1 WITH PLUCK AND A TUCK, THE PATS WIN IT ALL
Al Davis is probably still fuming. To get by the Raiders in the AFC semifinals, New England needed a fortunate "tuck" call (quarterback Tom Brady's apparent fumble was ruled an incomplete pass) and a 45-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri in swirling snow so intense he could barely see the goalposts. Vinatieri also provided the game-winning 48-yarder in a 20-17 victory over the favored St. Louis Rams in a rare thriller of a Super Bowl, capping a stunning turnaround for a franchise that had been in turmoil just a few years ago.
2 SELIG'S LONG, HOT SUMMER (BUT SMELLING LIKE A ROSE?)
the commissioner no doubt felt relieved after getting what amounted to a split. Bud Selig drew heavy criticism when he ended the All-Star Game in a 7-7 11th-inning tie, but a month later he averted baseball's ninth work stoppage by reaching a last-minute deal with the players' union. The unloved Selig may get downright popular with some fans if he follows through on his rescue of Pete Rose and helps the tarnished star get into the Hall of Fame.
3 SCANDAL ROCKS THE OLYMPIC RINKS, BUT STARS ARE BORN
Although rumors about fixed judging have flown around skating for years, it was still a shock when accusations of chicanery hit the Salt Lake City Olympics. But the story turned from tawdry to triumphant when the victims of the fix, the Canadian pair of Jamie Sal� and David Pelletier, were elevated from silver to gold (a prize they shared with Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia) and, in a surreal twist, became the sequined luminaries of these Games. The sullied sport then got another lift from the elegant Sarah Hughes, who didn't need any help from a crooked French judge to win her gold medal.
4 SERENA FLIES BEYOND VENUS AND EVERYONE ELSE
While Venus Williams talked about becoming a fashion designer, Serena-long thought to be athletically superior to her big sis—got serious about tennis. The 21-year-old's victories over Venus in three Grand Slam finals—the French, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open—suggest that Queen Serena seems to be settling in for a long reign.
5 STEROID ABUSE IN BASEBALL: A THICKENING SIGHT
Ken Caminiti has seen little besides trouble since he was named National League MVP in 1996, and trouble was what he brought to baseball when he revealed, in an SI interview, that he was a steroid user when he won the award. Caminiti alleged that at least half of current players dabble in the illegally procured muscle enhancers. That charge was impossible to prove—although Jose Canseco did add his steroids confession to the escalating controversy—but a testing plan (toothless, say many critics) was voted in for 2003.
6 NOTRE DAME FANS ARE THRILLED TO GET A TY
After a nasty r�sum� scandal, Notre Dame finally found the right man to revive its football program—Tyrone Willingham from Stanford, the first African-American to coach any sport under the Golden Dome. With Willingham looking on sternly from the sideline, Notre Dame won its first eight games, was ranked as high as fourth and finished with its best record (10-2) in nine seasons.
7 BONDS MARKET: STILL SOARING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Having consigned the still very active Sammy Sosa to the small print of the home run club, Barry Bonds, at age 38, hit his 600th home run off Pittsburgh's Kip Wells at Pac Bell Park on Aug. 9. The often-walked Giants slugger finished his MVP season with 613 career dingers; only Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Bonds's godfather, Willie Mays (660), have more.
8 FOR THE WORLD-FAMOUS PIGEON FANCIER: A DROPPING
Though Mike Tyson won a decision over a Lennox Lewis bodyguard in the January prelim—a staged-looking donnybrook at a press conference—Lewis dominated their much-anticipated June battle in Memphis and finally stopped Tirin' Mike with an eighth-round combination to retain his heavyweight crown. Logic says it's all over for Tyson, but commerce says otherwise: At year's end he had a tune-up fight booked for Feb. 22, and some were chirping about his getting another title shot.
9 VEDDY BRITISH SKIES RAIN ON TIGER'S PARADE
That "8" on Tiger Woods's scorecard just couldn't be right, could it? But, alas, a third-round 81 at the British Open, put up during a day of cold rains and powerful gusts, derailed the heavily hyped Grand Slam bid of the game's best player in the year's third major. Tiger's 28th-place finish at Muirfield rendered largely moot his second-place finish a month later at the PGA, which turned into a feel-good story when an ex-stereo salesman named Rich Beem went toe-to-toe with Tiger down the stretch and won.
10 AFTER 42 YEARS THE ANGELS FINALLY GET TO HEAVEN
The twin prospects of contraction and labor unrest took a lot of the fun out of baseball early in the season, but the first World Series to feature two wild cards, Anaheim and San Francisco, put a lot of fun back in. Long-suffering Angels fans whapped their Thunderstix, shook their Rally Monkeys and called up tender memories of their team's first owner, Gene Autry. And after a slugfest with Barry Bonds & Co. that produced a combined 21 homers and 85 runs, both records, the Angels found themselves, like the ol' Singing Cowboy, riding high and celebrating the first title in franchise history.