As the clock ticks down on the year, FOX Sports looks back at 16 people, concepts or attitudes we said goodbye to in 2016.
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The lovability of Cubs fans
Remember when Leonardo DiCaprio won the Oscar in March and everybody reacted like a grave injustice had been reversed, as if an innocent man had been freed from death row, rather than what actually happened - a world-famous guy who gets eight figures to play in the snow, frolics with Victoria's Secret models and jet sets around the world talking about carbon footprints gets a gold-plated trophy from a bunch of self-congratulatory narcissists.
Fast-forward to October, when the Cubs won the World Series and a gorgeous, vibrant city with a championship tradition, an adopted-son-turned-community-organizer-turned-president, the best stadium in baseball and the world's top selection of hot dogs finally snapped its one-year title drought and 11-year run of championship-less baseball. Sure, the Cubs themselves had that silly little 108-year run without a title, but was it really that bad? Fans always seemed to be just fine with it, filling a stadium for bad teams and enjoying a communal experience of being burnt out on Miller Lite and heat stroke.
Suffering? Chicago? Please. The White Sox, who were ignored out of existence for a month, had a 2005 title. The Bears are still living large off that 1985 team. The Blackhawks have three championships in the past seven years and, yes, it's hockey, but they're an original six team, so it actually matters a little.
And, oh yeah, one more thing: YOU GOT TO WATCH THE GREATEST ATHLETE ON THE PLANET FOR 15 SEASONS. Remember that bald guy on the Bulls, the one famous for shoes and weeping? Well MJ had it right: boo-freaking-hoo, Chicago. I'd say getting to watch Michael Jordan in his prime makes up for the fact that one of your two baseball teams didn't get to have a parade for a while. You don't get to complain about one bad apple when you've tasted from the Garden of Eden.
Congrats on the Series. It was a thrill to watch. But now you've lost your lovable loser schtick and are just ordinary baseball fans. Since the team is going to be good for a while and your perpetual New York inferiority complex means you won't be able to help but be a little obnoxious about it simply out of overcompensation, I'd say you're about to be the new Boston sports fan. Though, no, that's not entirely fair. Chicago fans didn't need Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick to care about the Bears.
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He'll be back next season, possibly (hopefully?) in Denver, a team built to win now that needs a quarterback and, as a bonus to football fans and those who fret over NFL ratings, will host Dallas at some point during the year.
Though there's still time for Romo to get some meaningful PT in the 2016 playoffs (Dak Prescott is built like Ben Roethlisberger and takes hits like him, too, which makes him only virtually indestructible) but his time in Dallas essentially came to an end with that prepared woe-is-me statement he read to the press. The only thing separating that speech from a therapy session was the lack of a $235 bill not covered by insurance.
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The losing Super Bowl quarterback
The news should have been Cam Newton's 18-for-41, 265-yard, 1-INT performance in Super Bowl 50, one that somehow was worse than a Peyton Manning game that itself looked like he was late-career Steve Beuerlein. But then Cam crankily walked out of his press conference - the ultimate irony for a guy who'd spent the past 20 weeks (and five years) using the media to yap, preen and bask in the glow of his own smile. "Love me when I win, ignore me when I don't."
Suddenly, the game was secondary and Cam's walkout, which admittedly was more interesting than the game itself, was the hot topic. It was actually brilliant: People who normally would have been criticizing Cam for a bad game in the biggest game (against a great defense, to be fair) were instead defending him because we live in an era of zero responsibility where any criticism is taken as character assassination. It's not. Cam Newton can be a good dude (which, by all accounts, he very much is) and still have been a bit of a pill after the game. These things aren't mutually exclusive. Talking to the press is part of the deal you make when you accept millions of dollars to do a job in a field that is, at its core, entirely funded by fan interest.
Not shaking hands with someone after a game - which Peyton Manning did when he sulked off the field following his Super Bowl loss to the Saints - is fine by me. Peyton wasn't paid to give a fake smile and hug to Drew Brees. Cam, on the other hand, is obligated to sit through the questions, no matter how dumb and repetitive they may be. Basically, he was so bad in the Super Bowl he couldn't even get the losing part right. On the bright side, though, nobody will be sticking a microphone in front of Cam's face this postseason.
