With Leather Presents: The 20 Greatest Sports Moments Of 2011

12.29.11 6 years ago 26 Comments

Man, time sure does fly. It seems like just yesterday I was praising Drew Brees. Actually, it was just yesterday, but I was referring to when I named Brees and the New Orleans Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV the top Sports Moment of 2010. And you know what? That was a boring, predictable pick and it left nothing to the imagination of you, our beloved readers. You deserve more than just the run-of-the-mill year end list, because With Leatherites are smarter than the average sports blog reader, and I know that because I was called an idiot by you guys plenty this year.
You also have a better sense of humor than the average sports blog reader, so when I was entering the qualifications for this year’s Best Sports Moments into my sophisticated super computer (read: old yellow notepad) I wanted to kick the sentimental crap to the curb and really focus on what makes us all tick – namely, poop jokes and hot models. But mostly fun sports moments. As always, I don’t expect everyone to agree, and I’m sure that I left out a few moments here and there (sorry hockey). So feel free to school us on your biggest moments of the year, and let’s all hope that 2012 is a little more sex scandal free…

If I left the allegations of child sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky, Bill Conlin and Bernie Fine off this list, people would complain that I excluded the biggest story of the year. So I will recognize that Sandusky was probably the biggest story of the year, and the developing stories of accusations against Conlin and Fine have dwarfed the significance of anything else that happened in the sports world in 2011. Hell, if it weren’t for dead dictators and global civil unrest, these might even be the biggest news stories of the year.
But as I wrote when the Sandusky news first broke, we never felt comfortable talking about these allegations of sexual assault and abuse because we’re humorists and there’s just no humor to be made of these alleged incidents that will seemingly pile up throughout 2012. And we’re certainly not soapbox ranters like other blogs that pretended like these stories were their opportunities to expose the lies and whatnot.
All we can hope for, if and when these men are found guilty, that there is a special place reserved in hell for those who are guilty of raping children, and in that place they will be eaten alive and crapped out on a daily basis by a dinosaur with IBS. That would be nice.
In one of sports’ darkest hours not involving creepy old dudes and sex abuse allegations, the case of Bryan Stow showed us that we should probably be a little safer when we’re traveling to sporting events. Now I’m not saying that he did anything to deserve having his head cracked against the pavement by two Los Angeles gang members outside of Dodger Stadium just because he was a San Francisco Giants fan. I’m just saying this world can be pretty scary. But the two men who are responsible for putting Stow in intensive care for the better part of 2011, should they ever be caught, deserve an incredible punishment. In fact, instead of 30 days of house arrest, let’s make Barry Bonds’ punishment to use their heads as batting practice. What’s fair is fair, right?
Thankfully, Stow was able to finally leave the hospital this month and spend Christmas with his family. It was a rare, horrible incident – later amplified by similar attacks at two NFL games in California – that comes with a somewhat happy ending. The only way it could truly be happy, of course, would be all of us watching Bonds break a couple Mizuno bamboo wood bats across the assailants’ throats.

