch between Mosley and Cotto is in order. Certainly that fight, won by Cotto via a narrow unanimous decision, was closer than yesterday's drubbing of Margarito by Mosley, which ended in the 9th round. Mosley says he wants big fights, and if Cotto gets past Michael Jennings on February 21, I would think that rematch would fit the bill.

2.) The only title fight on the schedule next week is for the vacant IBF Junior Welterweight crown, and will Herman Ngoudjo (17-2; 9 KO) against Juan Urango (20-1; 16 KO). Urango's sole loss came two years ago against Ricky Hatton, in a decisive unanimous decision. Ngoudjo, meanwhile, has a split decision loss to Jose Luis Castillo and a fairly narrow unanimous decision loss to Paulie Malignaggi on his record over the past two years. I'm going to give the edge to Urango going in, but I don't know much about these two fighters and what sort of matchup they'll have.

3.) Remember Francois Botha? He's perhaps best remembered for being on the losing end of fights with Michael Moorer, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis between 1996 and 2000. Botha returned to the ring from a five year absence with a unanimous decision win against Bob Mirovic (28-18) in 2007. He'll be facing the similarly uninspiring Ron Guerrero (20-15; 14 KO) in South Africa on January 30. Believe it or not, the fight will be for a "world title" of sorts, as the World Boxing Federation has decided to award the winner its vacant crown. If it isn't WBO, WBA, WBC, or IBF, however, nobody cares.

4.) There was some hope that Manny Pacquiao's next fight would be against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. -- but if that fight is going to happen, we'll have to wait. Pacquiao's first order of business will be to take out Ricky Hatton on May 2. This fight should be interesting as well, but I expect Pacquaio to solve Hatton without much trouble. I hope that's the case -- a convincing win over Hatton could open the door to Mayweather, since it would make it more likely the money for a huge purse would appear.

5.) Mark your calendar for March 21, when WBC Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko will defend his belt against Juan Carlos Gomez. As I've said in the past, I'm a sucker for heavyweight bouts, and I think this one will be entertaining. David Haye might be waiting in the wings for the winner, especially if the winner is Klitschko.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kubel Re-Ups

In an off-season that has been disturbingly light on Twins news, today's announcement that Jason Kubel signed a two-year deal with a 2011 team option was a jolt -- a reminder that the Twins are, in fact, still operating a baseball club in Minneapolis and that Spring Training is just around the corner.

It's hard to evaluate this deal without knowing the terms, and as of yet they haven't been disclosed (probably since the deal isn't official just yet). However, my immediate reaction is positive. Kubel does not appear to be headed towards the stardom that was predicted for him when he was an up-and-coming prospect in the farm system. Nonetheless, he is moving towards becoming a very solid big league player who retains the potential to break out and have at least a few special seasons. Last year, Kubel hit .272 with an 806 OPS and 20 homeruns. Those are respectable numbers, and if he can dublicate them over the next few years I'll be perfectly happy with the result (unless we overpaid for him, which we'll find out later).

Of course, the Twins didn't have to buy out Kubel's last arbitration years -- but in so doing they gained cost-certainty and presumably answered the question of whether Kubel remains in the team's plans in light of the "glut" of outfielders on the roster. I like the fact that the Twins are sticking by him. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic once the terms become available and there's something to really evaluate. As I said, though, I like the idea of getting cost-certainty on Kubel and of keeping him around to DH and play in the field on occasion. Consider that a conditional thumbs-up while we wait for news on how much was actually spent to keep him around.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Blog Update

Hello all -- just wanted to let you know that I'm still around and plan on resuming a more normal blogging schedule over the next few weeks. I will cover "big news" as normal, and also plan on posting on other topics when I get the chance. Unfortunately, studying for the Bar Exam is a definite chore, so even though I'm not officially in school anymore, I might as well be. Hopefully in the next few days I'll get my first "Organizational Database" post up. I also plan to be back with a Boxing Banter post next Sunday (didn't get around to it yesterday -- first time I've missed since I started it!).