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Steph Curry's universal likability
The more you watch the cockiness, bravado, mouthguard-chewing and the holding up of his shooting hand until the ball goes through the basket, the more you realize the wrong Curry brother went to Duke.
Michael Phelps, but not Usain Bolt
This time, Michael Phelps means it. After "retiring" following the 2012 Olympics, the greatest Olympian ever (predictably) returned in Rio and one-upped his swan song with a performance for the ages. With his 23 golds, 28 medals, young family and a lifetime of endorsement deals ahead of him, Phelps is definitely done this time.
Bolt says he's retiring after the 2017 world championships and I'll believe he believes he is, just like Phelps did in 2016. And then, after he sees the lay of the land and realizes that 12 golds in 12 Olympic races is in play, I'll bet you all the money in Michael Phelps' bank account that Bolt comes back for Tokyo.
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In terms of getting out of Michael Jordan's shadow and creating one of your own, getting halfway to MJ's six titles seems like the starting point. It was for Kobe, who found out that getting closer to MJ by winning his third title actually ended much of the handwringing about whether he'd actually catch MJ. (He'd end up getting one more.)
Why? Maybe it's because three makes your career special. Nobody can say three is a disappointment. That's why the pressure eases up, if only slightly. As the Cavs and Warriors have shown in the past two seasons, and LeBron's super-team in Miami did before, winning a championship ain't easy. Now LeBron has not one, not two but three, one with the franchise he abandoned and then returned to just for that signature moment. He's his own man. I mean, sure, they'll still compare him to MJ, but their hearts won't be in it anymore.
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The 'Star-Spangled Banner' routine
The anthem has been used as a means for protest before, but in recent times it's served as little more than pregame patriotism and an opportunity for singers to sanctimoniously turn America's song into their own personal, fourth-rate Mariah Carey showcase, complete with added syllables, runs and extra-long note-holding.
Personally, I've never understood why the national anthem is played before every sporting event, from the Super Bowl to the rec-league swim meets at the pool down the street. But because the anthem has become a political third-rail, I can't say such things now because they will be parsed until my clear anti-American agenda is revealed. In fact, I quite like The Star-Spangled Banner and patriotism! (Get outta here with that "let's change the anthem to God Bless America" nonsense. The anthem needs pomp. It needs cymbal crashes. It's supposed to be extravagant.)
And at the Olympics, inaugurations, military parades, or even really big American sporting events (Super Bowl, World Series, etc.), it's wonderful - just not before a Marlins-Padres day game being played in front of 2,900 people.
People pretending golf didn't miss Tiger Woods
I love golf. I love playing it poorly, watching it, reading about it, watching replays of Masters tournaments from 25 years ago and then apologizing to my wife for watching replays of Masters tournaments from 25 years ago.
This year's Masters was amazing. The U.S. Open was just as good. The British Open may have been the best of all, featuring one of the greatest rounds in history shot in a Sunday showdown with the second-most famous golfer in the sport. The Ryder Cup, as usual, was tremendous spectacle. And the PGA Championship - well, that happened too, I think.
The purist will say that this enjoyable year of golf is proof the sport doesn't need Tiger Woods. And that's true, to a degree. Golf does not need Tiger Woods in the field. And a filet mignon doesn't need a lobster tail on top of it. But both are a whole lot better when they do.
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Acting like you're too cool to know what eSports are
You don't have to like them. You don't have to watch them. You don't have to pay attention to them. You don't even have to respect them because, c'mon, really? But eSports are very much a thing and if you don't accept this you're just a bitter old man yelling at kids to get off your porch like Clint Eastwood in that one movie but not pulling it off as well.
The worst engagement announcement ever
A couple once threw a party ostensibly just to throw a party but actually because they wanted to announce their engagement. Because they both went to college in Winston-Salem, NC - where Krispy Kreme doughnuts were founded - and loved Krispy Kreme doughnuts - because they have taste buds and a stomach - they wanted to use these overlapping facts to announce their love.
About midway through the party, the guy calls out, "Okay, time for dessert" and with the flair of a magician whips a tablecloth off a rectangular table. On it were dozens and dozens of glazed doughnuts that we'd later find out were arranged to spell "ENGAGED!" The problem is, it takes a lot of doughnuts to make a legible letter (picture what you'd need to make the "E") so there were like 100 of them on the table and, standing just a few feet away from this mass of fried dough was like pressing your nose up to a Monet.