Hey, remember all that good news that happened? Let’s talk about that sh*t now instead!
U-S-A! (women) U-S-A! (women)
Back in July, U.S. women’s soccer star Abby Wambach nailed the header heard around the world to tie heavily-favored Brazil at 2 late in their heated World Cup semifinal matchup. Brazil, led by the vilified Marta (I don’t know what Michael Bluth ever saw in her), was so crushed by that goal that the U.S. was able to lay the spank thunder in penalty kicks to the tune of 5-3. So of course everyone figured, “Well they took care of the Brazilians, so they have to beat Japan easily, right?” Wrong. Japan ended up winning on penalty kicks as well, leaving the U.S. team as the sad runner-up.
But their efforts didn’t go for naught. Thanks to their victory over Brazil, we were able to discover reluctant female athlete sex symbols Hope Solo and Alex Morgan. Sure, they didn’t like it when guys everywhere gawked at them, but they were flattered enough when Evan Longoria tried to use Twitter as his own Match.com. Poor Evan, he never did get that date with Morgan. At least he has his sweet hats to keep him company.
With Tiger Woods still in full-on suck mode after his notorious female problems, the PGA was in need of a new rising star. I don’t mean to imply that guys like Luke Donald and Adam Scott are boring, but if it weren’t for them I would have never found the motivation to do my taxes. Plus, they’re both in their 30s now, so that makes them automatically 100% less exciting than, say, a 22-year old who came into the U.S. Open only a few months after choking away the Masters Championship and laying down one of the biggest beatdowns in PGA history.
Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open by 8 strokes, but his 16-under tournament score was the real story. It was the greatest combined score in the event’s history, with the previous record of 12-under being held by Jack Nicklaus, Lee Janzen, Jim Furyk and Woods. Add to McIlroy’s success his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki (No. 1 on the WTA), and you could definitely say that he’s had a pretty good year.
With Tim Tebow heading to the NFL and player arrests piling up, it sure seemed like an opportune time for Urban Meyer to step down as the coach of the Florida Gators. He told the world that he was worried about his health and wanted to focus on spending time with his family, so of course we all understood and Gators fans were like, “Well this sucks, but we’re awesome so we’ll find another great coach.” And with a little hard work they still might find a good coach in the next few years.
But then something funny happened. Jim Tressel found himself in hot water because some of his Ohio State players had been exchanging autographs for loaner cars and free tattoos, and according to some emails he knew about it for quite some time and simply ignored it. So in order to avoid further scandal and public humiliation, OSU sent Tressel packing and the Buckeyes were coached by Luke Fickell in 2011, and he was done after his 6-6 finish. Because all of a sudden, Meyer was feeling pretty damn healthy again.
Despite his smoking hot daughter Tweeting her rage at reports that her dad was taking the OSU job and him flat-out denying the reports on ESPN, Meyer accepted the OSU coaching job in November and millions of Gators fans shook their fists in rage at the heavens. Then OSU was given a one-year postseason ban and everyone laughed.
If you put a gun to my head and told me to pick the biggest surprise of this NFL season, I’d say that I couldn’t believe how many teams sucked. Then I’d do that trick where I reverse the gun on you and I’d kick you in the balls for holding a gun to my head. What the f*ck were you thinking, man? I could have died! You know who gets my life insurance money? My 3-year old nephew. And he’s too young for all those strippers.
For the first 7 weeks of the NFL season, we had a real cockfight of suck for which team was going to end up with the No. 1 pick, and I have to admit that it was fun because I made a running feature out of it (as did many other sites, just a few weeks after us, of course). “Suck for Luck” took on a life of its own as the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and a few other teams really tried their hardest to be the worst teams in the NFL each week. Of course the sports world determined that Stanford’s Andrew Luck was the de facto No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, even though a lot of us – *points to self* – would love to have Baylor’s Robert Griffin III on our favorite teams.
But aside from that trivial idea, it was pretty remarkable how many teams were just downright terrible this year. And once again the coaching carousel will wind up and more retread QBs will bounce from city to city while moron front office executives – *cough, Jeff Ireland, cough* – keep collecting paychecks.
It probably won’t surprise anyone if a Major League Baseball player is busted for using performance enhancing drugs for at least the next 5, maybe even 10 years. Even with the latest testing policies and punishments, there are still going to be idiots who think they can get away with using PEDs. But of all the players to test positive for a banned substance, I have to admit that Ryan Braun definitely made my monocle shatter on the ground. A minor leaguer who just can’t seem to find an edge to push him to the next level? Sure. But the recently named National League MVP? That’s a tough sell.
Braun is about as squeaky clean and wholesome as they come in baseball. Here’s a guy who signed a sweetheart contract extension and still played his ass off while his superstar slugger teammate, Prince Fielder, did everything but openly admit that he was on the first train out of town. Braun made his teammates play better and he embodied the Midwest superstar. That’s why it’s such a shock and disappointment that he was busted. Now, he still professes his innocence and has guaranteed his teammates that he will be cleared, but he’s still guilty until proven innocent in the court of baseball.
Even if you’re a casual football fan, you should have known that the Green Bay Packers were built to begin a dynasty. What they lack in defense, the Packers more than make up for in offensive talent that is locked up for enough years to really do some damage in the NFL, as evidenced by a 13-game winning streak this season. So when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, it wasn’t much of a surprise and it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Unless you can’t stand how Brett Favre manipulated the sports media for the last 5 years and ruined his Green Bay legacy in the process. In that case, it was a huge deal.
For the Packers to not only win a Super Bowl in a few short years after he forced them to trade him, but for Aaron Rodgers to also win Super Bowl MVP – something Favre never did – was a beautiful way for so many Packers fans, and especially Rodgers, to give Favre a giant middle finger. And even as he tried to wedge himself into the conversation again this season, we all just laughed at him a little harder. In fact, from now on, I’ll only remember him for this:

