A look back at eight stories from the world of sports in 2019

As a new decade unfolds one is left to wonder if 2020 will match the previous year in sports drama. It likely will, as the world of sports always seems to deliver something new. It’s not always good news, though it usually is just that.

It’s entirely possible that something negative will happen. The year 2019 had its share of sordid situations, but I’m going to concentrate on the good things as I recap eight sports stories from this past calendar year.

The Missed Call. New Orleans Saints fans will not think this is one of the “good” things to happen, but hear me out. When pass interference was not called on the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints had a chance to go to the Super Bowl taken away from them. Rarely does one call (or noncall) determine the outcome of a game, but this is as close to that as possible.

Replays showed that it was indeed a blown call and a big one. The NFL agreed and made a rule change that would have major impact on the game, eventually that is, once it was more vigorously enforced.

A coach could now challenge a non-call in 2019. The Saints did just that early in the season only to have no action taken by replay. In fact, very few changes to non-calls happened, and that was by design. The supervisor of league officials told teams not to challenge. Unless something was blatant, the play would not change.

Halfway through the season, apparently listening to those who suggested the rule change was for show rather than practicality, the replay officials started calling fouls that were not made on the field. One of the first, ironically I might add, went against the Saints. Of course it did!

In the long run this help in trying to assure no one gets cheated MAY turn out to be a good thing. Time will tell.

The Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin won NASCAR’s biggest race for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019. In fact, JGR finished 1-2-3. This would have been big for any organization, but more so for JGR.

In the offseason J.D. Gibbs, team president and eldest son of Coach Joe Gibbs, passed away from a neurological condition at the age of 49. The whole organization was devastated and the Daytona performance helped in the healing process.

I had been to the JGR shop in Huntersville, N.C. a few years ago and was leaving with my family when a gentleman started to enter the facility. He held the door for us and was very cordial when we thanked him, saying “you are most certainly welcome.”

Sometimes you just get a good feeling about a person when a simple gesture happens and this was one of those times. The man was J.D. Gibbs!

Tiger wins the Masters. He can be a polarizing figure. His dominating wins made many fans and turned others away. The he fell on hard times with a publicized divorce and serious back injuries.

But when Tiger Woods once again triumphed at Augusta National, the golf world rejoiced. He seems to be a changed person these days and most fans were thrilled to see him win his 15th major. He may never win another major, but this one will be remembered for a long time to come.

Maximum Security Disqualified. The Kentucky Derby had its champion — or did it? When Maximum Security crossed the finish line ahead of the field it was assumed he was the winner. As is the case in many horse races, a complaint was filed immediately.

Some jockeys felt Maximum Security committed a foul rounding the fourth turn by easing into the path of several horses. The stewards, as they always do, looked at replays. The stewards, as they infrequently do, agreed and Maximum Security was DQ’d. Country House would be the race winner.

How infrequently does this happen? Well, it was the first time in Derby history! Many people thought this was a good thing for horse racing, as rules are rules and it was good to see them finally enforced. Perhaps you agree.

Angels honor Tyler Skaggs. The details surrounding the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher are sketchy, but when a teammate passes during the season, the team will honor him.

The Angels did just that and it was incredible. Two Angel pitchers tossed a combined no-hitter as the Halos won 13-0 over Seattle. After the game the players took off their jerseys (all with Skaggs No. 45) and placed them on the pitcher’s mound. It was a moving ceremony.

There were four no-hitters thrown in baseball in 2019, two of them of the combined variety. None were more memorable than this one.

U.S. Wins the Women’s World Cup. Led by Megan Rapinoe, the women’s national soccer team repeated as champions in the World Cup. Though this was not unexpected, the achievement is still very noteworthy.

Outscoring their opponents by a 26-3 margin, the ladies were unstoppable. Admittedly, I’m not a big soccer fan, but I watched much of this event. The women made the USA proud!

Washington Nationals Win World Series. I’ve always said to win the World Series a team first has to make the playoffs. The Nats did as a wild card team and their run to the title was magical.

They trailed in every series and became the first team to take the crown by winning all four of their games on the road. It was entertaining and cause for any baseball fan to rejoice.

Simone Biles wins Five Golds at World Championships. I’m old enough to remember Nadia Comaneci at Montreal. Heck, I even go back to Olga Korbut! But what Simone Biles did in Germany this past October was incredible by any standard.

Here is the best way to explain it. She landed a triple-twisting, double back flip in the floor exercise. She stuck a double-twisting, double back flip from the beam. I can’t even pronounce these things let alone try to do them!

If you saw her performances you had to be amazed. Simply put, she is the best female gymnast EVER!

That’s the good from 2019. I feel obligated to mention something else, however. Thirty horses died during the racing season at California’s Santa Anita Park, many under mysterious circumstances. That is not a good look for horse racing and unfortunately another has already died in 2020.

Let’s hope this will be the last and 2020 will be filled with great sports memories.

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune

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