Which Sports State Had the Best and Worst 2016?
Look, we get it...2016 wasn't that fun. And some sports states really personified that stink. Here's a look at three sports cities that are begging for the calendar to flip...
3) North Carolina
NC's HB2 controversy made it impossible to "stick to sports", as both the ACC Championships and the NBA All-Star Game opted to sever ties with the state over the "Bathroom Bill". When the games actually were played, North Carolina faltered on the biggest stages. They enjoyed a magical 15-1 season from the NFL's Panthers, a trip that ended in Super Bowl 50...alas, in an embarrassing 24-10 defeat. Just over two months later, their beloved UNC Tar Heels basketball team partook in the one of the most, if not THE most, exciting NCAA Men's Basketball Championships ever, but came out on the losing end against Villanova thanks for Kris Jenkins's time expiring three-pointer. Though the Panthers' loss took place in California, another loss in California also stung for the locals, as Charlotte native Steph Curry's struggles saw a 73-9 season, and a 3-1 NBA Finals lead, go for naught. To top it all off, the Panthers have struggled in the ensuing season, dropping a whopping nine games behind their previous mark. Neighboring South Carolina fared slightly better, watching Clemson advance to the College Football National Championship and Coastal Carolina capture an unlikely College World Series title.
It's a good thing temperatures constantly remain warm in Arizona, because something needs to offset how cold the sports teams have been. The year got off to a bad start, as a rare NFC Championship game appearance from the Arizona Cardinals was an unmitigated disaster, blown out 49-15 by the Panthers. The Cardinals' were nonetheless pegged as Super Bowl contenders eight months later, but instead have slogged to a 6-8-1 season that mercifully ends on Sunday. But it's OK, the Diamondbacks were the champions...of spring training, when they acquired Zack Grienke and Shelby Miller. The D-Backs instead only earned a mere 69 wins, which was still more than the Suns and Coyotes combined. Both major college football schools, Arizona and Arizona State, also regressed.
1) Washington DC
Look, I know DC isn't a state, but it's still part of our glorious nation. DC was in for a rough 2016 as it was, with that little thing called the presidential election, but their teams did not help matters in the slightest, only this has become an every year thing, rather than an every four years thing. The Capitals, despite earning the Presidents' Trophy, again conceded their race prior to entering the Eastern Conference Final round. The National likewise conceded their race, prior to the title round, even with Bryce Harper winning baseball "popular" votes. The Wizards, thought to be one of the NBA's up and coming teams not too long ago, are a complete mess, as John Wall must be counting down the days until he can finally join in the superteam craze. When your biggest source of hope is the Washington Redskins...who were throughly destroyed in the 2016 NFC playoffs and will fight for their lives on Sunday afternoon...you know it has been a rough year.
But, 2016 wasn't all bad. It did, after all, give us the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back, as well as joy for these states...
Being the massive state that it is, sure, not everything is great in Californian sports, as the Niners, Lakers, Chargers, and Angels, once proud franchises, all suffered through rough years. But the state enjoyed plenty of good times in the national spotlight, mainly thanks to not only immediate success, but also results that give hope for the future. The San Jose Sharks only added to the area's rich hockey success aided by the Kings and Ducks, earning their first Stanley Cup berth in their history. The Raiders also returned to national prominence, earning their first playoff berth since 2002. Though the actual product left much to be desired, NFL football returned to Cali's biggest city, as Los Angeles welcomed back the Rams. The Clippers' solid start to the 2016-17 season has LA's new favorite basketball team thinking Finals. Finally, of course, the Warriors earned that magnificent 73-9 record. Though it went for naught, the undaunted Dubs brought in Kevin Durant.
Perhaps the closest we'll ever get to a championship in Philadelphia went down in 2016, as the Villanova Wildcats captured victory in one of the most exciting games in college basketball history, erasing a narrative in the process that the Cats could not advance past the tourney's opening weekend. Further celebration came in the summer, when the Pittsburgh Penguins added their fourth Stanley Cup to their case, completing a playoff in which the young and talented Flyers also made an appearance. A Christmas miracle also went down in Pittsburgh, where Antonio Brown's Space Jam-inspired stretch earned the Steelers yet another AFC North title. Though postseasons were not to be for the Pirates, Phillies, 76ers and Eagles, each were able to find a small bit of hope heading into the future, primarily through young stars like Joel Embiid and Carson Wentz.
Cleveland FINALLY earned that elusive title. Just don't turn into Boston fans, you guys! Just kidding, Beantown, we love you.
Anyway, the Cleveland Cavaliers ended the curse held over the city, doing so in the most memorable and dramatic way possible. Facing off with the 73-9 Warriors in the Finals, LeBron James and the Cavs overcame a 3-1 deficit to cap off the comeback and put Cleveland in the win column. That inspired the Indians, as they went on a wild summer run and later found themselves in the World Series as AL Champions. Victory was not to be, as the fell to the Chicago Cubs, but The Tribe earned an offseason win afterwards, signing Edwin Encarnacion, the first major addition of the MLB offseason. Elsewhere, Columbus has now enjoyed not only the continued success of the Ohio State football team, who can advance to the National Championship with a win over Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, but also the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are currently in the midst of a 13-game winning streak.
How did your state do in 2016? Tweet @GeoffMags5490 and keep the conversation going.
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