Shapiro (R) with Kellen Winslow Jr.

I like to imagine that when Yahoo! reporter Charles Robinson broke the story of an unknown booster blowing the whistle on the University of Miami Hurricanes football team back in August, he was fist pumping like a madman over the belief that it was going to revolutionize the way we look at college football scandals. But there was a problem with that:

1) Nobody was really surprised that Miami was up to some shady sh*t.
B) His source was a convicted felon who stole a metric butt ton of money from people in a massive Ponzi scheme.

Nevin Shapiro’s admitted gifts to a decade’s worth of Hurricanes players made for some awesome stories and for about a month or so we all loved bringing up the archaic NCAA punishment of the death penalty, as if anyone had the balls to shut down a football program that has probably made billions for the NCAA over the past 30 years.
In the end, this thing was as disappointing as sex with a narcoleptic stripper.
Tim Tebow started the 2011 NFL season third on the QB depth chart for the Denver Broncos. He was not only being outperformed in practice by the incumbent, Kyle Orton, who was supposed to be traded to the Miami Dolphins, but also by Brady Quinn. Brady-f*cking-Quinn, people. The season was barely even fresh when Broncos fans started demanding Tebow play, and some morons even bought some space on digital billboards to demand that John Fox start Tebow. And eventually Fox had no choice.
Sixteen weeks later, the Broncos control their own destiny in the AFC West title hunt, thanks to the just-good-enough-to-somehow-win-a-bunch-of-games-in-the-4th-quarter-or-overtime play of Tebow. And thus a cult was born, bred and thriving. And there begins the problem as well.
There have been some openly religious QBs and players in the NFL before – see: Warner, Kurt – but Tebow both benefits and suffers from a wider spectrum of analysis and criticism than ever before. So when he thanks his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ after each game, some people are certainly put off by it, because it’s being replayed over and over. The Christian majority loves it, because he’s spreading the gospel. The non-secular media questions it, because they wonder if the non-Christians appreciate it. And the anti-religion movement loathes it because people shouldn’t be able to advertise their religious beliefs, even if there is a certain irony in agnostics and atheists openly decrying every faith.
Since the debates and mindless arguments will only get worse, I simply wish that the NFL Network, ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC would create a special mute button for fans that would mute any words that offend them. And maybe for me they could make a button that would send me to another planet every time someone sparks another ridiculous debate about Tebow.
After the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, thousands of Vancouverites took to the streets of their beautiful city and sparked one of the biggest riots of the year that didn’t involve overthrowing an asshole leader. The rest of the world looked on in shock as these young sports fans ripped their city to shreds, destroying the storefronts of small businesses, flipping cars and beating the piss out of innocent bystanders.
Eventually we realized, though, that this wasn’t about sports. The Canucks losing was just a stupid excuse for these sociopath scumbags to create chaos in the name of being upset with the terrible life choices that they’ve made and blaming it on “the man.” Seriously, look at this dipsh*t.
Yeah, your life sucks, bud. In fact, I want you to pack up your Canucks shirt, hockey stick and angst, head over to Egypt and Libya and tell those people what real problems are. I’m sure they’ll really sympathize.
If there had been a civil war sparked by one specific sports topic in 2011, the two sides wouldn’t have been the Union and Confederacy. They would have been Heat fans and “haters”. Because those of us who reveled in the unfulfilled promises that the Heat made when they celebrated the signing of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh had an absolute blast watching the Heat lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals back in June.
Of course, we’re beyond that now, as I and many others have basically handed the NBA title to the Heat this season, but they’ve left behind a much bigger legacy even without a championship trophy won yet. By combining forces to create a potential dynasty, Wade, James and Bosh created a mentality in the NBA that superstars must team up to win. You know, even though the Heat were stopped by a team that featured one star surrounded by a strong group of role players. Now small market superstars are hijacking their franchises in order to be traded to the usual suspects, as evidenced by Carmelo Anthony’s trade to the New York Knicks and the rejected trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers.
If only the owners could do something to symbolically put their feet down and show these stars who is in control.
The NFL lockout was certainly scary for a while. At times it looked like we would have a shortened season. Other times it looked like we wouldn’t have a season at all. Fortunately, everything worked out and the NFL barely missed any time, other than a few preseason games that most of us wouldn’t have watched anyway. But the NBA… hoo boy, that was a whole different mess.
From July 1, the first day that the owners locked the players out, it seemed like the NBA would not have a season. The middle and small market owners were hellbent on leveling the playing field, as they claimed that 22 teams lost money and, above all else, they were sick of their Carmelo Anthonys, Chris Pauls and Dwight Howards leaving to join the big market teams and setting the rest of the league back in mediocrity. While the owners and players competed in one of the worst public relations battles in modern history – a Twitter campaign, how high school – the NFL not only resolved its lockout and signed a new collective bargaining agreement, but the MLB also ratified its CBA as well. The NBA looked like that kid who always pulled his pants down to piss at the urinals in middle school.
As I and many others predicted, if there was going to be a season, it would be because the players caved and the owners raked them over the coals. That’s sort of what happened. The owners took 9% of the basketball related income back from the players (from 57% in the players’ favor to 52% in the owners favor) to make up for the 22 teams that lost money, but the players still have the power, as evidenced by Paul being traded to the L.A. Clippers and Howard’s eventual trade. Sixteen games and hundreds of millions of dollars lost for nothing.

