Reflecting upon the year in sports that was 2008, there were certainly some watershed moments, huge upsets, and also some disappointments (depending on who and what you root for). The following teams and names are ones that will always be synonymous with 2008 (in no particular order): Michael Phelps, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Celtics, Rocco Mediate, Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Detroit Red Wings, Manchester United, Rafael Nadal. I could go on.
So here are the teams and athletes I predict will make waves in 2009. You might want to bookmark this post, so in a year from now you can either build me a monument for being such a genius, or point and laugh at my stupidity.
First, for my beloved teams (I have more than four, because soccer also exists in my sports world):
NEW YORK JETS - Man, this is tough. I still think Cowher is the frontrunner for the head coaching job, despite all of the conflicting reports about what he wants, but at this point, it's anyone's guess who the Jets will hire. So, I'll just say this: If the Jets hire an established coach with a winning pedigree, they will be competitive next year and will be contenders within 3 seasons. If they hire a rookie, it will be the same sad story with the same sad ending. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is if they hire Steve Spagnuolo.
2009 Record: 9-7, 3rd in AFC East
NEW YORK RANGERS - This is an easy one. The Rangers will make the playoffs, probably as a 4 or 5 seed, and will be eliminated either in the second round or the Eastern Conference Finals. It's a solid team with a world-class goaltender, but it lacks a consistent scoring winger and physical enough defensemen to be considered a true contender.
2009 Record: 44-29-9, 97 pts., 4th in Eastern Conference; Eliminated in 6 games from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals
NEW YORK KNICKS - A team in rebuilding mode, the Knicks will challenge for the 8 seed because the NBA is bad like that. When 2009 hits, we'll only be 18 months or so from the summer of 2010, which is when Knicks fans can truly rejoice!
2009 Record: 35-47, 10th in Eastern Conference
NEW YORK YANKEES - One word: Dominant. Sorry baseball, they're due. And stop whining about the payroll.
2009 Record: 104-58, 1st in American League East; Winners of 2009 World Series over the Chicago Cubs
SOCCER - Fulham FC will finish in the top half of the English Premier Leauge which will be won by Chelsea; Inter Milan will win the UEFA Champions League; The United States Men's National Team will retain it's regional Gold Cup title and will also advance to the knockout phase of the FIFA Confederations Cup (out of a groups containing Brazil and Italy, no less), being held this summer in South Africa as a preview to the 2010 World Cup; The New York Red Bulls will be eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs in the Eastern Conference Final by the Columbus Crew, but MLS Cup 2009 will be won by David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy.
YOUR 2009 CHAMPIONS:
NCAA Football - Oklahoma Sooners - I don't really know College Football, so this is basically like picking out of a hat for me.
NFL - Indianapolis Colts - They're the hottest football team on the planet right now. Will the victory be in a Manning/Manning Super Bowl? It wouldn't shock me.
NCAA Men's Basketball - University of Connecticut - I think they will be one of the most tested teams coming out of the ridiculously stacked Big East.
NHL - Detroit Red Wings - If you appreciate teamwork and dominance in sport, watch the Detroit Red Wings play hockey. It is a thing of absolute beauty because you can't take the puck away from them (which, for those of you not familiar with the game, is ludicrous in a fast sport like hockey). They have enough power to repeat. I suppose the only question is goaltending: Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin? But they have enough scoring to mask that inadequacy.
NBA - Cleveland Cavaliers - Agreed with what The Sherm said in a previous post. They are quietly one of the best teams in the league because all people want to talk about are the Celtics and the Lakers. Feels like it could be Cleveland's and LeBron's year.
MLB - New York Yankees - No analysis or reasoning needed, just read the names and weep silently to yourself: Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Chamberlain, Hughes; Damon, Jeter, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Nady, Posada, Matsui, Cano; and let's not forget Mariano Rivera.
MLS - Los Angeles Galaxy - I HATE Bruce Arena with a passion. But if there's a guy who knows the ins and outs of American soccer both on and off the pitch, it's him. He will build his team around David Beckham, pull a fantastic trade for some good defenders, and the Galaxy will go from a joke to a champion. In MLS, the American sports league with the most parity because of the ridiculously low salary cap, this is possible. I'm actually somewhat rooting for it outside of supporting the Red Bulls, because the league needs Beckham and the Galaxy to WIN, in order to grow.
Sorry for the long-winded post. But those are my predictions for 2009. We'll see how I do 365 days from now.