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Countdown of 2017’s 10 biggest stories


01/04/18



It’s been a year packed with odd, crazy, interesting and big stories. The kind that make you happy, even gleeful to be a sports fan. And those that bring out our inner Vince Lombardi and Howard Beale to shout, “What the hell is going on out there?” or “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” 
Here are my 10 biggest of the year, emphasis on “my,” which for better or worse reeled in major attention around the region.  
10. David Price-Eck Confrontation: Journalistically speaking this was the latest molehill the Boston media turned into Mt. Everest. Not that Price wasn’t clueless or a creep, but in a town where the sainted Ted Williams feuded with the knights of the keyboards his entire career, a player-vs.-media dust-up is hardly a new thing or big issue. Unless it’s made into one with relentless coverage. The 2018 edition will be the Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Alex Guerrero thing turned into a much bigger issue than it actually is.
9. Aaron Judge: I try to shy away from “greatest ever” talk. But, that said, not many, if any, had a rookie season as good as Aaron Judge’s. Mark McGwire hit 49 homers in 1988, but the 52 Judge hit seemed bigger. That’s partly because it was so surprising after striking out 42 times in 84 at-bats the year before. Plus, he did it for the Yanks, which hits all the local insecurity buttons while stoking the rivalry higher. The story grew bigger with Giancarlo Stanton now adding his 59 homers to the Yankees’ already power-laden line-up.
8. Mullen-Kelly Get Big-Time Jobs: What would the Vegas odds have been in 1975 for a payoff in 2017 if two former New Hampshire high school football players got the two most prized jobs up for grabs after that college football season? A gazillion to one? Well, that far-fetched scenario became reality when Central and Trinity alums Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen said yes to UCLA and Florida a day apart.
7. UConn Women’s Basketball Wins Record 111: I can’t say I follow UConn women’s basketball all that closely. Generally, it’s an occasional peek in the tent and when another major record comes up. Of course, with them that’s quite often. The big number was 111 to let them break their own record for consecutive wins. Winning gets my attention and admiration. Winning that many in a row is remarkable. Doing it twice? Incredible. 
6. Isaiah Thomas: The little guy made big news putting up arguably a Top Five individual season in Celtics history. Given the history, that’s saying something. Plus, even with Kyrie Irving’s fabulous start here, he hasn’t done anything (yet) Isaiah didn’t do last year in a dominant regular season and fabulous playoff run where he pushed past the pain of his sister’s shocking death until his body gave out. That, and that the winning here started the day he arrived, should not be lost to history.   
5. Clemson Upsets Bama for National Title: You may have heard that I shy away from “greatest ever” talk. Prior to this game the best college football game I ever saw was Texas-USC at the Rose Bowl for the national title. But this one may have been better than the Vince Young game as DeShaun Watson matched VY’s final pulsating drive. Though — how did they not call back Hunter Renfrow’s game-winning TD catch for the illegal rolling block disguised as a pick that got Renfrow so open for the catch that ended the 35-31 barnburner?
4. The Pitino and College Basketball Scandal: Forget D.C.; one place where they aren’t draining the swamp for sure is big-time college sports, which sunk even deeper again with news of 10 college basketball-related indictments involving sneaker company executives, assistant coaches and agents over a variety of issues centered around — what else? — gigantic dirty money. Rick Pitino went down after strike 3 at Louisville, likely bringing an end to his coaching career. And who doesn’t think someone somewhere will top this fiasco sooner than later? 
3. Colin Kaepernick: He hasn’t played a down this year, but he hovered over the game when the actions that have gotten him exiled from the NFL inspired others to pick up the lance in his absence. Widespread, unorganized player protests persisted and that got the ire of the president. He further inflamed things for political gains with his base — turning the stand-or-kneel anthem issue into a gigantic early-season story. 
2. Celtics Wild Ride: First, Danny Ainge flips the first overall pick for Jayson Tatum at 3 and a likely Top 5 pick in either 2018 or 2019. The second box in Danny’s summer plan is checked when free agent Gordon Hayward joins college coach Brad Stevens in Boston. Box 3, get a superstar, is checked with the Irving-Thomas blockbuster trade, amid a flurry of moves that brings 11 new players to a 53-win team. Then, five minutes into the season Hayward suffers a horrific leg injury, instantly deflating expectations all over Celtic Nation, except their own.
1. The Super Bowl Comeback: Raise your hand if you flipped off the TV (or went to bed like my friend the real estate mogul Bill Weidacher) when the score hit 28-3. If you did, you missed the magic starting with James White’s first TD late in the third quarter. Then came a fourth-quarter field goal at 9:44, Danny Amendola’s TD at 5:56 and another from White with 56 seconds left. When Amendola’s PAT sent it to overtime, everyone knew it was over, leaving this question: Was the Pats’ 34-28 heart stopper the greatest SB ever? 
I think you know my policy on “greatest ever” talk. But I do know this: It’s the best SB I’ve ever seen, and the fun fact of the day is I’ve seen every Super Bowl ever played.   
 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 
 





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