On July 9, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter recorded his 3,000th hit against the Tampa Bay Rays in the coolest, most Yankee way possible – he hit a home run. Even more Yankee of him, he had 5 hits in his 5 at-bats. The only way his milestone could have been any more Yankee would have been if he hit 5 grand slams with a bat made of diamonds. Give it time, someone may end up doing that.
But Jeter’s feat isn’t simply amazing because it’s the cherry on top of a Hall of Fame career. It’s remarkable because he may realistically be the last player to ever hit 3,000 hits while playing his entire career with the same team. There are plenty of young stars in the making who will probably eclipse the 3K mark at some point in their careers, but team loyalty may die when Jeter finally hangs it up. Perhaps we’re not done discussing this point just yet…
And Jeter was originally in the late teens on this list, but then I took into account the recent story that he sends his lady conquests home with an autographed ball and he earned serious bonus points. Seriously, dads, if your sons grow up to be professional athletes, make them sit down and read everything about Jeter’s life. Then make them read about Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, and every other pro athlete that has gone through a divorce. Or maybe just don’t let them be a NBA player.

What the hell can I say? It’s a monkey dressed as a cowboy riding a dog. Who the hell cares what happened in the Denver Broncos-New England Patriots game that this occurred at? In 2012, we need more cowboy monkeys riding dogs. Make it happen, sports.
Most basketball fans at least knew who Kris Humphries was before he started dating Kim Kardashian, but once they became an item, he became a household name. Mostly because women were asking, “Who the f*ck is Kris Humphries?” The perfect off-the-bench minutes-eating big man, Humphries had nobody fooled when he agreed to marry the world’s biggest fame whore. That’s why it was hardly a shock when they divorced after just 72 days.
Of course, that 72-day marriage netted Kardashian close to $18 million and it sparked an outrage that started an Internet boycott of all things Kardashian and made Humphries the most hated man in the NBA. Now he’s booed in every arena outside of New Jersey and she’s… well, she’s still an inexplicable star and loved by millions of women around the world who wish they could have it all by making a sex tape with a guy who claims to be a rapper but doesn’t have a song that one person on this planet can name without Googling.
Funny how fame works.
The Greatest Night in Regular Season Baseball History was the product of one month of terrible play by two franchises that redefined the overused sports cliché “choke”. By the end of August, the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves seemed like they had their respective wild cards locked up. But on Wednesday, September 28, both teams not only surrendered their wild card hopes, but they did so in incredibly memorable fashion.
It started with the St. Louis Cardinals winning handily against the Houston Astros, which meant the Braves either needed to win to force a 1-game playoff or their season was done. A few hours and extra innings later, Philadelphia ended their hopes in the 13th inning. Meanwhile, the real excitement was in the American League, with the Boston Red Sox actually depending on the New York Yankees to help them avoid blowing a 9-game lead in the wild card race over the span of 25 days. The Sox needed the Yankees to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, because Jonathan Papelbon gave up 2 runs to the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the 9th inning with 2 outs. Minutes later, Evan Longoria belted a game-winning home run to solidify one of the biggest September collapses in baseball history.
I don’t even feel like I can give it the credit it deserves by trying to write about it, so I suggest you revisit Kyle Farnsworth and The Dugout for the complete nostalgia.

