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Neon Tommy 2010 Sports Year In Review

Neon Tommy Sports |
December 29, 2010 | 8:25 p.m. PST

Members of the Neon Tommy sports staff revisit their favorite articles from 2010. 

Catching World Cup Fever In South Africa

By: Michael Green, June 21

This sports year was studded with several landmark moments: a Super Bowl celebration on Bourbon Street, LeBron bringing his talents to South Beach, the Giants hoisting San Francisco’s first World Series trophy and the list goes on…

But only one event captured the spirit of an entire continent. In doing so, the 2010 World Cup reminded spectators across the globe why we love sports.

And between the vuvuzela blowing, flag waving and (sometimes excessive) celebration, fans from across the world were united over a singular event. 

People often get bogged down in the stats, the stars and the money that swirls around sports culture. But sport in its purest form was put on display this summer when the greatest tournament in the world was played on African soil for the first time. 

“Feel it, it is here” came to define the World Cup experience in South Africa. Whether it was on the biggest stage in the sport, or in the townships where children play with homemade rag balls, soccer fever spread like wildfire throughout the country.

Although the World Cup has come and gone, the feeling that it inspired will always live within those who witnessed the power of sport first-hand during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Team USA fans celebrate. (Creative Commons)
Team USA fans celebrate. (Creative Commons)

Donovan Scores Heroic Late Goal, Catapults U.S. Into Knockout Round

By: Patrick Crawley, June 23

I've had the good fortune to cover some really cool sporting events in person this year, but nothing came close to the excitement of seeing Landon Donovan score that goal on TV in the 91st minute against Algeria in the World Cup.

The tension of that moment was almost unbearable. The U.S. had wiped the floor with Algeria, yet was on the verge of having little to show for it -- a scorless draw would have all but eliminated us.

It was do or die.

Fists tightly clenched, I sat on the couch in my living room. This can't be happening. This can't be happening. This can't be happening. Bad luck and treacherous officiating were about to be the end of us in the form of a 0-0 tie. 

And then Donovan struck.

It wasn't a beautiful goal, but that hardly mattered. I sprung off the couch and started shouting at the top of my lungs, arms raised. Then I sprinted around the living room. Then I went next door and hugged my neighbor. (Okay, I didn't do that. But would you have blamed me?)

Soccer in the U.S. isn't usually a big deal. But it was on June 23, the day Donovan etched his name on the cup of soccer immortality.

A game-winning, tournament-saving goal in extra time? Yeah, that's how legacies are made.


Win Over San Diego Signals Playoff Hope For Raiders

By: Kamille Turnquest-Simmons, Oct. 13

I remember watching the Raiders lose to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl nearly a decade ago. I was like 9 years old and I didn’t know the first thing about football. But I was still so proud because I knew the Raiders were mine, and I knew we were good.

That’s how I felt when I was writing this story: proud. Proud of Rich Gannon and Co. who beat the Chargers in 2003 and, more importantly, proud of this new Raider squad, who did it for the first time since then.

When you’re a fan of a team that loses as often as the Oakland Raiders, you want to believe that every win is bigger than it really is; that your fortune is changing and this is the year your team’s going all the way.  And if not, well then there’s always next season.

But I think that game, when they beat San Diego for the first time in seven years, actually was a turning point for them. It was like a curse had been broken and they figured out that they could win.

They’re 5-0 thus far against conference teams and, after Sunday, they will have lost fewer than 11 games in a season for the first time since 2002.

There’s nothing better than watching your team come back to win in the final moments of the game, and that’s a little bit like what Raider fans got to do this season. We got to watch our team start its comeback from the past eight years of futility in the NFL.

Of course, they won’t be wielding a Lombardi trophy come the new year, but hey, there’s always next season.

Bills Release Quarterback Trent Edwards

By: Sara Ramsey, Sept. 28

I'm a Raiders fan. It's a tough life that I have chosen for myself, but one I live with fervor and excitement. A couple years back when I was in the mood to watch a team that occasionally won a football game I looked to the Buffalo Bills. 7-9 in 2008 isn't exactly a stellar record, but it's better than the 5-11 the Raiders were posting up.

Now, let's get this straight: I was born and raised in California. When it comes to football I have three choices: The San Diego Super Chargers (who the Raiders have beat twice this season!!), the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers.

Being born in Los Angeles and becoming a NorCal transplant has led me down a path to the infamous Black Hole. But it was in my NorCal days, specifically my time spent at Los Gatos High School that introduced me to Trent Edwards. Our star quarterback was picked in the third round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills and this is where my fandom began.

My first story for Neon Tommy was about the September release of Trent Edwards from the Bills. Edwards was not putting up the numbers I knew he was capable of and the Buffalo team was really just sucking it up on all accounts. I was excited for Edwards to play for a team where his potential could be realized.

The 27-year-old quarterback out of Stanford was then picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars through the waiver wire. He's completed 43 of 76 passes this season for 381 yards and a touchdown and is looking to start Sunday's season finale against the Houston Texans as David Garrard is having surgery on an injured middle finger.

With quiet mumblings that the Jaguars may be one of the teams considered for a franchise move to Los Angeles, I may get to continue reporting on a player whose career I have been following since high school.