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spring Invitees

The Twins announced non-roster invitees to Spring Training today. I'm not going to have a chance to give my thoughts on the list tonight, but I'm hoping to do so tomorrow. Here's the list if you haven't seen it yet. Be back tomorrow!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Hall of Fame Results

Congratulations are in order for Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, who were elected today to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Neither selection is unexpected, although the decision on Rice -- who was on the ballot for the last time -- could have fallen on either side of the 75% line. Here are some thoughts on newsworthy topics from the results:

Henderson's Vote Total
A commenter on my predictions post (where I predicted that Henderson would get 96% of the vote) clearly thought I was overstating Henderson's likely support. While I did go a bit high, Henderson received 94.8% of the vote. That's close enough that I think it justifies my prediction; the point was that Henderson was a well-respected player whose credentials would be clear. I think that's borne out by his total.

Rice's Vote Total
I also overstated Rice's eventual total (this will be a recurring theme). I thought Rice would get 78%, while he ended up with just 76.4%. Nonetheless, that keeps the trend alive -- if you get to 70%, you're going to be elected the next year.

Dawson Next in Line
Andre Dawson reached 67% in this year's election. With no dominant players coming onto the ballot next year, that should put Dawson into a good position to get the 8% bump he needs to get elected next year (the list of players who are eligible starting next year is discussed at the bottom of this post). Dawson should benefit from Rice's election, because they are often discussed as similar players. Just as Bruce Sutter opened the door to Goose Gossage, I suspect Rice will open the door for Dawson.

Blyleven Gains -- But Not Much
I wish the news on Blyleven was a little better. On the plus side, he went from 61.9% to 62.7%, which is at least in the right direction. But he remains over 12% away from election, and he has just three years of eligibility remaining. Still, Blyleven is probably in pretty good shape -- two years ago, Jim Rice was at 63.5%. That means that as Blyleven gets onto his last few years on the ballot he's more likely to be considered. Also, 2010, 2011, and 2012 all seem to be good years for veterans like Dawson and Blyleven -- there aren't dominant players like Henderson to brush the veterans off to the side a bit. It might take a couple more years, but I am now pretty confident that Blyleven will get into the Hall.

No Bump for John
At least not much of one. Tommy John, in his final year of eligibility, garnered 31.7% of the vote. That's up from the 29.1% he received last year, but was obviously nowhere near enough to get him elected. His only shot now will be through the horribly broken Veteran's Committee -- a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Stingy Voters
Somewhat surprisingly, both Tim Raines and Mark McGwire lost support from a year ago. Raines fell from 24.3% to 22.6%, while McGwire went from 23.6% to 21.9%. I suspect that Raines lost some support because a few voters compared him (somewhat unfairly) to Rickey Henderson, and so didn't check him off this year. I don't know why McGwire lost support, after staying steady in his first two years. Neither lost enough support to worry about dropping off the ballot, however, and they still have many years for people to consider their candidacies. A few other players, including Alan Trammell, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly, and Dale Murphy also lost support this year. Harold Baines bucked the trend at the bottom of the ballot, gaining slightly from 5.2% to 5.9%.

Other First Timers
Aside from Rickey Henderson, the voters didn't much care for the new candidates. All of them were booted off the ballot, with Mark Grace (4.1%) and David Cone (3.9%) coming the closest to sticking around. I thought both Grace and Cone would last another year, and that Matt Williams would come close -- guess I was wrong on that count!

New Next Year
Here's the list of eligible players, most of whom will probably end up on the ballot (only to be quickly ushered off after one cycle):
Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Ellis Burks, Dave Burba, Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McLemore, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Robin Ventura, Fernando Vina, Todd Zeile.

There are some interesting names on the list -- I expect to look hard at Roberto Alomar, Andres Galarraga, Barry Larkin, and Edgar Martinez when I think about it next year. But none of these players have the "without question" quality to them of a Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, or Cal Ripken, Jr., to name a few from the past couple of years who have been obvious. That could make things interesting next year -- and I hate to say it, but it seems entirely possible that no one could get elected next year. I sincerely hope that's not the case!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Boxing Banter

Relatively quiet week to report on, but there are some bigger fights coming up in the next few weeks that should be interesting. Here are this weeks notes:

1.) In a battle of undefeated fighters, Hungarian Karoly Balszay (20-0; 14 KO) won a unanimous decision over Denis Inkin (34-1; 24 KO) to snag the WBO Super Middleweight belt. I thought Inkin would get the win in this fight, but I suspected it would be a close bout. It was a fairly close fight, 115-113, 116-112, 116-112, so I wouldn't be all that surprised if the two fought again in a year or so.

