SI.com's Joe Posnanski provides closure on 2008 -- "the year of the overwhelming" -- in his column from this morning.
"How many 'Greatests' did we have in one year?" Posnanski writes. "Greatest comeback. Greatest match. Greatest play. Greatest performance. Greatest achievement. It's always tempting to overstate the immediate and lose the perspective of history when you're still keyed up from something remarkable and present."
There was Mario's Miracle, Tiger's gut-check moment at Torrey Pines, perhaps the greatest single play in Super Bowl history, the most captivating tennis match in a generation or more, Josh Hamilton's redemption story, and a record gold medal haul for Michael Phelps in Beijing.
Yet Posnanski picks a preliminary 100-meter dash from the Olympics as his most resonating moment. Why?
I don't have an answer for that except to say that emotions are not easy to figure, and memories do not always shine brightest for the big moment. I had never watched Usain Bolt run before. I knew a bit about him, of course -- he was a tall, lanky runner from Jamaica, and his coaches thought his long strides made him better suited for the longer sprints (200 and 400 meters). But he wanted to run the 100, the big stage. As it turns out, he was born for it. He broke the world record in May, less than a year after his first official 100-meter event.
Still, I was not ready -- could not be ready -- for what I would see. This was still a full day before the final; Bolt still had one one more qualifying race after this one. So the point here was only to get to the lead, cruise to the finish and advance to the next round. Bolt took the point very seriously. The gun sounded, and Bolt took off. He only exerted himself for two or three seconds, but those seconds were unlike anything I had ever seen -- he burst out of the scene, like he was in 3-D. It was like he had gone to light speed. And just like that, he shut it down. With 40 meters left in the race, Bolt slowed to a jog. It was like a parachute had ejected from his back. He was practically running backward when he hit the finish line.
He still won the race, of course. more, he finished with a time of 9.92. How fast is 9.92? It would have won him a gold medal in 1992 and just about every Olympics before that. It would have won him the silver medal in 2000. It would have, in fact, made him a contender for the bronze medal the next day. He had just run a remarkably fast time -- and he had not even tried.
I have never seen anything like it. There's something bewitching about the 100-meter dash because it's so childlike. Race you to the third telephone pole. That's all. There are no fancy lights, no teammates to set picks, no lucky bounces. Usain Bolt on that night showed us a gear that no other man has ever had. And, just as quickly, he pulled back. Could he have broken the world record with a little more effort? No doubt. Could he have run a time that would have left the world gasping? Almost certainly. But instead he jogged off the stage, content with the gasps he left behind, a carnival barker -- "Come back tomorrow, folks, I'll really give you a show."
Now it's your turn. What was your favorite sports moment of the past year?