While the last days of 2016 are passing, we take a look back at an exciting year in American sports. As usual, new champions were crowned in all four major sports leagues, but it were the stories behind these events, which we will remember for a long time.
The sports year traditionally started with the biggest single sporting event in the world - the Super Bowl! The 50th anniversary took place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on February 7. In front of a crowd of 70.000 people, the Carolina Panthers played the Denver Broncos for the prestigious Vince Lombardi Trophy. 112 Million Americans followed the game on television, which made the broadcast the third most watched American TV program of all times.
After a nearly perfect season with 17 wins and only one loss, the Panthers were the clear favorite to win the final game of the season. But in a game that was dominated by the Broncos Defense, 39-year old quarterback Peyton Manning managed to win his final professional football game and retired after winning his second title. Thereby Manning confirmed his status as a football legend, becoming the first starting quarterback to win the Super Bowl with two different teams. His first title came 10 years ago, as a part of the Indianapolis Colts.
While Summer was approaching in early May, the ice in American arenas was burning. The Stanley Cup finals were about to determine the best North American hockey team. The Pittsburgh Penguins, with German hockey player Tom Kühnhackl, played against the San Jose Sharks.
In the best-of-seven series, the Penguins were able to win the sixth game of the series, which marked their fourth and deciding win. It is also the fourth championship for the Penguins franchise. We already had the right instinct and presented the Penguins in our sports section in early 2016. For the San Jose Sharks, who made their first Stanley Cup appearance, the dream of winning the biggest title in hockey stays unfulfilled.
Almost simultaneously with the Stanley Cup finals, the best American or Canadian basketball team was sought. The Cleveland Cavaliers with superstar LeBron James competed against the dominant Golden State Warriors and three-point machine Stephen Curry. The Warriors previously broke many records with an unbelievable regular season, recording 73 wins and only 9 losses. There was no question, that such a great team would also win the final series, wasn’t there?
It looked exactly like that. The Warriors quickly won three out of the first four games, leaving the Cavaliers in a hopeless situation. Never before could a team overcome a 1 to 3 deficit and go on to win the title. But that is exactly what the Cavaliers did, winning all three remaining games, most importantly winning game seven on the road at Oracle Arena, the home of the opposing Warriors.
With the Cavaliers winning the title, the long drought of the city of Cleveland finally ended. Even though the city is home to three teams in the major sports leagues, none of these teams were able to bring a big trophy to the capital of Ohio since 1964. The residents of Cleveland had to wait an unbelievable combined 147 seasons for one of their franchises to win a title. It seems like destiny that Ohio native and local hero LeBron James broke the curse in 2016.
The last remaining 2016 champion, that had to be crowned, was in baseball. And similar to the NBA, it looked like a long existing curse was going to continue. The Chicago Cubs, who played the the Cleveland Indians in this year’s World Series, had not won a championship for 71 years. And after losing three of the first four games, the Cubs needed a big comeback to end their so-called curse of the goat. And after delivering great performances in all three remaining games, the curse was finally lifted on November 2, with the Cubs winning game seven after 10 innings.
Just like in the NHL, we predicted the Chicago Cub’s victory when we thoroughly presented the Chicago Cubs team in our sports section several weeks before their incredible come back to win the World Series.
As a conclusion, we have to admit that the year 2016 in American sports was an exceptional one. In Basketball and Baseball, two long lasting droughts finally ended, while an American football legend retired after winning the final game of his career.
The year 2017 will have a hard time delivering similarly thrilling narratives in sports. But while some new seasons have already begun, we can be sure that American sports will bring us great drama and excitement. And even while waiting for the GreenCard outside of the United States, we can be a part of this most important part of American culture.