The world of sports can provide more drama than movies and these 7 events of 2017 are a testament to that
They say ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, and a sports fan, more than anyone else, is likely to attest to this particular expression. For them, strange is just one of the many adjectives that can be used to describe the wild and whacky world of sports.
Even for a movie buff like myself, I would readily concede that sports at times has this ability to provide drama like no work of fiction can. And the following sporting moments from the preceding 12 months are a testament to this very fact.
1. New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl LI in historic fashion
New England Patriots are the Real Madrid of American Football, loved and hated by millions. So back in February, when they were trailing 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI, the contest was being cheered and booed in equal measure.
While the haters were elated, the followers were down in the dumps. But then, out of nowhere, Cristinao Ronaldo’s NFL equivalent, Tom Brady, led the Patriots on a comeback charge from the largest deficit ever overcome in Super Bowl history.
No team had ever won a Super Bowl when trailing by more than 10 points. But Pats being Pats, came back from 25 points down to force the first overtime in the history of the grand final.
In overtime, New England rolled over Atlanta to clinch their fifth Super Bowl victory in the most thrilling of circumstances.
2. Houston Astros claiming their first World Series in franchise history
Claiming the first World Series trophy in your 50-plus years’ existence might be wonderful. But winning it in game seven at your opponent’s home is just heavenly.
The 2017 edition of World Series featured the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, with both teams worthy of their place in the finals.
It was the first Fall Classic since 1970 between two teams with at least 100 wins during the regular season, as Houston won 101 and Los Angeles won 104 games.
The whole series was a neck and neck affair so reaching game seven was not really a surprise. But what proved to be astonishing was the fact that the Astros, despite the weight of history on their backs, completely outclassed their rivals 5-1 on their own turf to claim the series 4-3.
3. Mayweather versus McGregor: The billion-dollar fight
Billed as the “biggest fight in combat sports history”, it was contested between modern day David and Goliath. In one corner was the boxing rookie Conor McGregor, while in the other was the undefeated 15-time, five-division boxing world champion, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The latter came out of retirement to take on MMA superstar in the boxing ring before a glitzy Las Vegas backdrop. With the fight generating second most pay-per-view (PPV) buys of all time, a lot of critics labelled it as a billion-dollar circus, because regardless of the hype, in essence, it was a boxing legend taking on a game debutant.
In the end, unsurprisingly, the best boxer in the world beat one of the best mixed martial artists in a boxing match.
Mayweather stopped the Irishman with a 10th round TKO to become the first boxer to finish his career with a 50-0 record. As for the rest of us, we got one hell of a fight.
4. The miracle of Camp Nou
Following a 4-0 first leg trouncing at the hands of Paris Saint-German (PSG), Barcelona Coach Luis Enrique defiantly stressed,
“If they can score four, we can score six.”
But nobody, including Enrique himself, would have truly believed in that. Never in the history of Champions League had a team overcome a four-goal deficit and it was not going to change now, or was it?
In the return leg at Camp Nou, Barca did manage to score three goals in an hour to give their fans a glimmer of hope that they could yet produce a miracle. But then the Parisians scored through Edinson Cavani in the 62 minute to virtually put the tie beyond doubt.
With just half an hour left, they had to do it all over again and score three more to qualify. It was surely beyond Barcelona. But Neymar had other ideas.
With just two minutes remaining on the clock, the Brazilian attacker scored his first of the game to put the game 4-5 on aggregate. But clearly this wasn’t enough for him and for Barca either, as he had to score again in the first minute of injury time to level the scores.
The Spanish side was still going out of the competition on away-goal rule so Neymar had to step in again. The Brazilian’s clipped ball into the box was met by Sergi Roberto’s toe to volley in the goal that sent Barcelona through to the quarters at the expense of PSG.
You might have felt for the Parisians at this point in time. But if it is any consolation, the same Neymar now plays for the French club.
5. Viva la Fedal
Remind me again, what year is this? Because if you were to calculate this simply based on the sport of tennis played during the previous 365 days, you would be in for a total shock.
At the start of 2017, if you were told that the four Grand Slams in the following 12 months would be split between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, you would have laughed the person off, telling him to hire a time machine and take a ride back to the last decade.
However, that is exactly what has transpired over the course of year 2017. It might sound even more incredulous than the idea of a time travelling, but Federer 36 and Nadal 31, after a gap of five and three years respectively, completely defied age to clinch all four majors on offer during the calendar year. The Spaniard grabbed the US and the French Open while the Swiss had to make do with Wimbledon and the Australian event. If that wasn’t enough, the duo also combined to win more than half of the ATP’s rich Masters Series events during the year.
As they say, form is temporary but class is permanent.
6. India biting the dust
It simply doesn’t get any higher-pressure than this. Pakistan against India in the final of a major cricket tournament is the stuff that makes sport better than any drama a work of fiction can throw at you.
After destroying the green caps in the first game of the tournament by a mammoth 124 runs, India was expecting the Mini World Cup final to be a further proof of their cricket superiority. Additionally, in the process, a scalp of their most hated rival was supposed to be the perfect icing on this particular cricketing cake. But there was a slight problem, as India clearly failed to take into account the super unpredictable nature of the Pakistani cricket team.
That’s the thing with the men in green; they can be really atrocious at times. But when they are good, boy, they are truly magnificent.
Despite failing to reach even 250 earlier in the event, Pakistan posted a massive 338 for four on the back of a swashbuckling century by the newbie opener Fakhar Zaman. You could have forgiven India for still feeling confident about chasing the total, based on their supreme batting power. But Mohammad Amir had other plans. The infamous fast bowler completely devoured the Indian top order in an opening spell which brought him the wickets of the superstar trio of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
With dreams shattered, India finally was all-out on 158 to allow Pakistan to lift their maiden Champions Trophy title.
7. Cricket returns home
Regardless of how some people consider it as a mere time pass, sports have this uniquely amazing way of making a positive impact by galvanising nations like no other.
Ever since the fateful morning in March 2009, when the Sri Lankan cricket team convoy was attacked en route to the stadium, Pakistan has been left in a sporting wilderness due to the uncertain security situation.
Following the incident, the refusal of international teams to participate in any event being held in the country has not just the impacted the performance of our sport teams but has also adversely affected the society and the economy on the whole.
But after eight long years, in October this year, Sri Lanka became the first Test-playing nation to participate in a T20 International in Pakistan to complete the full circle of events.
The whole nation rejoiced as the green caps emerged victorious from the encounter. However, this time, the fans were not just celebrating the men in green, the real winner was Pakistan, who had finally managed to put a big one over terrorism.
2017 might be rapidly drawing to a close, but with several high profile events scheduled for next year, sporting drama is sure to continue well into 2018 as well. The FIFA World Cup in Russia, Winter Olympics in South Korea and Hockey World Cup in India are some of the few prominent quadrennial tournaments that are certain to evoke intense emotions out of any sporting fan around the world. Still, if the aforementioned are not enough, we can always bank on the usual yearly line-up of cricket, tennis grand slams, F1 Grand Prix and club football to keep us psyched throughout the year.
Happy New Year!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.