Ahead of our time: Travel forward and witness greatness
Recently, we told you which top sporting moments we'd travel back to witness firsthand if we had a time machine. But what about defining events that haven't even happened yet? Technically, with a time machine, you could go see those, too. Obviously we can't predict the future, so with the understanding that some of these may never come to pass, here are our top plausible picks for those who'd like to travel forward on the space-time continuum.
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At long last, Chicago Cubs win another World Series
Maybe it won't happen in 2015, as predicted by 'Back to the Future II,' but at some point, it is destined to occur. It HAS to. The Cubbies haven't won the World Series since 1908, haven't been in the World Series since 1945, and the last time they sniffed the postseason? 2008. The odds say this can't continue forever. No one is that unlucky. (We're not even going to bring up the Steve Bartman incident.) Surely a victory parade is on the horizon for the Windy City. Travel ahead and celebrate with its long-suffering denizens.
Getty ImagesScott Olson
The undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins finally get some company
The New England Patriots almost -- almost -- pulled it off during their 2007-08 campaign, and if not for that miraculous (ridiculous?) Eli-Manning-to-David-Tyree helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. As it is, though, Don Shula and company have ... well ... no company, finishing their '72 championship season at 17-0. This record feels ripe for the picking, and hey, maybe the Pats will eventually be the ones to finish the job. As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are driving the bus, anything is possible for New England.
Getty ImagesJoel Auerbach
Tiger Woods wins another major
Once a force of nature and a sure bet to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors, the oft-injured Woods is a shell of his former self. He can't even finish a tourney, let alone win one. He's changed his swing more often than we change underwear, and he's endured scandal, disgrace and unimaginable scrutiny. Maybe Tiger's major total will stand at 14 (good enough for second place). Or maybe not. Maybe we're writing him off too soon -- as many did to Nicklaus, before he pulled off the impossible at Augusta in '86. Catching The Golden Bear? That's improbable now. Too many young talents out there, and few of them fear Tiger anymore. But could Woods eke out one more major win on some Sunday in the not-so-distant future? For a guy who dominated his sport for a decade and isn't even 40 yet, it's absolutely possible.
Getty ImagesAndy Lyons
The NFL returns to Los Angeles (again)
The Rams and Raiders both left L.A. (for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively) in the mid-90s, and ever since then, NFL fans in the City of Angels have dreamed of once again securing a franchise in their city. That dream is a reality now, with Rams owner Stan Kroenke announcing that he's moving his franchise from St. Louis to Los Angeles in time for the 2016 season. No doubt there are plenty of excited Angelinos who wish they could travel ahead in time to witness that first kickoff, likely in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (The team is expected to later move into a brand-new stadium complex in Inglewood.)
Getty ImagesAndy Hayt
College Football Playoff expands to eight teams
For BCS haters, it seemed like the College Football Playoff took forever to materialize. (The Bowl Championship Series title format lasted from 1998 to 2013). But given the smashing success of the 2014 playoff model, which featured four teams, it seems unlikely that we'll have to wait all that long for an expansion of the field to eight teams, or maybe more. (We will have to wait at least 10 years, however, as that's the time left on the current playoff contract.) It's true that the second year of the playoff hit a few snags, but the challenges aren't insurmountable, and no one is clamoring for a return to the BCS system. College hoops no longer has the monopoly on a bracket tourney, and you can expect more teams to come.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
A 16-seed finally defeats a No. 1 in the NCAA tourney
Speaking of college hoops, let's talk about the upset everyone wants to see (unless you're a fan of the No. 1 team, or you have that squad winning it all in your office pool.) The 16-seeds have lost every game they've played in the Big Dance, although we've had some close calls and, in 1989, two VERY close calls, both by one-point margins. Alonzo Mourning (pictured here in 1989) and the Georgetown Hoyas barely scraped by Princeton, 50-49, and Oklahoma avoided making the wrong kind of history with a 72-71 win over East Tennessee State. And as recently as 2013, a 15-seed defeated a No. 2 seed (a feat that's happened seven times). At some point, a No. 1 is gonna fall.
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Danica Patrick wins a NASCAR Sprint Cup race
Danica already had milestones on her racing resume before she switched to NASCAR full time. She's the only woman to win an IndyCar Series race (Indy Japan 300, in 2008), and she owns the highest finish of any woman who's raced in the Indy 500 (third place, 2009). Patrick has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, but she's really only just begun in that circuit, and those who say she 'can't hang' with the boys aren't paying attention. In 2013, she became the first woman to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole -- for the Daytona 500, no less. That same race, she became the first female driver to lead a green-flag lap at NASCAR's signature event, and her eighth-place finish is better than any female driver has ever performed at The Great American Race. She can indeed race, compete and win. You'll want to be there when it happens.