2.) The second scheduled title fight was turned into a non-title bout after the challenger failed to make weight. WBO Light Heavyweight champ Zsolt Erdei (30-0; 17 KO) remained unbeated by winning a unanimous decision over Yuri Barashian (25-5; 17 KO). The result wasn't particularly surprising, but Barashian's inability to make weight was. How do you miss your weight in a title fight? Sheesh.

3.) Two title fights next weekend, both on Saturday night. The first will present undefeated WBC Welterweight champion Andre Berto (23-0; 19 KO) making his second title defense since winning the belt in June. His opponent will be 27-year-old Luis Collazo (29-3; 14 KO), the #1 contender for the belt. Collazo hasn't won a fight against a real quality opponent in a few years, so I would expect Berto to retain.

4.) Finally, in a battle for the vacant interim WBO Cruiserweight title, Alexander Alexeev (16-0; 15 KO) will battle Victor Emilio Ramirez (13-1-0; 11 KO). Alexeev has the more impressive pedigree and a few years of experience on Ramirez. He's also more respected by the WBO ranking committee, coming into the fight with the #1 ranking against Ramirez's #7 slot. My money's on Alexeev to become the new "interim" champ.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Hall of Fame Predictions

The results of this year's Hall of Fame voting will be announced Monday, so it's time to make my predictions. Last year, I correctly predicted that Goose Gossage would get in, but I also thought Jim Rice would sneak in and so missed that call. I had a few solid percentage predictions for the guys that didn't make the list, but also missed big on a few guys (like Blyleven -- I didn't see his dramatic increase in votes coming). We'll see if I can do better this year. If you're interested in reading about who I would vote for if I had a vote, you can click here.

My projections are largely based on general impressions from articles I've read along with trends from the past few years of voting and some educated (I hope) guesses as to what could happen given this year's particular dynamics. As a quick refresher, a player must receive at least 75% of the vote to be elected to the Hall, and a player must receive at least 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot next year. Also, a player has only 15 years of eligibility on the ballot, so any player failing to reach 75% in his 15th season on the ballot will not be back next year. Players who I am predicting will be elected are in bold, and players who will not be on the ballot next year either for failing to reach the 5% threshold or because they've run out of years of eligibility will appear in italics. My predicted vote total appears right after a candidates name, with the totals for the previous five years following in parentheses -- most recent listed first.

Ricky Henderson - 96%
Jim Rice - 78% (72.2/63.5/64.8/59.5/54.5)

Andre Dawson - 70% (65.9/56.7/61/52.3/50)
Bert Blyleven - 67% (61.9/47.7/53.3/40.9/35.4)
Jack Morris - 46% (42.9/37.1/41.2/33.3/26.3)
Lee Smith - 42% (43.3/39.8/45/38.8/36.6)
Tommy John - 35% (29.1/22.9/29.6/23.8/21.9)
Tim Raines - 32% (24.3)
Mark McGwire - 24% (23.6/23.5)
Alan Trammell - 21% (18.2/13.4/17.7/16.9/13.8)
Don Mattingly - 17% (15.8/9.9/12.3/11.4/12.9)
Dave Parker - 17% (15.1/11.4/14.4/12.6/10.3)
Dale Murphy - 12% (13.8/9.2/10.8/10.5/8.5)
Mark Grace - 8%
David Cone - 6%
Harold Baines - 5% (5.2/5.3)
Matt Williams - 4%
Jesse Orosco - 2%
Mo Vaughan - 0.8%
Jay Bell - 0.4%
Ron Gant - 0.2%
Greg Vaughan - 0.2%
Dan Plesac - 0%


Monday, January 05, 2009

RIP Carl Pohlad

I just went to the Star Tribune's website to check out if there was any news on the Senate recount/contest/imbroglio and saw the banner headline about the passing of Twins owner Carl Pohlad. I wish his family, and the extended Twins family, my condolences.

