As I prepare for another Alabama versus Clemson (yawn) national title game Monday night, it got me thinking about the top national sports stories of the last year.
I threw the yawn in there because I am really sick of ’Bama being there — every single year.
I’ll still watch, rooting like hell for the Tigers to beat them.
While Nick Saban’s genius was on full display in last year’s game, which I’ll get back to later, it was not my favorite moment of 2018.
No, by leaps and bounds, my favorite memory of the last year in sports was the Philadelphia, New England Super Bowl.
Not because it was a great game, which it was, but because of a fan.
I had the privilege last January to watch Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for you non-Romans) with a buddy of mine, along with 15 or so other football fans at a party in Angel Fire, New Mexico.
Jarred and I worked together at the country club there, and over the course of our time together I learned of his lifelong fandom for the Eagles.
Born and raised in Philly, his obsession mirrored mine with the Cowboys. Nothing he could do about it — it was in his blood from birth.
We would watch Eagles games together while we were working, and his love for the team was obvious.
Of course, as fans of hated rivals are expected to do, we gave each other a lot of grief during the season.
As a Cowboys fan, I can’t stand Philadelphia, but as the season wore on and the Eagles began to roll, I found myself pulling for them — or rather — for him.
So, the day of the game, most everyone at the party had side bets with Jarred, with him basically the only one there taking the Eagles.
If you recall, the game was an offensive battle, with both teams driving and scoring almost at will.
But the real show was right there with us in the living room.
For most of the third quarter, Jarred was hard to find. I was constantly searching and scanning the room for his whereabouts.
He went from behind the couch, to peaking at the screen from a hallway around the corner, to prone on the living room floor when a call didn’t go his way.
Late in the fourth quarter, as Tom Brady tried to bring New England back to tie the game, Jarred was back on the floor — curled up in a fetal position — watching the drive through his hands.
He would crack his fingers just enough to see the play, then quickly cover his face again as the clock wound down — the stress of it all simply too much for him to take.
Finally, the clock hit :00, his Eagles had stopped the Patriot machine, and Jarred exploded.
Running around the house, he screamed at the top of his lungs, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Pay me my money! Pay me my money!”
Almost three decades of pent-up frustration were released in the moments after the game. It was Philly’s first Super Bowl win in his lifetime, and the joy and relief that his beloved team finally got it done was amazing and awesome to see.
I talked to him after he calmed down, some two hours later, and he couldn’t even describe all the emotions going through him in those moments.
I feel you, bro — it’s what being a fan is all about.
Back to ’Bama
College sports is supposed to be cyclical, every four years new players come in and coaches have to coach ’em up and make new players into winning teams.
But not at ’Bama, where Saban just re-ups with his latest batch of five-star recruits, and rolls over everyone to his next national title game.
That was never more evident than last year’s championship game, when the coach pulled his starting QB, Jalen Hurts, for an unproven freshman, Tua Tagovailoa, and the kid wins the game with a touchdown pass in overtime.
The sheer brilliance of Saban, who completely changed his game plan at halftime (from running the ball to throwing it all over the lot), inspired a newfound respect for the guy — even if I can’t stand the Tide being there all the dang time.
Woods wins again
My last favorite moment of 2018 is Tiger Woods winning the Tour Championship.
It had been a while for the most dominant golfers of our generation, and the outpouring of support from fans at the tournament was something American golf had not seen in years.
Woods could barely get through the thousands of fans surrounding him as he made his way to the 18th green on the way to the win.
I had many debates over the last few years with sports fans, fellow sports writers and folks I’ve worked with, who swore he was done and would never win again.
Thank goodness they were wrong.
Golf needs Woods. Ratings for the tournament were through the roof, as the golf world rooted for a true redemption story.
Welcome back, Mr. Woods. We missed you, and I can’t wait for the majors this year.
Kevin Duke is a sports correspondent for the Herald-Zeitung.