Kobe Bryant reconsiders retirement to pursue that elusive sixth ring
The Lakers are a mess (and don't figure to be much better anytime soon), and Kobe has announced he's retiring at the end of this season anyway. But given what we know about Bryant's legendary competitive spirit, we'll believe he's walking away from the game when we actually see it with our own eyes. After all, even Michael Jordan reconsidered his own retirement (twice). And we know how much Kobe likes to copy M.J.'s game. Just kidding, Laker fans! But a return to the NBA would be the only way Bryant could catch His Airness in number of rings earned.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Rematch: Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
Their UFC 193 bout in 2015 resulted in one of the biggest upsets of all time, not just in MMA but in any sport. Before meeting Holm in the octagon, Rousey had run roughshod over the UFC during her tenure as champ, winning most of her matches in mere seconds and building a reputation as one of the most dominant athletes on the planet. But Holm -- certainly no slouch herself -- fairly easily dispatched Rousey, who looked surprised, and frankly underprepared and overmatched. It was somewhat reminiscent of watching Buster Douglas take down Mike Tyson. You think Rousey doesn't have revenge on her mind? We want to be there for the rematch.
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Seattle gets another NBA franchise
The SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City at the end of the 2007-08 NBA season, and the team goes by the name of the Thunder now. Tough loss for Seattle, but what's worse is that unlike the Sonics -- who spent most of the 2000s mired in mediocrity -- the Thunder are now perennial title contenders, led by a superstar duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (pictured at right). Insult to inury? Durant was drafted by the Sonics in 2007 but won his MVP with OKC. Yeesh. Attempts to relocate the Sacramento Kings to Seattle fell through, and while some have speculated that Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 with the intent of eventually moving them to Seattle, that seems unlikely. But it's clear the city wants the NBA back, and with a willing partner, it's just a matter of time. Keep hope alive, Seattle!
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a NASCAR Sprint Cup title
The son of NASCAR legend Dale Sr. is easily the sport's most popular driver. In fact, he's won that award for many years in a row. He's also won the Daytona 500 -- NASCAR's signature race -- twice. He's won two XFINITY Series championships (back then, it was known as the "Busch Series"), and he's racked up dozens of individual race victories. One thing Dale Jr. has yet to win, though? A NASCAR Sprint Cup title. He's got the pedigree, the talent, clearly some fast cars, not to mention the support of millions of fans, so it's a bit of a mystery as to why he has yet to break through -- although he does have a teammate by the name of Jimmie 'Six Time' Johnson who's stood in the way of plenty of drivers. Still, you've gotta think Junior's time will come. If it happens, NASCAR's most loyal fan base will go berserk.
Getty ImagesPatrick Smith
U.S. men's soccer player wins FIFA's Ballon d'Or
Though it's been qualifying regularly for the World Cup since 1990, USA men's soccer has plenty of work ahead of it before it can be considered an elite program. It doesn't help matters that, even in its own country, Team USA isn't the most popular kind of football. But the good news? U.S. players are receiving more national attention, MLS is becoming a destination league, and even some college recruits are choosing futbol over football. Messi and Ronaldo have a stranglehold on the Ballon d'Or right now, so the U.S. may have to wait until those two retire. But remember that U.S. women's star Abby Wambach has already won the counterpart FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Getty ImagesPhilipp Schmidli
A major baseball record falls
Joe DiMaggio had a hit in 56 consecutive games. Ted Williams was the last player to hit above .400 in a season. Will anyone equal or overtake either of those marks? DiMaggio's record is tailor-made for a streaking hitter -- maybe not even a marquee star -- who just happens to go on a tear at the right time. Could be an under-the-radar talent who catches us all off-guard. Williams' feat, however, would likely require extended excellence and consistency in a player over a greater period of time, someone whose skill level wouldn't simply sneak up on fans and the media. We'll see this guy coming from a mile away. Tony Gwynn got within striking distance in 1994, hitting .394 for the season. It'll take someone of that caliber to reach the mark, and we're not likely to see a hitter like Gwynn again for some time. Our money's on DiMaggio's mark.
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A really, really major baseball record falls
Barry Bonds finished his career with 762 home runs. Nolan Ryan ended up with 5,714 strikeouts. Pete Rose cranked out 4,256 hits. All are legendary, hallowed records, and none of them seems in any danger of falling anytime soon, so we'll keep this one brief. Still, forever is a long time, and you've got a time machine. The question isn't whether these records will fall. The question is, which one will fall first? You could tell us.
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Rematch: Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao
Yeah, yeah, the so-called 'Fight of the Century' has already happened and, according to most observers, it was basically a big ol' dud. So who'd want to see a redo of this boring affair? We would, with a few caveats. Pacquiao needs to be fully healthy this time, and Mayweather needs to actually take some risks in the ring. Otherwise, both men can expect the critics to keep on hounding them -- something they no doubt had hoped to avoid by inking the original bout in the first place. And let's be honest: When it comes to boxing, these two names are still the biggest out there. Even if the sequel is no more exciting than 'Part 1' was, it's a win for the sport. But we NEED it to be exciting this time, fellas. Make this mulligan count.