NFL players sparked controversy by protesting during the national anthem, the Warriors won the NBA championship with newcomer Kevin Durant and the Houston Astros raised the spirits of a devastated city by winning their first World Series. But all of that is so 2017.
As you reflect on the expiring year, I invite you to look forward as well. Here are the top 10 national and Bay Area sports stories of 2018:
10. MORE CONTROVERSY OVER BASEBALLS
Major League Baseball power numbers continue to explode in 2018 as virtually every team establishes a franchise mark for home runs. “It’s what the fans want, so let’s just roll with it,” Giants second baseman Joe Panik says en route to a career-best 48 dingers.
Not everyone is happy with the development, though. A record number of pitchers head to the disabled list with blisters on their fingers, blaming the raised seams on ever-harder baseballs. Several throwers have fingertips amputated during the season. The situation reaches a crisis in Game 6 of the World Series, when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Dodgers in the ninth inning with what looks like a bloody squid at the end of his left arm.
9. FBI’S PROBE INTO NCAA BASKETBALL DEEPENS
Back in September of 2017, the feds had announced a sweeping investigation that resulted in several indictments and ultimately triggered the firing of legendary Louisville coach Rick Pitino. But the fun was just beginning.
If you found it shocking that shoe companies were sneaking money to NCAA hoops programs and the families of recruits, 2018 brings additional bombshells. The FBI’s ongoing probe reveals that some basketball players take easy classes and receive hours of free tutoring, that many coaches lie when they tell parents character is more important than winning, and that nine months of college actually produce no tangible benefits to “one-and-done” players headed to the NBA.
A tearful John Calipari steps down in September after admitting that “Introduction to Weakside Defense” was never an accredited class at the University of Kentucky.
8. LAS VEGAS RESCINDS OFFER TO RAIDERS
When the Raiders take a 2-6 record into their 2018 bye week, Clark County and the city of Las Vegas abruptly pull the unprecedented public subsidy they had offered the team to move to Nevada.
“This city was built on a compulsion to win,” Clark County Commission chairman Steve Sisolak says at a press conference. “We cannot associate with losers.”
Local politicians vow to take the tax revenue that was earmarked for the Raiders and redirect it to another entity in similarly desperate need of public money; suggestions include Wal-Mart or Starbucks. The site of the proposed stadium, which has been fully prepped for construction, will instead become Hot & Heavy, the world’s largest combination strip club and 24-hour gym.
7. NBA ADDS FIRST OVERSEAS FRANCHISE
Threatened with lawsuits and a wave of bad publicity, the NBA reluctantly introduces the Prienai Big Ballers as its 31st team. Team owner/coach/doctor/trainer/PR representative LaVar Ball immediately predicts a championship for the Lithuanian club.
Led by legit point guard Lonzo Ball, struggling shooter LiAngelo Ball, 17-year-old LaMelo Ball, former NFL players Jerry Ball and Eric Ball, the grandson of Lucille Ball and several graduates of Ball State University, the Big Ballers take an 0-35 record into the new year. At his final twice-daily press conference of 2018, LaVar announces the sale of playoff tickets.