Pohlad's legacy is mixed, in my opinion. On one hand, this is a man who first sought to move his team and then actively promoted contraction. Throughout the 1990's, he was viewed as shamefully cheap, putting a team on the field with a miserly payroll and no chance to win. On the other hand, I don't think there's any question that he loved baseball and the Twins (despite the contraction efforts). He was the owner during the Twins two world title runs in 1987 and 1991. He authorized his GM to go over budget several times in the 2000's when the team finally started winning again. If nothing else, Pohlad provided a stable figure from 1984 to 2009. There are many worse owners throughout the sports world, and in a way I will miss him. Undoubtedly, the 2009 season will be dedicated to him.

UPDATE: My apologies if I missed it, but how is it that ESPN at no point today had this on the front page anywhere? The death of the 25-year owner of a team that twice won the World Series in that span strikes me as newsworthy enough to get at least a few hours on the front page, but I looked for this several times today on ESPN and could only find it in the MLB section. In contrast, CNNSI still has the story on the front page after a good half-day, and for a few hours after the news came out MSNBC had it in their major headlines section on the front page, meaning it penetrated not just sports news but actual news news. Ultimately this is pretty inconsequential, but it strikes me as a tremendous oversight on ESPN's part. I'll score that as an error to the webpage headlines editor for ESPN.

UPDATE 2: Talk about weird timing -- this morning I checked ESPN and, whatdya know, ESPN has finally put Pohlad's death on the front page. This leads me to believe this really was a "whoops" moment on the part of whoever was editing the headlines yesterday, because certainly Pohlad's death didn't become more newsworthy overnight. I'm guessing someone with some clout in the baseball section noticed the oversight and found a way to get the news on the front page. Better late than never, I suppose.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Boxing Banter

Well, so much for that Vikings playoff run I was hoping for (not that I expected it). Now, onto the boxing:

1.) I went 2-for-3 on my title bout predictions from a week ago. First up, Denkaosan Kaovichit took the WBA flyweight crown off of Takefumi Sakata with a 2nd round knock out. I also correctly predicted that Toshiaki Nishioka would succesfully defend his WBC interim junior featherweight title against Genaro Garcia. My incorrect pick came in the WBA "regular" lightweight championship fight, which I thought would be won by the defending champ, Yusuke Kobori. It seems I disregarded challenger Paulus Moses' undefeated record (built mostly against less-than-steller competition) at my peril, as Moses picked up the crown and now sits at 24-0. At least I can say it was a close call, as the fight went to the cards, with Moses getting the unanimous decision.

2.) I mentioned that Evander Holyfield was contesting the decision in his December 20 fight against Nikolai Valuev, and it seems the WBA is taking things seriously. A panel of judges will apparently review the fight, and I would imagine that they'll actually consider whatever the panel says (this being boxing, though, maybe I'm giving them too much credit -- I suppose it's possible that this was done just to shut Holyfield up). Again, I don't really have a dog in this fight; it sounds like neither fighter was very good. However, I don't think the decision of the ringside judges should be overturned unless it is absolutely clear that their decision was wrong, and I don't think this fight rose to that level. A bad decision? Quite possibly. A clearly, obviously, unequivocally wrong one? No.

3.) There are two title fights in Germany on Saturday. In the first fight, WBO light heavyweight champ Zsolt Erdei (29-0-0; 17 KO) will defend against the WBO #10 contender Yuri Barashian (25-4-0; 17 KO). Erdei has held the title since January 2004, with 10 succesful defenses behind him. I would be stunned if he lost the title to Barashian, who only the WBO and IBF have even bothered to rank.

4.) The second title fight on the German card will see WBO super middleweight champion Denis Inkin (34-0-0; 24 KO) make his first defense since winning the title in September against Fulgencio Zuniga. His opponent will be undefeated Karoly Balzsay (19-0-0; 14 KO), the WBO #1 contender and Intercontinental champion. I love fights between undefeated competitors, and this one should be entertaining. Both of these guys seem to have some finishing power, and they're about the same age (Inkin is a little older). I'm going to give the edge to Inkin to retain.

