Let’s face it: 2016 was a doozy of a year politically, socially, environmentally and, well, in just about every other facet. That also includes the past 12 months in the world of sports, all of which have been jam-packed with a grab bag of shocking moments, heartfelt losses, and downright disappointments. As the clock runs out on a year that will forever be known as being not great, here are ten of the most notable sports busts of 2016, from teams that collapsed under pressure to lessons in unbridled stupidity.
They'll go down as one of the most winning teams in the NBA, only to come up short when it really mattered. The Golden State Warriors' epic season was chock full of Ws (with a historic 73-9 record to be precise), with the phrase "best team ever" thrown around on more than a few occasions. However, Steph Curry and company were no match for the LeBron James machine during the NBA Championships, effectively trouncing a team that wasn't all that used to coming up short. It was a historic collapse for the ages that proved that there are no sure bets in sports. Perhaps Curry speaks for all of us when he told USA Today this past September: "I still haven't gotten over Game 7."
It's another example of the thrill of victory and the utter agony of defeat. While all eyes were on the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 long years and effectively breaking the curse of the Billy Goat, it’s easy to forget that their Championship foes, the Cleveland Indians, blew a 3-1 series lead by collapsing in epic fashion and handing over a victory to a team that hasn't secured the title of champs since before World War I. Going into the series with subpar expectations, at one point Nate Silver himself gave the Cubbies the same chance of reigning supreme as he gave Trump of winning the presidency. Since then, the Indians and country at large have learned that what was once thought impossible is, in fact, very possible.
Going into the Rio Olympics, all eyes were on both the threat of the Zika virus and whether or not the city was even ready to host the games. In hindsight, the biggest snafu of the summer didn't have anything to do with any of that, but instead an American player and subsequent story that quickly spun out of control. Transfixing the world with his idiocy, swimmer Ryan Lochte had a drunken night out the town with some teammates that later turned into an international incident. First telling cops he was robbed at gunpoint, it turns out Lochte was covering for the fact he caused a ruckus on the streets of Rio, desecrating a sign at a gas station and embarrassing his country in the process. On the bright side, at least we got this viral clip starring Al Roker out of the whole debacle.
Television ratings for NFL games have been as reliable as a MVP going for a touchdown without any interference… at least until 2016. This fall, ratings began to decline for the first time since football became America's sport decades ago and stayed there. The funny thing is, no one really knows the reason for the downward trend. Industry watchers and NFL executives first blamed the presidential election for the dive, but as games continue to trend downward, fingers have pointed at everything from Colin Kaepernick's infamous protest of the National Anthem to an overall lackluster football year to the simple fact that less and less Americans are watching traditional television in general. Or could it be that, gasp!, football is finally losing its footing as America's most popular sport? Answers will certainly become much clearer as time goes on.
By all accounts, Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong was not only a respected part of the tightknit football community, but a coach who was doing a respectable job at the helm of the organization. However, after three seasons with a 16-21 record, Strong was given the old heave ho by the University of Texas, shocking Longhorn fans and his loyal players, many of whom voiced their outrage on social media, considered a boycott, and even attended Strong's final press conference as a show of support. (Even Matthew McConaughey weighed in on a viral clip.) Don't shed too many tears of Strong, however. The beloved coach has since found a new home at the helm of the University of South Florida's team.
When the former St. Louis Rams announced they were packing their bags and moving to Los Angeles, the hype and excitement around the City of Angels and country at large, was palpable. Like a shiny new toy, football fans were psyched for the Rams' new prospects. Very quickly, however, it became apparent that the new L.A. Rams, to put it plainly, suck. Starting with their inaugural game when the San Francisco 49ers shut them out 29 to zip, the team has so far lost nine of their last ten games, and many in embarrassing fashion. Yes, despite being in a land devoted the glamour of show business, their play on the field has been worthy of a total box office bomb.
If there's anyone who knows how shitty 2016 has been, it's Serena Williams. Typically unstoppable, Williams suffered two embarrassing setbacks in a row making her year one to forget. First up, in August she came up short at the Rio Olympics after getting eliminated during the third round of tennis matchups at the hands of Ukrainian player Elina Svitolina. Then, the following month saw Williams ending her astounding 186-week streak as the Number One player in the world by losing the U.S. Open to Number 10 seed, Karolina Pliskova, an Open newbie to boot. Whether or not injuries are to blame (shoulder issues in Rio, left knee problems at the Open), the fact remains that things did not go in Williams' favor this year.
The 2015-16 season for the once-mighty Los Angeles Lakers was a disaster both on and off the court. Hoping to come back after the worst season in franchise history, the pinnacle of their troubles came when a video was leaked of rookie D'Angelo Russell recording Lakers shooting guard Nick Young discussing cheating on his then-fiancée, the rapper Iggy Azalea. Once the scandalous footage hit the web, not only did it lead to Azaela breaking things off with Young, but it resulted in a total fracture of the team, with Russell reportedly blamed and later isolated. Their hoped-for comeback never materialized as the team ended up with a 17-65 record, a new season low.
Slugger Alex Rodriguez has had one of the most polarizing careers in Major League Baseball, so perhaps it was only fitting that his release from the Yankees this past August seemed hastily planned and met with a strange mix of both indifference and marginal respect. After starting out the 2016 season with the Bronx Bombers, Rodriguez played for less than five months before announcing on a Sunday in early August that his last game with the team would be that coming Friday. Unlike Derek Jeter's epic farewell tour, A-Rod's midseason departure with less than a week's notice was a weak way to (presumably) cap a tumultuous playing career.
He's one of the UFC's most popular (and its wealthiest) fighters, but 2016 dealt him a crushing loss. Boasting a 19-3 record, Conor McGregor hit the ring for UFC 196 back in March to spar with fellow fighter Nate Diaz. Despite a successful first round, McGregor eventually lost the match and Diaz reigned supreme. (McGregor later called the loss a "bitter pill to swallow.") The loss must have lit a fire under McGregor; the fighter wound up finishing the year as a champion after reigning supreme at UFC 205 against Eddie Alvarez, securing a historic second lightweight title this past November.