Sports in 2003 has all the makings of greatness

The first weekend of the new year has come and gone. It brought enough attention-worthy sporting events that it would take at least a full day’s worth of “”Sportscenter”” episodes to bring sufficient recaps. The first weekend of 2003 also brought a forecast of things to come in the world of sports, promising a memorable year in which people will have a good reason to spend countless hours in front of their TVs.

We were treated to games of all levels last weekend (and, as seems to happen so often, it was the unpaid athletes that provided most of the highlights), but it’s hard to say what took center stage the past couple of days.

It could have been college football’s very vanilla bowl season, capped by two flavorful, historic games in the Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. First, USC’s Carson Palmer showed all doubters in Miami that he is the deserving Heisman Trophy winner when he put together a dominating performance over Heisman runner-up Brad Banks and his Iowa football team to bring national prominence back to USC with a 38-17 victory. Then, in college football’s final game of the year that had so many indications that it would go like most of the other season’s boring bowl games, 13-point underdog Ohio State upset the University of Miami to capture the national championship. (The ‘Canes were upset by the Zebras too, but at least the pass interference call that went against Miami and continued the game in the first overtime did not instantly decide the contest.)

Or maybe the weekend’s focal point was the beginning of the NFL playoffs, in which Green Bay’s Lambeau Field saw a first. Atlanta routed the Packers, ending Green Bay’s 13-game playoff home winning streak on a night that snow lightly blanketed Lambeau and resembled images of a traditionally strong Packer postseason team. Also in the NFL playoffs, the New York Jets steamrolled and shut out the Indianapolis Colts 41-0 in a game that raised questions about Peyton Manning and whether he will ever achieve postseason success.

Or perhaps what took center stage last weekend was an event of much smaller magnitude of any of the previously mentioned games: a regular-season high school basketball game, but one that was still important enough to be nationally televised on ESPN2. This game had the likes of LeBron James leading his Akron St. Vincent- St. Mary team over Santa Ana Mater Dei and D.J. Strawberry (calling him Darryl Strawberry’s son would not be fair). Strawberry held James to 8-24 shooting and his second-lowest point total of the season at 21, but James still pulled down nine boards and had seven assists when he continued to dazzle both spectators and scouts. However, James has not pushed away the signs that stand in front of him that say, “”Big Bust.””

If the rest of the year is full of games like the ones we saw last weekend, finding the 10 best sports stories at the end of 2003 will be difficult. However, the events of the first weekend of the year indicate that 2003 will definitely be memorable for sports fans.

Oh wait, I forgot to mention the UCSD basketball games that were played this weekend. The women’s basketball team lost two, and the men’s team lost two. I hope that doesn’t indicate anything for UCSD athletics during the rest of the year.