5.) Finally, Friday night brings the season premier of ESPN's Friday Night Fights, which will see Yuriorkis Gamboa and Odlanier Solis in action. Free fights are always welcome!


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Top 10 Sports Moments of 2008

It's a few days late, but I finally got a chance to sit down and put together my list of this year's top 10 sports moments. I wanted to get it up on the 31st, but that wasn't going to happen thanks to what was a ridiculously busy schedule over the Holidays. If you want to reminisce a bit, you can check out my 2007 Top 10 here. Feel free to let me know in the comments whether I left something off that you would have included. Now, for my favorite moments of 2008:

#10 - Pacquiao Pounds De La Hoya (12/6/08)
By no means was this the best fight of 2008 -- not even close. In fact, it wasn't even really a fight so much as a beat down by Pacquiao. Why, then, does it make my list? How about the fact that it likely ended the career of the most marketable fighter boxing has ever seen. Or the surprising dominance of Pacquiao, who was supposed to be the weaker fighter due to his naturally smaller size. Or the fact that it cemented Pacquaio's place as the best active pound-for-pound fighter in the business. All of these reasons factored into my decision to include this fight on the list, but the thing that sealed the deal is that this fight opened the door for the possible return of Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who would like to test Pacquiao's claim to that pound-for-pound crown.

#9 - Davidson's March Madness Run (3/20 - 3/30/08)
It's not unprecedented for a small school to make a big run in the NCAA Tournament, but the 10th seeded Davidson Wildcats, led by Guard Stephen Curry, didn't just make a run -- they nearly knocked off the eventual champions in the Elite Eight. Davidson took out Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin on the way to facing Kansas in the Midwest Regional Final, and ended up losing by a slim 59-57 margin. That was enough to get Davidson in my top 10 -- but to be fair, I should split the #9 spot and give the National Championship game some credit as well. Kansas ended up taking out Memphis in overtime after trailing by 9 points with just 2:12 left to go. The finish of regulation was remarkable, with Memphis choking by missing four of five free throws to end regulation. I'm giving Davidson the headline, but really this spot belongs equally to that great championship game.

#8 - The 50th Daytona 500 (2/17/08)

The finish of the Daytona 500 is always pretty interesting, but this year's Daytona 500 probably wouldn't have made my list if it hadn't been the 50th running of the sport's biggest race. Ryan Newman ended up getting the win with an assist from teammate Kurt Busch, giving team owner Roger Penske his long sought first restrictor plate victory. The fact that the "new car" (a.k.a. the Car of Tomorrow) made its Daytona debut in this race also spiced things up somewhat. Really, though, it's the nostalgia involved with a major anniversary that gets this year's relatively pedestrian running of the race on my Top 10 list.

#7 - Celtics win the NBA Championship (6/17/08)
The Finals matchup between the Celtics and Lakers was a dream come true for the NBA, but notice that I didn't put the series itself on the list -- this spot goes exclusively to the Celtics for winning the banner. I didn't start to pay attention to the NBA until after the Celtics were already in a serious decline from the championship era, and before last summer the team hadn't hoisted a trophy since 1986, and hadn't won a conference crown since 1987. The extreme makeover that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in to join Paul Pierce made Danny Ainge look like a genius (and Kevin McHale look very, very bad). It was a notable return to form for the Yankees of the NBA (17 championships -- wow).

#6 - Jimmie Johnson/Lewis Hamilton Championships
I'm cheating by putting both racers togethers in one slot, but I couldn't pick which one I preferred. Johnson made history by doing the unthinkable and winning his third straight NASCAR championship, something that seemed unthinkable in the modern era with so many competitive teams. Hamilton, on the other hand, won his first Formula 1 Championship in just his second year in the sport, becoming the youngest driver to pull that off. Hamilton narrowly pulled off the win over Ferrari's Felipe Massa in the championship, winning by just one point after a last lap pass netted him a fifth place finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The motorsports world might look very different in 2009, but 2008 brought two brilliant and historic championship runs.

