The Year in Sports • 2008

Posted In: Sports, Local Sports, National Sports,   From Issue 674   By: Thomas Baird

26th December, 2008     0

PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

The professional world of sports saw many new faces in the Championship Games in 2008 and many outstanding performances at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.   On a local note the Detroit Red Wings brought another Stanley Cup back to Hockeytown with their 11th Cup.  They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in June.  With a strong cast of players The Red Wings were led by the goal tending of Dominick Hasek and fine play of Hendrik Zetterberg.

Downtown Detroit rocked for all of the playoff games that the Red Wings played in May and June.  One of the compelling story lines for the Red Wings was the play of Darren McCartney who returned to teams and played in the Stanley Cup after almost being out of the game.  The Red Wings have started off the 2008-2009 season red-hot again and expect to return to the finals again this year.

The 2008 Super Bowl was one of the most hyped Super Bowls in recent history with the undefeated New England Patriots facing the upstart New York Giants.  The Giants stunned the football world pulling off the stunning victory over the New England Patriots 17-14 with a game winning 83-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress (Michigan State) for the winning score.  Now Plaxico Burress is suspended from football all together because of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Eli Manning was named the games MVP and followed his brother Peyton Manning winning the MVP the year earlier.  The 1972 Miami Dolphins were pulling for the Giants to win the Super Bowl, thus keeping intact their record of being the only undefeated team in NFL history.  Also this turned out to be the most watched game in Super Bowl history with 94 million people tuning in.

The NBA Finals produced the same teams that often battled in the 1980's for the league's title.  The Boston Celtics took on the Los Angeles Lakers in a 6 game series.  Some of the games' top players were leading their respective teams towards an NBA Championship.  The Lakers were lead by Kobe Bryant who single handily led his team through out the season.  Both teams had tough fights in the Eastern and Western Conference finals.  The Celtics defeated our Detroit Pistons 4-2 to advance to the Finals.  The Pistons had made their sixth straight visit to Eastern Conferences Finals.  The Celtics had made a big off-season move that paid dividends in the first year by trading for Kevin Garnett.  He teamed up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to make the Celtics a strong team that they were in the 1980's.  They defeated the Lakers for the NBA Championship 4-2 for the first Championship banner for the Celtics since 1986.

The 2008 World Series featured two teams without a great national following.  The Philadelphia Phillies took on the Tampa Bay Rays in a World Series that seems to keep getting later and later each season, losing some of its appeal when played so late in the year.  

The surprise team of the year was in the American League with the Tampa Bay Rays, who defeated a couple of good clubs to reach their first World Series ever.  The weather played a big factor in the middle three games that were held in Philadelphia.  The teams split the first 2 games in Tampa Bay and then went to Philadelphia for the next three.       The Phillies played some outstanding baseball with their All-Star players having a big Series.   Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were the young stars that provided key hits and runs batted to lead the Phillies in sweeping the next three games, giving the Phillies a 4-1 series victory.       Starting pitcher Cole Hamels turned in two strong pitching performances to gain the World Series MVP.  This was the first World Series title for the Phillies since 1980.

 

OLYMPICS

There was much anticipation for the 29th Summer Olympics that were being held in Beijing, China from August 8 - 24, 2008.  Many gold medals were expected from several of the American athletes at the Beijing Games.  One of the most closely posed questions was whether Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Micheal Phelps would realize his dream of getting 8 gold medals in the same Games.  The pressure was definitely on throughout the 2 weeks, having to compete in 8 swimming events.  Phelps would have to win every outing.  Micheal Phelps would basically curse 6 of the events and set several World Records in the process.  He needed some help in the 400-meter relay from a teammate to secure gold medal number 7.   Then in the closest race in Olympic history he won the 8th Gold medal by one hundredth of a second for the World Record 8th Gold Medal.

The host Chinese team won the most Gold Medals with 51 but came in second to the United States of America in total medals with 100.  The United States team finished with the most medals with a total of 110 and took home 36 Gold Medals.  The Russian team came in third with 72 medals and 23 Gold Medals.  Jamaican runner Usain Bolt set World Records in the 100 and 200-meter races.   The United States Men's basketball team regained the Gold Medal by defeating all of their opposition convincingly.  

All in all the Chinese pulled off a spectacular Summer Olympics, especially with their state-of-the-art Opening & Closing ceremonies, which among other highlights, brought the ever elusive guitarist Jimmy Page out of retirement.