Top 5 Suitors For Cliff Lee

By: Dan Watson, Nov. 4

Sports commentary can be a speculative business, not unlike politics or economics.

Campaign races, stocks and free agency — no one really knows what's going to happen, and that's what makes it so much fun — and makes a fool of many a reporter.

Such was the clear case when I set about choosing the top 5 suitors for Cliff Lee, the biggest free agent on the market entering baseball's offseason — also my favorite sports story of the fall semester.

Rangers would win I said, a ballsy surprise pick, or, if I were wrong, then most certainly the Yankees — if not them, surely the Nationals, Angels or Red Sox.

I was wrong. Five times over, I was wrong.

Instead, the Phillies got the prize.

But that's the joy of sports. The unexpected, the eternal hope that your team might just win, or pull off a stunner, or score the big free agent. The Giants being the latest example. That's the beauty of baseball.

And while we're on the subject, San Francisco's staff will still be too strong for the Phillies, despite the acquisition of Lee. There's no debate, those are the top two pitching staffs.

Next, most certainly the Red Sox. If not them, surely the Rays or Angels.

Trust me.

Rob Scuderi Talks Hockey, Life Off The Ice

By: Sarah Sotoodeh, Nov. 5

My drive to the practice rink was quicker than I anticipated. As a huge Los Angeles Kings fan and an aspiring sports journalist, I was nervous and excited about interviewing Rob Scuderi. 

When I got there, I sat for a bit and watched the team practice.  Afterwards, I met with Rob, who was extremely kind and answered all my questions. He was very down to earth—he even asked me about graduate school and Texas (my home state). 

When I heard Scuderi talk about his son asking for skates, I knew I found the perfect way to end the piece. His devotion to his family was evident throughout the interview and I knew, as he was responding to my comment about his son becoming a member of the Kings, that I found a great last quote.

I walked away with an even greater respect for Scuderi and the rest of my Kings. It was an amazing opportunity and I am grateful I got to experience it.

49ers Owner Jed York: Psychic Or Psycho?

By: Kate Rooney, Oct. 13

Jed York’s prediction that his San Francisco 49ers would win the division proved erroneous, leaving the young team president with but one resolution for the new year: to restore his floundering franchise to its former glory. 

After sacking Mike Singletary, York finally appeared to concede he knows little about what it takes to operate a successful club. When asked by the San Francisco Chronicle what his role will be in future football operations, he replied he would merely “sign checks.”   

So San Francisco’s rebuilding saga continues, but the real story is that this season’s NFC West champ will enter the playoffs with a losing record.

At 5-10 with one game remaining, it won’t be San Francisco. But hold tight, Jed York. With the NFC West bar set so low, 2011 just might be your year. 

The Top 5 Worst Owners In Sports

By: Miles Cooper, et. all, Dec. 8

So seldom does a new staff writer have the privilege to write an article fully condemning an owner of a sports team. Well, I was privileged when I was allowed to write a segment on Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for Neon Tommy's top 5 worst owners list.

Forever, it seemed, I witnessed the "second" L.A basketball team in the news for having a horrendous season or an embarrassing scandal of some sort. This team has been doomed from season to season due to their owner's unwillingness to spend money and the stigma he brings to the team.

When the Clippers acquired Baron Davis, one of my favorite players, I became a fan. When they drafted Blake Griffin, I began to have an emotional attachment to a team other than the Lakers. Even still, I can't stand Sterling.

Even though this story was a short excerpt, it meant a lot to be able to get the facts out there for people to see. Maybe, by chance, someone in the NBA offices stumbled upon our story and will finally take action against Sterling. It's a crime what he has done to that organization. A team that has playoff talent and a marketable star (Griffin) should be able to be successful.

Then again, it could be worse.

The Clippers could be the Kings.

Louis Zamperini: The Unbreakable Olympian & "Unbroken" Is Tale Of Persistence And Survival

By: Shotgun Spratling, Dec. 14

Talking with any veteran is an honor, but talking to a veteran with the truly incredible survival stories that Louis Zamperini has is one of the great privileges of being a journalist. I had been introduced to Louis and his story previously. I had told my friends and family about him surviving for 47 days stranded at sea, killing sharks with his bare hands and almost routinely surviving the seemingly unsurvivable. However, I had never found the right opportunity to write about Louis.

That was until the release of his new biography. But what started as an opportunity to finally tell his remarkable story in my own words turned into two stories.

Louis' story has been told many times but never in the impeccable fashion that author Laura Hillenbrand managed. The book was so vivid and meticulously detailed and Hillenbrand had spent seven years working on the book. I knew there had to be a deeper connection than a simple interviewer-subject relationship.

I found out Hillenbrand has chronic fatigue syndrome that often leaves her bedridden. Her disease kept her from ever even meeting Louis. Telephone calls sometimes completely drained her for days. I settled for an email interview that took 10 days before I had a response.

I realized I was working on more than just a story about Zamperini -- there were two connected survival stories, and I was trying to tell both at the same time. The story continued to bog down. It wasn't going to work. I had to split the stories apart into separate articles. When I did, it finally freed me to tell both Louis' story and the kindred connection between Zamperini and Hillenbrand.

(Thanks to ESPN Los Angeles for the idea for this year-in-review.)



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

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