The Year in Sports
The bottom line in assessing any sports year has to be the quality and excitement of the competition - and by this yardstick 1982 certainly ranks well up there. Not only did we get more than the usual quota of thrills in the big season-ending playoffs (especially the Super Bowl, the World Series, and the NCAA basketball championship), we also had more than our share of memorable individual performances throughout the year.Skip to next paragraph
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In baseball there was the fabulous season of Milwaukee's slugging shortstop Robin Yount. In football, Herschel Walker ran wild once again for Georgia and finally won the Heisman Trophy. Hockey gave us its annual Wayne Gretzky show. Tennis offered the comeback of Jimmy Connors and the all-around brilliance of Martina Navratilova. Golfer Tom Watson finally won the US Open and added another British Open trophy to his collection. Marathon superstar Alberto Salazar outdid even his own spectacular feats of previous years. And just about every other sport had at least one outstanding individual dominating the competiton and generating his or her own special brand of excitement.
Of course there were also plenty of those less welcome off-the-field problems which so often dominate today's sports headlines - such as campus scandals, revelations of drug abuse by numerous pro athletes, and the eight-week player strike that nearly wrecked the pro football season. But these things should not obscure the fact that the main story was still played out on the fields and arenas as always - and that by any standards the 1982 version was a fan's dream.
The Super Bowl triumph of the San Francisco 49ers, culminating one of those truth-is-stranger-than fiction Cinderella stories that happen now and then in sports, got the year off to an exciting and dramatic start. Two years earlier the 49ers (2-14) had tied for the worst record in pro football, but now, reconstructed by Coach Bill Walsh, they had stormed through the regular season and then defeated the mighty Dallas Cowboys in the National Conference championship game to stand on the threshhold of the sport's greatest prize. Adding to the drama of the situation, their opponents were the Cincinnati Bengals, another team that had risen from the ashes of a losing season the previous year, and also the club for which Walsh had gained recognition for his coaching genius as an assistant only to be passed over when the top job opened up. Then as if all this weren't drama enough, the game itself turned into a thriller from which the 49ers finally emerged on top, 26-21.
Things don't happen this way too frequently, of course. All too often, in fact, these climactic final games or matches tend not to live up to expectations. But this exciting Super Bowl, it turned out, was a harbinger of more good things to come in many of the year's other big events. The NCAA basketball final went down to the wire before North Carolina nipped Georgetown 63-62. The World Series developed into a closely-fought, back-and-forth struggle in which St. Louis finally nipped Milwaukee in the full seven games. The US Open Golf Championship went down to the next-to-last hole before Watson holed an historic chip shot to beat Jack Nicklaus. At Wimbledon, Connors dethroned John McEnroe in a tense, emotional, four hours-plus final that was the longest in the tournament's history. And there were many, many other unforgettable moments - as the following sport-by-sport account clearly indicates. Baseball
The national pastime came all the way back from its strike-torn 1981 campaign , with several exciting pennant races, some memorable individual performances, and record-breaking attendance figures.