 

MICHIGAN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAMS

The Detroit Pistons enjoyed a fine regular season and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for a record 6th season, losing in game 6th to the eventual NBA Champions Boston Celtics.

Over the summer popular coach Flip Saunders was let go by the Pistons.  The big move for the Pistons occurred right after the current season started with the trade of team captain Chauney Billups to the Denver Nuggets for 9 time All-Star Allen Iverson.  That shook up the starting lineup for the Pistons for the first month after the trade.

With all of the trades that the Detroit Tigers made in the off-season, 2008 looked to be a lock on the World Series for the club.  They picked up pitched Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria.  The season had it shares of ups and downs through the summer of 2008.   The Tigers had numerous injuries to several key players and the basically gave up on the season by trading away All-Star catcher Pudge Rodriquez to the Yankees at the trading deadline.  

The player that they received has already signed with another team for the 2009 season as a free agent.  The Tigers set a record attendance in 2008 based on the high hopes at the start of the season.   Manager Jim Leyland only has a year left on his contract and will have to get into the playoffs to remain with the Tigers any longer.

Pretty much everyone knows the Detroit Lions success this season has been a big fat zero.  As this article is going to print with a 0-14 record so far in the 2008 season, it looks like the Lions are going to set NFL history by being the first team to go through the entire season without a victory.  

Probably the highlight of the season was the firing of General Manager Matt Millen who ended up with the worst losing record of any G.M. in the history of the NFL.  The Lions have gone through 5 quarterbacks this year and traded away-disgruntled Wide Receiver Roy Williams.  

Almost anyone in the State of Michigan knows that the Detroit Red Wings won their 11th Stanley Cup in 2008 by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Over the summer the Wings made a number of moves to strengthen the team for the 2008- 2009 season.  

At press time the Red Wings had the second best record in the NHL.

 

COLLEGE TEAMS IN MICHIGAN

Both Michigan and Michigan State football teams finished completely opposite of what they are accustomed to doing.  The University of Michigan had the worst record in the school's history finishing 3-9.  While on the other hand the Spartans of Michigan State University ended up with a 9-3 season and are headed to the Capitol One Bowl for a date with the Georgia Bulldogs on January 1, 2009.  Michigan is ending a string of 33 straight bowl game appearances by spending time at home over the holidays.  Javon Ringer had a record setting season for Spartans in the rushing department.  Things are looking up in East Lansing.

The Central Michigan Chippewas started out strong in the Mid American Conference in 2008 but tailed off at the end of the year and finished 8-4.  The two-time defending MAC Champion however did earn their third straight trip to the Motor City Bowl the day after Christmas vs. Florida Atlantic University.  

All three of our universities had average seasons basketball seasons in 2007-2008.  Michigan State University did qualify for the NCAA tournament and did win two games before being eliminated in the Regional.

 

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS IN THE TRI-CITIES

This past year in Michigan High School Athletic Association sports produced more champions in the Tri-City area than any other in recent memory.  The newest sport offering a State Championship was Bowling and produced 2 out of the 3 Championships offered.  Bay City All Saints (Division 2) and Pinconning High School (Division 3) walked away with the Championships.

Continuing with Bay City All Saints - who had a banner spring down in Battle Creek winning the Boys Baseball (4th time) and the Girls Softball (3rd time) – the wins capped off a remarkable year for this small Catholic High School in Bay City.  

Another small Catholic High School over in Saginaw Township - the Saginaw Nouvel Panthers won the Girls Basketball Championship.  They are likely to repeat again in 2009 with arguably the best female player in the state in Jenny Ryan now a senior.  

Playing traditionally in the top conference in the State of Michigan for Boy's High School basketball was both the Saginaw High Trojans and the Saginaw Arthur Hill Lumberjacks.  Well after some memorable games between the two in 2008 the Saginaw High Trojans made it all the way back to the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University.  Lou Dawkins charges played outstanding basketball to become one of the few in MHSAA history to repeat as Class A State Champion for the second year in a row.

If one were to include the Arthur Hill Lumberjacks Championship in 2006 - that would be a three peat for the Saginaw Public School District.  One could easily argue that they don't play any better High School basketball than right here in Saginaw County.  Traditional powers at Saginaw Buena Vista and Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central also produce year in year out basketball standouts.

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