|The year that wasn't|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
The Red Sox and the Cubs nearly met in the World Series. The Marlins won the World Series. A woman played on the men's golf tour. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California. An 18-year-old is the new King. Hooters started an airline. Manchester United traded Beckham. Randall Simon was arrested for assaulting a sausage. The No. 1-ranked team in both polls will not play in the college football championship game.
Sheesh. The past year was so wild and amazing that about the only thing that didn't happen was the A-Rod trade.
In fact, with so much going on, you might have forgotten whether some things really happened or not. So with the help of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and former Iraqi information minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, we present our annual year in review.
Jan. 3: Maurice Clarett scores two touchdowns, recovers a Miami fumble and passes an oral examination on the Smoot-Hartley Act to lift the Buckeyes to the national championship. For his performance, Clarett receives a Buckeye helmet decal, the Fiesta Bowl MVP trophy, plus 12 credits in history at Ohio State and, oddly, a degree in welding from St. Bonaventure's and a doctorate from Georgia.
Jan. 26: Tampa Bay bolts to a 34-3 lead and easily routs Oakland in the Super Bowl when the entire Raiders team misses the first half while drinking and passing out in Tijuana.
Feb. 5: The Ohio High School Athletic Association suspends LeBron James from one game after he receives a Wes Unseld throwback jersey valued at $450, a Gale Sayers throwback jersey valued at $395 and a complete 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers uniform with Nike shoes valued at more than $90 million.
Feb. 27: With Americans divided on the rapidly approaching invasion of Iraq, Manhattanville College senior guard Toni Smith causes a nationwide controversy when she refuses to stand for the playing of "Y-M-C-A.''
March 6: Boasting crews of Hooters girls in the restaurant's trademark tight orange shorts and ultra-tight T-shirts, plus overflowing pitchers of beer, Hooters Air launches its voyage into commercial aviation. Mike Price immediately signs up the Alabama football team for charter flights.
March 16: The long-awaited annual March ritual takes place when millions of college basketball fans gather around their TVs on Selection Sunday to watch Rick Neuheisel fill out his NCAA Tournament bracket.
March 24: The St. Bonaventure's men's basketball team votes not to play its final two scheduled games so that it can instead attend MTV's spring break party at the home of Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy.
March 31: After months of logistical planning, international debate, troop callups, naval deployments and worldwide protests, the historic day finally arrives in Iraq when the Montreal Expos play their first home game in Baghdad.
April 1: The Detroit Tigers lose the season opener to the Bad News Bears.
April 3: After Ruben Studdard forgets the lyrics to "Flying Without Wings," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks steps in to sing and wins the newest "American Idol.''
April 7: Hakim Warrick swats away a last-second shot to beat Kansas in the Final Four and win the Orangemen's first national championship, sending thousands upon thousands of students dancing across the Syracuse campus and Rick Neuheisel celebrating in his Washington mansion. Minutes after the Jayhawks' defeat, meanwhile, CBS reporter Bonnie Bernstein angers Kansas coach Roy Williams by asking him whether he's still going to Disneyland.
April 26: Convinced that no one will find him after five days pinned by an 800-pound boulder, hiker Aron Ralston amputates his left arm and treks eight miles to help. He is rushed to the emergency room where doctors save his life and Boston manager Grady Little immediately adds him to the Red Sox starting rotation.
May 1: A woman fired by the Sacramento Kings files a sexual harassment suit, claiming that she was fired because forward Doug Christie's insanely jealous wife, Jackie, was enraged when she gave the Kings swingman a phone message. By the way, this really happened.
May 3: Tobey Maguire rides 13-1 longshot Seabiscuit to victory in the Kentucky Derby.
May 17: Vijay Singh withdraws from the Colonial Open, claiming that Doug Christie's insanely jealous wife, Jackie, will get mad if he plays in the same tournament as Annika Sorenstam.
May 22: Sorenstam becomes the first woman in 58 years to spend the weekend golfing while her husband stays home watching the Oxygen channel.
May 25: Democratic presidential candidates Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Kerry and Al Sharpton arrange meaningless interviews with Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen.
May 30: Displaying the form that will win him the Conn Smythe award, Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere stops Kobe Bryant from scoring with a waitress in the hotel bar.
June 3: Success at last! After months of searching and the fall of Baghdad, U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix finds cork in Sammy Sosa's bat.
June 10: Merriam-Webster's adds "rotisserie baseball" to the dictionary, along with "sad, pathetic, geeky, boring, closet-case Get-A-Lifer."
June 12: Sailors kiss nurses in Times Square, women tie yellow ribbons around oak trees and grown men bawl like Dick Vermeil when the Astros no-hit the Yankees.
June 13: Roger Clemens reaches a career milestone when he beans his 300th batter in the head.
June 22: Millions line up to purchase copies of the new 870-page Harry Potter book, which reveals that Billy Beane invented baseball and that David Wells was drunk when he pitched his perfect game.
June 24: Culminating his sensational senior year, LeBron James is picked No. 1 in the draft, voted into the starting lineup of the All-Star Game, named to the 2004 Dream Team, elected to the Hall of Fame and, just before midnight, retires from basketball and goes to bed.
June 25: In what can only be described as delicious irony, Patrick Hayashi and Alex Popov, the bickering pair who fought over Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball, sell it at auction for $517,000, far less than their combined legal fees. To make matters worse, the pair also invests $10 million in Funny Cide's stud fees.
July 2: George Steinbrenner gears up for the pennant drive by trading for David Beckham.
