Another curse was reversed and a pair of teams (USC and New England) could lay claim to dynasty status. But the biggest story of 2005 may very well have been the biggest story of the decade — Lance Armstrong’s seventh straight Tour de France win.
10. NHL season put on ice
Five months to the day after the NHL made the decision to lock out its players in an attempt to re-work the sport’s collective bargaining agreement, a second fateful decision was announced — the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
"It is my sad duty to announce that because a solution has not yet been attained, it is no longer practical to conduct even an abbreviated season," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Accordingly, I have no choice but to announce the formal cancellation of play."
It would mark the first time ever that an entire season had been lost to labor strife in American sports history — and it would doom the NHL to second-tier status for the remainder of the decade.
9. Woman driver
Danica Patrick was not the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500. But the fourth female to give it a go at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was definitely the best.
Driving for late-night star David Letterman’s Rahal Letterman Racing team, Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the fabled brickyard and her fourth-place finish was easily the best by the fairer sex.
That is, until she finished third in 2009.
8. The Golden Bear heads into hibernation
Shy of a 65-year-old Jack Nicklaus adding one last major championship to a resume that already had 18 of them on it, you couldn’t have come up with a more fitting farewell for the Golden Bear.
Nicklaus played his final round of major championship golf at the 2005 British Open at the birthplace of golf — St. Andrews’ Old Course. That gave him one last opportunity to walk across the Swilcan Bridge, a 10-minute ovation still ringing in his ears as he drained a birdie putt on No. 18 for the final stroke of his storied career.
Speaking of only fitting, how appropriate was it that the next Jack Nicklaus (aka Tiger Woods) would end up holding the Claret Jug two days after the original one said goodbye to competitive golf for good?
7. They protest too much
The image is indelible. O’s slugger Rafael Palmeiro angrily pointing at a congressional committee investigating steroids and Major League Baseball and unequivocally denying having ever used them.
"Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period," Palmeiro said. "I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never."
Even more than Mark McGwire’s refusal to talk about the past (even though that was precisely the reason he’d been brought before the committee) and Sammy Sosa’s sudden inability to speak English, Palmeiro’s denial would become the watershed moment from those hearings.
That’s because just five months later (and 10 days after he joined baseball’s exclusive 3,000-hit club), Palmeiro would test positive for a performance-enhancing drug and receive a 10-game suspension.
6. USC doesn’t have to share
One year after having to settle for just a share of the national title due to some fuzzy math courtesy of the BCS computers, USC’s football team was feeling understandably selfish in 2005.
And the Trojans didn’t leave anything to chance during the 2004 regular season, finishing unbeaten and assuring itself a spot in the 2005 Orange Bowl.
Once there, they didn’t leave anything to chance either. With Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Mike Williams leading a high-powered offense, USC rolled up 38 points before halftime en route to a 55-19 rout of Oklahoma and a controversy-free title.
Well, unless you ask fans of the undefeated Auburn and Utah squads.
5. Katrina hits New Orleans
The Louisiana Superdome, home to so many big sporting events from Super Bowls to Final Fours, took on a much more important role in the wake of the devastation wreaked upon New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
For several days, the home of the New Orleans Saints became the home for approximately 30,000 refugees from the storm — a so-called "shelter of last resort." Images of the damage done to the dome — a large section of the outer covering was peeled away by the winds — perhaps most effectively demonstrated the devastating power of the storm.
It would be more than a year before the Saints were able to return to the Superdome.
4. Roy Boy gets his title
While at Kansas, Roy Williams was universally regarded as one of college basketball’s premier coaches. But there was one blemish on his resume: the lack of a national title.
In fact, given the quality of Williams’ Jayhawks teams during his tenure at the school — his 1997 squad was considered one of the greatest in college basketball history, but was stunned in the Sweet 16 — that blemish was threatening to overshadow an otherwise sterling coaching career.
But in just his second season at North Carolina, Williams erased any doubts about his ability to win the big one.
In Williams’ fifth trip to the Final Four as a head coach — and his first since returning to his native North Carolina, where he had honed his craft during 10 seasons as an assistant coach to the legendary Dean Smith — he finally got to cut down the nets.
3. A pair of Sox
One year after the Red Sox put an end to the Curse of the Bambino, the White Sox were finally able to lay the specter of the Black Sox scandal to rest.
Fans of Chicago’s other team had waited even longer than Red Sox Nation to experience the thrill of World Series victory. The White Sox hadn’t won it all since 1917, two years before several members of a heavily favored Chicago team conspired with gamblers to throw the World Series.
At the start of the 2005 season, it seemed unlikely that this White Sox team would end the drought; most observers picked the team to finish fourth in the AL Central. But led by feisty manager Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox won 99 games in the regular season, then rolled through the playoffs, dropping just a single game en route to the title.
2. Patriots games
Three was certainly the magic number for New England in 2005.
Playing in their third Super Bowl in four seasons, the Patriots brought home their third Lombardi Trophy — with all three wins coming by the same three-point margin, each courtesy of an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
New England’s 24-21 triumph over Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX marked the first time a team had repeated as NFL champs since John Elway’s Broncos did it in 1998.
More significant, in an age where parity rules and returning to the Super Bowl with the degree of frequency that Bill Belichick’s squad has (let alone winning it as often), the title may very well have conferred "last great dynasty" status on the Patriots.
1. Lance in seventh heaven
Lance Armstrong’s first Tour de France win was one of the signature moments of the 1990s. His seventh may very well have been the greatest sporting accomplishment of this decade.
And seeing as how he finished third in his 2009 comeback, we wouldn’t put it past Armstrong to deliver one more magic performance in the decade to come. But it was the 2005 Tour de France that very well may remain his crowning achievement.
Armstrong had — at that time — declared it would be his final Tour. And he was determined to walk away on top. He did just that, leaving us (or so we thought) one last image of him as a competitor, decked out in the yellow jersey for the remainder of history.
Even if Armstrong was not content to walk away from his sport at the pinnacle, his comeback this year hardly diminished (if it did it all) the unprecedented feat of winning arguably the most grueling event in all of sports seven straight times.