IT SEEMS AS if 2015 just started, so it's hard to believe the year's already over, but as Johnny Manziel said from Spain—where he quarterbacked the Valencia Firebats to the Spanish First Division title—time flies when you're having flan.
Has there ever been a year as unlikely as 2015 turned out to be? Tiger got his 15th major (victory, not surgery). The Stanley Cup was returned to its rightful owners. (Mazel tov, Canadiens.) The Hawks' upset of the Warriors in the NBA Finals proved you can't always measure heart, or even TV ratings. (Nielsen tried and came up empty.)
Jim Harbaugh liked to tuck his sweatshirt into his Dockers in San Francisco but had to stuff a whole North Face puffer coat into his khakis in frigid Ann Arbor. In leading the Wolverines to that shock November upset of Ohio State at the Big House, Harbaugh looked every inch a Michigan Man—and every inch the Michelin Man—as he shook hands with Urban Meyer at midfield, where the Buckeyes' coach couldn't resist asking, "What's your deal?"
Speaking of deals, Phil Jackson traded every member of the Knicks for future draft picks, leaving him with the following starting lineup for a late-February game at the Garden: three D-Leaguers, 57-year-old Spike Lee and a Carmelo Anthony Fathead adhered to a Roomba. Needless to say, the Knicks looked better than they had in months and won comfortably over the Cavaliers.
It was after that game that LeBron James announced his plans to leave Cleveland at the expiration of his current contract. Within a day the Cavaliers were selling a new LeBron jersey made from a space-age wonder fiber—a joint venture between DuPont and Duraflame—that will burn forever. (It's called Dakron¬Æ.)
Time did not fly for Jameis Winston, marooned overnight in the green room on NFL draft day. Winston waited through six full rounds, and a national television audience had not seen such prolific sweating since the Kennedy-Nixon debates. By the time the quarterback donned his Jets cap on Day 3, he'd been sitting on a couch for 44 consecutive hours, or what's known in Tallahassee as time served.
On the day Sepp Blatter was unanimously reelected for a fifth term as president of FIFA, the Supreme Leader of international soccer announced he had also broken Kim Jong-Il's record for most holes in one in a single round of golf, with 12. But not every oppressive regime tightened its iron grip. For the first time the NCAA paid travel expenses for athletes' families to attend the football and basketball national championship games. The bureaucratic overlords didn't stop there, however, announcing even greater largesse in 2016, when each family will receive a complimentary hot dog and two medium-sized soft drinks of their choice.
Of course, all of this was dwarfed by the story of the year. The Cubs' long-awaited prospects arrived in the big leagues and matured immediately under new manager Joe Maddon, who has always looked, in his baseball cap and black-framed glasses, like a Dateline correspondent concealing a camera in his spectacles. Maddon's new home, Wrigley Field, had undergone a face-lift over the winter—a bit of Ryno-plasty—and emerged last spring looking sensational, a dignified dowager ready for her close-up. That close-up came in October, as everyone now knows, when the Cubs hosted the White Sox in the 111th World Series.
And so it finally came to pass: When Arismendy Alcantara drove a ball off the ivy in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 to score Anthony Rizzo, and Hillary Clinton spontaneously bear-hugged George Will, these Cubs were 2015 world champions, fulfilling the prophecy first told in Back to the Future Part II.
As the 107-year-old curse was lifted in the 101-year-old ballpark and the 84-year-old Ernie Banks shed a single tear—and then shed two—Bill Murray was bodily subsumed into heaven, where he was greeted by the (distilled) spirit of Harry Caray. Next Year was undeniably here, even if no one could quite believe it.
A vision for 2015: The Knicks start three D-Leaguers, Spike Lee and a Carmelo Fathead adhered to a Roomba— and play their best game in months.
What are your predictions for the year ahead?
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DAMIAN STROHMEYER/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED