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Today’s List: Ten 2017 Sports Events That Popped into My Head

December 31st, 2017 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, Baseball, Basketball, College football, Dodgers, Fifa, Football, Lakers, Lists, Los Angeles Rams, NBA, NFL, Rams, Russia 2018, soccer, Spain, UAE, UCLA, USC, World Cup

This is not an exercise in academic rigor. I did not have someone sitting with a note pad writing down literally the first 10 facts I could recall pertaining to sports in 2017.

But … it is a fairly accurate recreation of a fairly quick trip through my brain to see what stuck from the past 365 days. Certainly, I did not consult someone’s list or sit for a half-hour, pondering.

If I surprised myself it is due to the lack of international events. I watch a lot of English soccer, for instance, and I have lived outside the States since 2009. But this list could have, with maybe one exception, been created by someone living in southern California.

So, the 10 events I most quickly associate with 2017 in sports, working down from 10 to 1.

–Barcelona 2, Celta Vigo 2, Spanish League: My second trip to Barcelona’s Camp Nou, where mighty Barca was held by little Celta with the aid of the wonderfully named forward Iago Aspas. Great energy in the L.A. Coliseum-size stadium, even if most of it morphed into frustration when Barca ended even. And yes, Messi scored.

–Los Angeles Rams 46, Indianapolis Colts 9: Opening weekend of the NFL season, and a shocking score considering how lousy (4-12) the Rams had been the year before. Jared Goff, bust-in-the-making in 2016, was a changed man, thanks to Sean McVay’s coaching and scheme, throwing for 306 yards on 21-of-29 accuracy with a touchdown and no interceptions. The Colts were bad, sure, but not everyone knew it at the time. This was a statement of intent by the Rams that things had changed — for the good.

–Death of Dick Enberg, 10 days ago. The versatile broadcaster was part of the radio background to the Los Angeles sports market in the 1970s and 1980s, calling play-by-play for the Rams, the Angels and UCLA basketball. Vin Scully and Chick Hearn were more beloved, in L.A., but Enberg was about as good as anyone, as he demonstrated in his long career, which included national and international events.

–USC 51, Penn State 48: Going almost all the way back in 2017 (January 2) to pick up this one. Penn State led 48-35 deep into the fourth quarter before freshman quarterback Sam Darnold led a 17-0 surge to a 51-48 victory that 1) touched off Darnold’s Heisman campaign for the following season and 2) gave USC fans reason to believe 2017 would be when the Trojans would return to national relevance in college football. Didn’t work out, but it was a heck of a rally, on the day.

–Real Madrid 2, Al Jazira (UAE) 1: It is hard to convey to people not familiar with UAE soccer just how crazy it was that this Abu Dhabi team led Real Madrid, international soccer giants, 1-0 at halftime in the semifinals of the Fifa Club World Cup and then 2-0 (before video review cancelled the second Jazira goal). Al Jazira leading the team of Cristiano Ronaldo would be like a high school baseball team hanging with the 1927 New York Yankees. Preposterous. Unbelievable.

–Lonzo Ball drafted by the Lakers: It was no surprise that the Lakers took the UCLA point guard with the second pick in the NBA draft, June 22, but it can be considered the unofficial starting point of what the Lakers hope is a return to prominence. It also can serve as a highlight in LaVar Ball’s plan to take over basketball with the help of his son Lonzo and the latter’s two bothers.

–Rams 42, Seattle Seahawks 7: The Rams thrashed the team that had set the standard in the NFC West for five seasons, elevating the Rams to 10-4 and into the ranks of Super Bowl contenders by all-but-securing the division championship. Todd Gurley, with four touchdowns, led the humbling of what had been considered the scariest team in the NFC — if not the NFL.

–The Dodgers’ L.A. club-record 104-victory season: They started an astonishing 91-36 before a bizarre, 1-16 stretch in August-September kept them from rivaling the best single-season records in baseball history. But, for nearly five months, a balanced team with no real weakness, banged out victories night after night till it all got more than a little unreal, and a late revival took them to 104-58, best record in the club’s six decades in L.A.

–Trinidad & Tobago 2, U.S. 1: The fatal final defeat in Concacaf qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. All the Yanks needed on October 10 to advance to Russia was a draw against the nothing-to-play-for Trinidadians in a near-empty stadium, but the visitors were alternately lethargic and panicked and, thus, will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986. The only good to come from this? Sunil Gulati, hapless U.S. Soccer president, said he would not run for reelection in 2018.

–Yu Darvish’s wretched performance in the World Series: Yuuuuuuuu! (Channeling William Shatner’s anguished scream Khaaaan! in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.) This was the first thing to flash into my head, as we began this exercise. Yu stunk it up — twice — in the World Series, but his no-tomorrow effort in Game 7, when he gave up five runs in 1.2 innings — doomed the Dodgers even before many of their fans had found their seats. Can fans ever forgive him? They certainly won’t trust him, after this. Thus, the club’s World Series drought continues into its 30th season.


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