July 3: After Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech accept an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, their former conference switches its slogan to "The Big East -- We've Still Got Rutgers."
July 4: The annual Coney Island hot dog eating contest ends tragically when Randall Simon enters the event.
July 5: Cyclist Tyler Hamilton crashes his bike and breaks his collarbone, requiring him to continue the Tour de France while bleeding, bruised, heavily bandaged and in agonizing pain. Boston manager Grady Little immediately inserts him into the Red Sox rotation.
July 6: Portland Trail Blazers guard Damon Stoudamire is arrested when he wraps marijuana in aluminum foil and tries to sneak it past an airport metal detector. By the way, this really happened.
July 7: The Detroit Tigers beat the Italian Sausage but lose to the Polish Sausage and the Bratwurst.
July 16: Eric Gagne blows his only save of the season and the American League wins the All-Star Game to determine the next governor of California.
July 18: Gearing up for the postseason, George Steinbrenner signs Gary Payton and Karl Malone.
July 21: Newly named Indiana general manager Larry Bird fires every coach in the NBA.
July 24: In perhaps the lowest moment in collegiate coaching history, Dave Bliss instructs his Baylor players to lie to police and say that their murdered teammate was a drug dealer in order to cover up major NCAA rules violations. By the way, this really happened.
July 25: Averaging 213.3 miles per hour and needing only three pit stops for food and water, Lance Armstrong pedals his way to victory in the Indianapolis 500.
August 14: New York City is plunged into darkness, transportation is brought to a standstill, food supplies begin to rot and Mayor Bloomberg calls for federal disaster relief when an inexplicable power glitch prevents a single reference to Jeremy Shockey being published for more than 16 hours.
August 15: Sprinter Jon Drummond wins the gold medal at the world track championships in the "laying down in the middle of the track" competition.
August 16: Michael Vick is knocked out for the season after he breaks his leg in Madden Football 2003.
August 24: Japan wins the Little League World Series, shutting out the Detroit Tigers 10-0.
August 28: The MTV Video Music Awards has everyone talking when Madonna kisses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Ivan Rodriguez kisses Ugueth Urbina and Paris Hilton has sex with Brian Urlacher. Joe Namath, however, once again fails to kiss Suzy Kolber.
August 29: Phil Mickelson shuts out the Detroit Tigers 3-0.
Sept. 15: Doug Christie's insanely jealous wife, Jackie, goes nuts when she catches him reading the headline, "Women's United Soccer Association Goes Belly-Up."
Sept. 18: The five Queer Eye Guys beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 in extra innings.
Sept. 28: On the flight home from their final game, the Detroit Tigers lose their luggage.
Oct. 5: Rush Limbaugh resigns as an ESPN analyst and enters rehab after he tests positive for THG.
Oct. 11: After the Cubs take a commanding 3-1 lead in the playoffs against Florida, president George Bush phones manager Dusty Baker to congratulate him, telling him, "Mission accomplished."
Oct. 14: In the most extraordinary performance ever by one fan, Steve Bartman drops a foul popup, bobbles an inning-ending double-play ball, walks two batters, gives up four hits and allows eight runs to blow a three-run lead in the eighth inning. He allows nine more runs the next night to prevent the Cubs from reaching the World Series.
Oct. 16: Boston blows a three-run lead in the eighth inning when manager Grady Little can't get through to the bullpen because New Orleans receiver Joe Horn has overloaded phone lines placing cellular calls from the end zone.
Oct. 19: After the Vikings beat the Broncos to extend their undefeated start to 6-0, President Bush calls coach Mike Tice to offer congratulations, telling him, "Mission accomplished."
Oct. 26: The Marlins win the World Series when the Yankees get bored and go home.
Nov. 8: Bill Singer makes racial remarks to Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng, then blames his offensive behavior on his low-carb diet. By the way, we're not making that up. That's really what he blamed it on.
Nov. 15: After 14-year-old Freddy Adu signs a $500,000 contract, Michael Jackson buys season tickets to the MLS.
Nov. 22: The first outdoor game in NHL history is played in sub-zero temperatures when the Buffalo Sabres can't pay the heating bills or rent at their arena.
Nov. 29: After Nomar Garciaparra interrupts their Hawaiian honeymoon to phone a Boston sports talk show, Mia Hamm begins exploring trade talks for Alex Rodriguez.
Nov. 30: NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is outraged when Lawrence Taylor announces on "60 Minutes" that he's joining ESPN as a consultant on "Playmakers."
Dec. 7: In a lingering effect of the Blaster virus, the BCS computers match up Oklahoma and LSU in the national championship game.
Dec. 13: After an exhausting world-wide search lasting several months, coalition forces in Iraq finally find their elusive quarry when they pull a cowering Steve Bartman from a spider hole.
Dec. 16: Pedro Martinez tosses a Salvation Army Santa to the ground.
Dec. 19: After weeks of negotiations, the A-Rod trade falls through when Local 970 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers vetoes the deal.
Dec. 20: Joe Namath places mistletoe over his head while doing a sideline interview with ESPN's Suzy Kolber, to no avail.
Dec. 22: David Wells is diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease.
Dec. 28: The Vikings are eliminated from the playoffs when they allow four touchdowns and a field goal on the flight home from Arizona.
Dec. 31: The sports year comes to an end as Steve Bartman drops the Time Square ball, Pedro Martinez tosses 74-year-old Dick Clark to the ground and Grady Little decides it's time to take his Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.