If you strip aside rooting interests, most sports fans would agree that when it comes to a major team sports championship game or series, the things they’re really looking for are entertainment and drama. Sometimes sports deliver. Plenty of times, they do not. For every amazing finish — like the one last night in the Super Bowl — there are a lot of pedestrian or flat-out boring games with lopsided results.
Except in the last 12 months.
If we (somewhat arbitrarily) define the past year of major U.S. team sports championship as starting with March Madness in 2016 and ending with Sunday’s Super Bowl, it has been an amazing ride.
It’s been so good that you could easily argue it’s the greatest year in history for U.S. team sports championships. Let’s look at six of the biggest ones, in chronological order. (And no, the MLS Cup in which Seattle defeated Toronto in a shootout after not registering a shot on goal during 120 minutes of actual play does not make the list. It might have been dramatic, but that was not a particularly good match).
*NCAA men’s basketball title game: In what some consider the most thrilling finish in the tournament’s history, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige drilled a double-clutch three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to bring the Tar Heels into a 74-74 tie with Villanova. That only served as the warmup, though, as Villanova raced down the court and set up Kris Jenkins for a deep three-pointer that beat the buzzer for a 77-74 win. That was just the final five seconds of an already great game.
*NBA Finals: Oh, let’s see. All that happened was one of the greatest players of all time (LeBron James) led the team from his home state (the Cavaliers) back from a 3-1 series deficit against the greatest regular-season team in NBA history (the Warriors) to take the NBA title in seven amazing games and end a 52-year major title drought for Cleveland as a city. Game 7 had 20 lead changes and 11 ties to go with a thrilling finish that included a blocked shot by James that is still hard to believe.
*WNBA Finals: This one went the wrong way if you’re a Lynx fan, but there’s no doubt that the Los Angeles Sparks’ five-game win over Minnesota was epic. The Lynx held a one-point lead late in Game 5 at Target Center, but Nneka Ogwumike’s putback with 3.1 seconds left gave the Sparks a 77-76 win and the championship.
*World Series: As unbelievable as the narrative was in the NBA finals, the World Series was even more amazing. Remember: the Cubs came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat Cleveland, claiming their first World Series title in 108 years. All it took in Game 7 (in Cleveland) was withstanding a dramatic Indians home run that tied the game late … and then a rain delay before extra innings … before the Cubs prevailed 8-7.
*College Football Playoff championship game: Not to be outdone, this game was amazing as well. Clemson trailed Alabama – the Patriots of college football – until taking a 28-24 lead with less than five minutes to play. The Crimson Tide rallied to retake the lead 31-28 with two minutes left … but Clemson’s Deshaun Watson threw the game-winning touchdown pass with one second left for a 35-31 victory and the championship.
*Super Bowl: Everyone remembers what happened because this one is so fresh, but just to recap: New England trailed Atlanta 28-3 in the third quarter Sunday, and the Falcons were rolling. No team had ever come back from more than even a 10-point deficit to win the Super Bowl. But the Patriots did it, rallying with two late touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions to send the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time in history. They won the coin toss and scored a touchdown on the first possession of overtime for Tom Brady’s fifth Super Bowl victory.