An unforgettable year|
Years divisible by four are always distinguished by the Olympics in the world
and by the Presidential election in the United States. But the year 2000 was, in
America, marked by the fact that for most people, the Olympics never seemed to
start and the election never seemed to end.
Still, if NBC wouldn't show the Sydney Olympics live and Americans didn't much
care for them taped, the rest of the world loved the Games -- "Aussie, Aussie,
Aussie! Oy, oy, oy!" Certainly, nobody could not have been moved by Cathy
Freeman, the Aboriginal runner, who not only lit the flame in the Opening
Ceremonies but also fired all our hearts when she won the 400 meters before her
Notwithstanding the Olympics, though, only one name dominated 2000 -- and if you
don't know it, you missed the bridge to the 21st century. It wasn't just that he
won three of the four majors, tournaments galore and almost $10 million in prize
money, he reordered the entire game of golf. Maybe -- maybe -- other athletes
have had better years than Tiger Woods, but no athlete has ever had a year that
made such an impact on a sport and the whole sporting universe.
Mercifully, the numbers Tiger put up helped us forget some of the year's zeros.
Like John Rocker. And Bobby Knight, who found out that "zero tolerance" means
you don't get a recount. As for Marion Jones, she discovered that even if you
win five Olympic medals, there's a discount in admiration and affection if
you're married to a zero.
But who couldn't cheer for Venus Williams, the neglected older sister who won
Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, not to mention two Olympic gold medals? Hooray for
Kurt Warner, the former stockboy who led his Rams to the Super Bowl
championship. Raise a glass to Phil Jackson, who went to L.A. and showed Shaq
and Kobe how they could turn a triangle into a title -- and let Jerry West
retire in glory. And vive la France: yesterday the World, this year the
European soccer champions. Wave the yellow shirt for Lance Armstrong, whose
second straight triumph in the Tour de France was all the more touching in that
he also left cancer in his tracks. Pete Sampras, take a bow, for winning a
record 13th Grand Slam, and Michael Schumacher, here's a high five for your
third Formula One.
Oh yes, and for those of you who live outside New York, they played a World
Series there this year, and the Yankees beat the Mets for their third
championship in a row. Then the game’s commissioner went to Washington and told
Congress baseball wasn't fair anymore. So the Yankees proved his point by paying
$88.5 million for right-hander Mike Mussina, one of the half-dozen best pitchers
in baseball, thereby wrapping up the 2001 season. We also know this about the
year ahead: NBC will be bringing you the new XFL . . . live.