Hot links: The 10 times you almost broke the Internet in 2015
7/24 headline: Emotional Dale Earnhardt Jr. 'completely floored' by gift from fan
Sometimes, it’s nice to read something . . . well . . . nice. When a fan gave Junior the firesuit his dad wore just a few days before dying at Daytona in 2001, Junior tweeted his thanks and you took immediate notice. Who says nothing good ever comes of social media?
NASCAR via Getty ImagesChris Graythen
1/21 headline: Sherman says Tom Brady isn't the clean-cut hero everyone thinks he is
It wouldn’t be a 2015 top 10 without a Deflategate story, and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was happy to provide one just a few days after the whole mess got started following the AFC Championship Game. When Sherman said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, at the center of Deflategate accusations, wasn’t the straight-and-narrow choirboy fans believed him to be, the pre-Super Bowl back-and-forth between Seattle and New England was officially on. Brady, of course, took the air out of Sherman’s comments when he completed 37-of-50 passes for 328 yards and four TD passes in the Super Bowl.
If you read this story back in February — and a lot of you did — you would never have guessed a season that started so dismally for Busch would end with a championship in November. The injuries Busch sustained the day before the Daytona 500 kept him off the racetrack until May, but by July he was putting together the most impressive stretch of the season by winning three consecutive races.
Getty ImagesBrian Lawdermilk
7/21 headline: Bikini pose: Danica stands on elbows, again -- this time on a boat
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick knows what we know, which is no secret: Attractive women in bathing suits draw attention. Patrick’s yoga pose tweets were a staple of summer as she searched for the new sponsor she eventually landed in August.
Getty ImagesJohn Harrelson
3/1 headline: Ronda Rousey offers Cat Zingano rematch out of respect, says she feels bad for her
Sometimes a classy gesture is just as popular as the trash talk and controversy that usually fuels the Internet fire. After she needed only 14 seconds to take out Zingano, Rousey — not usually known for her compassion — knelt next to Zingano and hugged and consoled her opponent, later even admitting she felt bad for her.
Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
1/4 headline: Referees pick up flag in Lions-Cowboys game, set off uproar
When the Lions got a key pass-interference call midway through the fourth quarter of a wild-card playoff game against the Cowboys, it seemed Detroit was well on its way to its first playoff win since the 1991 season. Only problem was, the flag was picked up, the game turned and Dallas ended up winning 24-20. The Internet loves nothing more than a GIF that shows a blown call playing over and over again on a loop as visual evidence of just how wrong the officials were to pick up the flag that could have changed the postseason.
Getty ImagesSarah Glenn
1/22 headline: Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch tweets he's 'embarrassed' to work for NFL after fine
A few days before Lynch famously answered every question with 'I’m just here so I won’t get fined,' at his Super Bowl news conference, the Seahawks running back laid the groundwork for his displeasure with the NFL by tweeting he was 'embarrassed to work for a particular organization (read: the NFL) that fined a teammate of mine for shaking my hand after a touchdown.' As it turns out, the $11,025 fine levied on the Chris Matthews was for a post-TD crotch grab during the team’s NFC Championship Game comeback against the Packers — the same gesture in this picture that cost Lynch $20,000.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
4/4 headline: Andrew Harrison during Frank Kaminsky question: 'F--- that n----'
Kentucky’s quest for a 40-0 record was the talk of college basketball all season, so it was no surprise the Wildcats were a bit frustrated when a goofy-looking big man from Wisconsin ended their season in the Final Four. While a teammate was answering a question about the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky in the postgame news conference, Kentucky’s Harrison had a didn’t-know–this-mike-was-on moment that went viral. By the time Harrison tried to apologize on Twitter, more than just a few people at the presser had heard what he said.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
8/2 headline: Bethe Correia gets meme treatment after loss to Ronda Rousey
Back in August, Rousey was still her formerly invincible self, and her fans enjoyed the heck out of poking fun at an opponent who dared to talk more than a little trash before Rousey knocked her out 34 seconds into the first round. It took only slightly longer than 34 seconds for Correia to become the butt of memes on social media.
Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
11/14 headline: Holly Holm shocks the world with head-kick KO of Ronda Rousey
There’s nothing like a stunning upset to bring people to the Internet, and Holm’s knockout of Rousey was the most shocking of the year — probably in many years —- in any sport. Holm entered the bantamweight title fight as a 20-to-1 underdog but took down the previously unbeaten — and unchallenged — Rousey in less than six minutes, finishing off the champ with a second-round kick to the head. Rousey stories are a reliable top clicker even without a surprise ending, so we’ll be counting on any rematch-related stories to do big business in 2016.