No one could figure out what was written. The only way you could have made it out was if you'd been flying overhead in a helicopter or used doughnut holes (as I helpfully suggested later to an unamused couple). Lacking that knowledge, people sort of stood around and then, when nothing happened, began eating the doughnuts, which caused the bride-to-be to frustratedly yell out, in near tears, "It says we're engaged!" Silence. Everybody stood there not knowing what to say and even if they did, they couldn't because their mouths were filled with doughnuts. It was the worst. And the best, but mostly the worst.
As for my buddy? Divorced after 10 months. He let us know via email.
"Secretariat at the Belmont" as go-to reference for sports domination
It's now "Katie Ledecky in Rio." But don't worry: The go-to reference for sporting vapidity is still "full Lochte."
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Retirement tours (?)
This relatively new tradition of announcing your retirement and then going around receiving personalized knick-knacks from every team that loathed you and listening to eulogies of yourself, like a modern-day Tom Sawyer, is the worst.
Derek Jeter was the first to really lean into this season-long self-tribute and this year Kobe Bryant and David Ortiz joined him. It's the worst kind of vanity. But while Jeter and Kobe limped to their finish line in their final seasons, Ortiz was awesome, putting up his best numbers in a decade. At the end of this season, you sort of got the feeling he'd entertain the notion of returning in 2017, especially to a Red Sox team that'll begin the year as American League favorites.
It's not that sitting through a dozen retirement ceremonies would keep you from returning if you really wanted to, but even the most self-absorbed of these guys would have to at least stop and think about how stupid it would all look to go through all that and then return.
So, new rule: If you want some ovations and a real goodbye to fans (which is cool), announce your retirement in the back quarter of the season. Enough with these six-month tributes that involve awkward speeches and getting gifts every night. It's retirement, not Hanukkah.
Just think, all the mysteries maybe could have been avoided if the alleged ball deflation had happened in the visitor's locker room or during an opponent's walkthrough, as there's a reasonable chance it would have been captured on videotape.
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The Huskies entered the season riding a 75-game winning streak and having won four straight NCAA titles. There was reason to be concerned that the squad wouldn't be as dominant in the 2016-17 season; after all, the big three of Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson was gone.
But looking at the preseason rankings was a laugh-out-loud moment upon seeing Geno's squad not No. 1, not No. 2 but ranked No. 3 in the country. Ludicrous. Off year or not, UConn is No. 1 until another team proves otherwise. Fast-forward eight weeks and UConn has dispatched the preseasons Nos. 1, 2, 6 and 7 and is back where it belongs: a unanimous No. 1.
Roger Federer's last, best Grand Slam shot
The 34-year-old Federer, four years removed from his last major title, cruised through the first 10 days at Wimbledon without dropping a set before coming back from two down to defeat Marin Cilic in a quarterfinal classic in which Federer saved three match points. Up next was Milos Raonic, the 25-year-old Canadian without a Grand Slam final to his name who Federer had defeated in nine of 11 career meetings.
Federer played flawlessly in the second and third sets and was serving at 40-love in the fourth to get to a tiebreak that would have put him in the finals of a tournament that had seen Novak Djokovic exit a week earlier. This was Federer's time. His long-awaited cherry on top. But Raonic hit a forehand winner to get to 40-15 and then Federer - not just uncharacteristically but unfathomably - double-faulted twice to get the game to deuce. Raonic won it and a tight fifth set.
Hours later, Andy Murray, who Federer had defeated five straight times including a straight-set thumping in last year's tournament, advanced to the final. An injured Federer wouldn't play again the rest of the year and will resume his quest for one more major next month in Melbourne, knowing he might have left his last best shot on the grass of Centre Court last July. On the bright side, he was said to be more fashionable than Jordan Catalano and a number of Taylor Swift exes, past and future. It's all about perspective.
The end of the Cowboys' 20-year slump
2016 ended up being the best year the Dallas Cowboys have had in two decades. And since their inevitable loss in the divisional playoffs won't happen until 2017, it'll stay that way.