#5 - Rays win the Pennant (10/19/08)
The World Series proved to be a bit of a dud, but the Rays 4-3 series victory over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS was anything but. After narrowly losing the first game of the series, Tampa Bay clobbered Red Sox pitching in Games 2-4, scoring 9, 9, and 13 runs respectively in those games. That was enough to give the Rays a 3-1 series lead and seemed to indicate that the Rays had figured out how to score enough runs off of Boston to make it to the World Series. The veteran Sox wouldn't quit, though, and undoubtedly had visions of a 2004-like comeback flashing through their minds as they won games 5 and 6. In the end, the Rays would ride series MVP Matt Garza and rookie David Price to the game 7 win. And just like that, the Rays threw off the shackles of the first 10 years of team history. No longer are the Rays a laughingstalk. Hopefully they can continue terrorizing the Yankees and Red Sox for years to come.

#4 - Michael Phelps / Usain Bolt
The Olympics deserve a spot on this list, and without question the stars of the Beijing Olympics were these two guys. Phelps, of course, set the record for excellence by striking Gold in 8 different events. Bolt won "only" three medals, but his 9.69 second 100 m time (while showboating at the end!) broke his own World Record and inspired praise (for the sheer brilliance of his achievment), criticism (for his showboating), and concern (about the possibility that Bolt's time was aided by performance-enhancing drugs -- something for which there is no evidence). If I had to pick just one single event to put on this list, it probably would have been Phelps' 100m Butterfly victory over Milorad Cavic by just 1/100th of a second -- it was the most exciting 50 seconds of the Olympics for me since I was rooting hard for Phelps to break the medals record. Bolt's achievment is nothing to sneeze at, but I couldn't get overly excited for a 10 second event.

#3 - U.S. Open Golf Championship (6/12 - 6/16/08)
By far the most exciting golf event of the year. In case you've somehow managed to forget, this was the great battle between an injured Tiger Woods (who would submit to season-ending surgery a couple of days after winning the event) and the surprising Rocco Mediate. Woods' improbable victory probably would have been enough to get the event on this list by itself (how on earth do you win a golf tournament with a double stress fracture of the tibia and an ACL injury!?!), but the way it was done made it even more special. The unheralded Mediate finished the Fourth Round in a tie with Woods, requiring a Fifth Round the next day. The two golfers were still tied after the extra 18 holes, so in the end it came down to a playoff hole that was won by Woods. Mediate proved to be a popular foil to Woods, and I suspect many were rooting for David rather than Goliath in this battle. Woods victory over the field despite his injuries simply shows how very much better he is than everyone else in his sport. That's not exactly a revelation, but last year's U.S. Open served as yet another amazing reminder.

#2 - Wimbledon Men's Final (7/6/08)
An instant classic, this battle between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer is now considered by most pundits I've read to be the best Tennis match ever played. The event took all day to complete, as rain delayed the proceedings several times. In the end, Nadal would win by the unbelievable score of 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7. Nadal had been nipping at Federer's heels for some time, and this unbelievable match was the culmination of that fight. Federer had been invincible on the Wimbledon grass. While they likely will never duplicate the 2008 Wimbledon final, I hope they have a few more great bouts before Federer hangs 'em up.

#1 - Super Bowl XLII (2/3/08)
The Super Bowl is the undisputed King of sporting events in the United States. Nearly half of the people in the United States watch at least part of the game every year, a mark that nothing else comes close to. But really, the Super Bowl is popular in spite of itself. The game is usually a long, boring dud with bad halftime entertainment and far too many commercials (which usually are nowhere near as entertaining as they are expected to be by the fans, some of whom tune in solely to watch them). That's what makes last year's Super Bowl the #1 event of the year -- not only was it an "event" in the sense that everybody was watching, it was a great game that saw a tremendous upset. The New York Giants 17-14 win over the previously undefeated New England Patriots denied Bill Belichick's squad perfection, and created the legend of Eli Manning. The Giants final drive, notable for Manning's evasion of a seemingly sure-thing sack and David Tyree's circus catch off his helmet, was astounding sports theater. For once, the Big Game lived up to the hype, setting a new bar for greatness. It easily deserves the #1 spot on my list this year.

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