In many ways, 2010 provided us with a sports year we'll never see again. Not only did we have a Super Bowl worthy of the title and a World Series that featured an unwashed mass of bearded hippies beating a bunch of Niedermeyers from Dallas, but we also had the Olympics.
And the World Cup! In the most-watched Cup in history, America fell for a game that had long seemed like something you let your kid play until he discovered girls. We watched the U.S. somehow win its group and move on, and the Spanish take down the Dutch in the highest-rated soccer game in American TV history. We heard the vuvuzelas. We met Larissa Riquelme. And as a bonus, we got to see France spend less time in the tournament than it did in Iraq.
And there was so much more. Baseball saw six no-hitters, including two perfect games, and that's not including one more no-hitter taken away by a horrifically bad call. Tiny Butler almost beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament; Brett Favre learned how to use a cell phone; and on and on.
Now that we've reached the end of the year, we're left with memories of what was. And we feel it's our duty to bring you the most badass of it.
No. 10: Ben Roethlisberger Breaks Nose, Steelers Win
After the year he's had--another set of sexual assault allegations followed by a four-game suspension--Big Ben probably deserved this. Even before he took the field against the Ravens, Roethlisberger had a severely injured foot. Then, on the Steelers' very first drive of the game, Big Ben had his nose turned to cornflakes by Baltimore tackle Haloti Ngata--which is fitting, because that's the sound you make when you sneeze.
Ben didn't miss a play and still led the Steelers to a 13-10 win over their nemesis, though sources say he did have trouble sniffing out the blitz.
No. 9: Pacquiao Destroys Margarito
Manny Pacquiao had a pretty damn big year. Not only was he elected to a seat in the Philippines' House of Representatives, but he destroyed Antonio Margarito, making him the first man to ever win a world title in eight weight classes.
Yeah, stats are good and all, but sometimes you need a picture to tell the story. Here's one of Margarito's face after the match and before surgery to repair a broken orbital bone.
No. 8: Mark Webber Goes Airborne
Webber told the press this week that the force of the crash snapped his brake pedal in half. He, on the other hand, emerged largely unharmed--and completely awesome.
No. 7: Ron Artest's Victory Speech
Ron Artest's time in the NBA may always be haunted by the melee in Detroit in 2004, but if his speech after the Lakers claimed their second straight title is any indication, Artest himself seems to have exorcised his demons.
If it takes something special to stand in the way of a guy like Kevin Garnett barreling down the lane, it takes something more to confront your demons in front of a worldwide audience. We're fans of second chances here, and Artest did his part to deserve one by helping to destigmatize mental illness.
Then he decided to sell his championship ring for charity to really drive it home.
No. 6: Flyers Come Back From 3 Down
Six years ago, the Boston Red Sox became the first team to ever win an ALCS after falling behind three games to none. The Sox went on to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, changing Boston fandom forever.
Leave it to Philly to ruin the party.
The Bruins won the first three games on a markedly inferior Flyers team in the Eastern Conference semis, and then went into cruise control as the Flyguys took the next three games. But with Game 7 in Boston, the B's came out gunning, scoring three unanswered goals in the game's first 14:10. Their season ended a little under 46 minutes later, with Philly netting four straight to become only the third team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to pull off the comeback.
No. 5: Lindsey Vonn Takes Gold
When Lindsey Vonn dented her shin a week before the Olympics, she could have easily packed it in and become Anna Kournikova. She could've given up on greatness, used the face that could launch a thousand ski lifts and worked it until it sagged like an old Christmas tree.
But she didn't. Instead, Vonn won a gold (downhill) and bronze (Supger G) in events that usually require a hell of a lot more than two healthy legs (decades of training, more courage than a drunk leprechaun, a willingness to outrun a Prius). And, just for the record, she did pose in the Swimsuit Issue last year.
No. 4: Saints Onside Kick In Super Bowl
If this goes wrong, the Colts take the ball in Saints territory, already up by four, with Peyton Manning ready to do his laser-rocket-arm thing. Luckily, it worked. And two quarters later the Saints were Super Bowl champions, making Americans from coast to coast Google Who Dat? and doubling "Treme's" viewership to eight people.
No. 3: The English Marathon
When we make this list next year, it's a safe bet that tennis won't have a spot on it. It's an equally safe bet that a match like this won't ever happen again. The first four sets of the first-round match between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut were good, certainly. Wimbledon quality. Then the fifth set happened. And, for 138 games, it kept happening. The final set went so long that it had to break until the next day because of darkness.
Then, more than 11 hours after it began, Isner slipped a winner past Mahut for the 980th point of the match to win the longest match in tennis history. In other words, this match started the day Landon Donovan scored his goal to send the U.S. on in the World Cup (see below) and ended right around the time you were able to keep solid food down again.
No. 2: Shaun White's 1260 Double McTwist
Shaun White had already wrapped up a gold medal when he decided--for no reason other than to please the fans--to unleash a stunt that once again revolutionized snowboarding. It was dangerous. It was showy. It was everything we want from our athletes--a man erasing the line between competitor and entertainer. For that, we say thanks to the Flying Tomato.
No. 1: Landon Donovan Sends the U.S. Into The Knockout Round
Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan used 'Born in the USA' in a somewhat misguided attempt to bring America together (the song's about America scorning the men who fight for it). All he ended up doing was pissing off Bruce Springsteen. In 2012, when President Obama's trying to convince the American public to let him take four more years of beating, he'd be well-served to draw on this moment.
Lest we forget: If Donovan doesn't connect on this goal in the first minute of stoppage time in the U.S.'s final game of group play, the Yanks go home and soccer falls behind funerals in popularity again. All the dreams decay, Donovan and the vets retire and a new class comes in to carry the torch anew.
Then it happened.
And for fans of sports and day-drinking alike, this was an O.J.-on-the-Freeway moment. The captain came through, using the final drop of fuel to send his team on. And whether you were at work, watching at home or packed into a bar with 97 percent of your countrymen, you'll remember where you were when this goal halted America.
Honorable Mentions: Cliff Lee leaves $50 million on the table to sign with the Phillies instead of the Yankees…Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay throws his second no-hitter of the year (the first a perfect game) in the Phils' first game of the NLDS… Cigar Guy enters our lives
Did we leave anything off the list? Let us know!