“Sound the homer alarms, the St. Louis Cardinals fan is shorting other sports moments for the sake of enjoying his World Series victory a little more!” Kind of. But this is about more than just the Cardinals winning their 11th World Series in franchise history. This one had everything, from Albert Pujols hitting 3 home runs in one game to set his place in history at the same table as Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson to Game 6, easily one of the Top 10 greatest World Series games ever played.
Sure, people might argue that Nelson Cruz should have caught David Freese’s game-tying triple in the bottom of the 9th inning, but nobody can deny that it wasn’t exciting as hell. Well, nobody except for Texas Rangers fans. And then Freese’s walk-off solo home run setting up Game 7 and one of the most improbable World Series victories in baseball history? This game redefined hyperbole.
Of course, if you also add in the fact that it made Nyjer Morgan look like a complete dumbass and then couple all of that with Tony LaRussa retiring on the Monday after his unbelievable season ended, it’s good enough for a movie. Maybe a SyFy pic like AstroGator vs. Drunk Manager.
If you couldn’t enjoy the Cardinals’ improbable World Series win, then you definitely enjoyed watching it all come crashing down around baseball’s best fans in the month after. Albert Pujols’ decision to sign with the Anaheim Angels came as a shock to many, but it was highlighted by so much insanity that we may never see another free agency like this again. Let’s break it down:

1) The Cardinals offered Pujols a 9-year deal in January worth approximately $198 million. At the time he was reportedly looking for 10 years and $300 million. The Cards said, “We’ll talk to you in November.”
2) According to Pujols’ wife, when Pujols officially became a free agent, the Cardinals offered him a 5-year deal worth roughly $26 million annually, which would have made him the highest paid first baseman in baseball history. They were offended.
3) Deadspin, among other sites, received anonymous information that painted Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano as a man desperate for top dollar from Pujols’ contract to repay debts to his clients. He was also allegedly a grade A hooker hound. Nothing came of it.
4) The Florida Marlins wanted to prove that they were ready to win in their new stadium, so they reportedly offered Pujols a deal of close to 10 years and $220 million. It was later conveniently reported that the Marlins offered $275 million, which was shot down by anyone with the slightest grasp of reality.
5) The Cards offered a contract similar to 10 years and $220 million, and it seemed like Pujols would be a Cardinal for life.
6) The Anaheim Angels, after signing a $3 billion TV deal, swooped in out of nowhere and offered 10 years and $250 million plus incentives.
7) Stan Musial made a personal phone call to Pujols to beg him to stay in St. Louis and break all of his franchise records.
8) Pujols signed with the Angels after the Cardinals couldn’t justify putting 1/5 of their payroll in a 32-year old for the next decade, Lozano got his pay day, and the media began a colossal blame game.
9) Deidre Pujols went on the St. Louis Christian radio station that her and her husband fund and said she was mad at God.
10) Everyone woke up the next day and moved on with their lives.

Maybe it’s because I have a vested personal interest and bias, but I still just find the whole affair fascinating.

What can I say? She’s racking up the awards.
*rimshot from monkey with a drum set*
Have a happy new year everyone, and may our 2012 be full of Kate Upton jiggling.

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