Thanksgiving is a time to show gratitude, and sports lovers have many reasons to be appreciative this year. We've chosen 14 reasons for fans to be grateful about the current state of sports.
Sure, there are plenty of unresolved issues, but we can air those grievances on Festivus. For now, we’d like to stick with the positives. Though this list is not confined to just 2014, it can serve as a reminder of how things are better now for sports fans.
Here is our list of what sports fans should be thankful for in 2014:
1) The College Football Playoff The end of the BCS means far less controversy over which teams deserve to play in the national championship. Previous years saw exhausting debates about which school got snubbed and how some programs play weak or strong schedules. Most of that chatter is dead. Want more good news? The College Football Playoff will be held on Jan. 1, providing a comeback of sorts for meaningful New Year’s Day college football games after years of many bowls pushing their dates back.
2) Small-Market Baseball Comeback The 2014 MLB season might be remembered as the year baseball overcame the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. This was the first year that both the Yankees and Red Sox failed to reach the postseason since the wild card was introduced in 1995. The Dodgers, who had a $241 million payroll, managed only one postseason win. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles reached the American League Championship Series. For many baseball fans, it was a nice change of pace.
3) LeBron James Sure, he may not be as clutch or exciting as Michael Jordan, but Jordan was a once-in-a-lifetime player. Can you imagine the NBA without King James? It would be a lot more boring without his exciting drives to the basket and thundering dunks. Over the summer, James even raised his Q Score by leaving Miami and returning to Cleveland, a city that has not won a title in the four major sports since the Browns in 1964. Meanwhile, James has proved to be a highly charismatic individual and a great spokesman for the NBA.
4) No More Steroid Discussions When was the last time you heard someone bring up the Mitchell Report? It’s probably been a while, and that’s a welcome relief. The days of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Mark McGwire testifying in courtrooms or standing before Congress to discuss HGH are finally behind us.
5) March Madness It’s the most exciting tournament in sports. When spring rolls around, millions of people are printing out NCAA tournament brackets and hoping their upset picks work out. Universities most people have never heard of somehow find a way to defeat top seeds that boast players on the verge of making millions in the NBA. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.
6) More And Better Televised Soccer American soccer fans once had no choice but to turn to Univision or Telemundo to watch a game. Sure, hearing Andres Cantor scream “Goal!” is fun, but it’s so much better today with networks like NBC providing excellent coverage of the Premier League and MLS. The number of soccer games on television has surged dramatically in the past 10 years. How much have things improved? At the 1990 World Cup, TBS aired commercials during game action. If that happened today, soccer purists would riot.
7) Secondary Ticket Markets Getting tickets for a big sporting event is easier than ever. Gone are the days when people had to wait in long lines or go through a ticket broker for a sold-out event.
8) High-Definition Television And DVR Watching sports is better than ever with the sharpest TV images and the ability to record and save so many games. Technology has come a long way since the bulky television set and the VHS recorder. Enhancing the viewing experience may have even helped create new fans. For some viewers new to hockey it may have been hard to follow the puck, but HD has made viewing the game a much easier and improved experience.
9) No Lockouts The last time one of the four major sports leagues failed to play a full season was in 2012-2013, when the NHL had a 48-game regular season. The next collective bargaining agreement for the NHL will not expire until the 2021-2022 season. The CBAs for the other leagues promise that more sports will be played without a stoppage in the near future. These are the earliest seasons that would be in jeopardy: NBA (2017-2018), NFL (2021), MLB (2017).
10) Vin Scully Arguably the most gifted baseball broadcaster of all time, Scully is returning to Dodgers broadcasts for his 66th season in 2015. The 86-year-old with the golden voice does the play-by-play coverage by himself, and is still the best in the business.
11) NHL Playoffs Hockey is often overshadowed in the fall and winter by the World Series, NBA, and college football and the NFL dominating national coverage. But when the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around in mid-April, hockey raises its level, and it becomes a highly entertaining spectator sport, especially for fans in attendance. The new seeding format may not be perfect, but it made things interesting last season.
12) No More Donald Sterling After 33 years of perhaps the worst ownership in American sports, the NBA no longer has Donald Sterling running the Los Angeles Clippers. Few people have had kind words to share about Sterling, who lost the team following his racially insensitive remarks in April. With Sterling out, Washington Redskins proprietor Dan Snyder probably takes the title of Worst Owner in Sports.
13) Wrigley Field And Fenway Park The National League has their jewel with Chicago's Wrigley Field, and the American League has their cathedral with Boston's Fenway Park. While Fenway opened in 1912, Wrigley celebrated its 100th birthday in April. Many of the new baseball parks have their own charm, but the homes of the Cubs and Red Sox are still the true gems of the national pastime.
14) Instant Replay While it slows down the game, there is no getting around how video replay has improved fairness in sports. In 2014, baseball finally changed with the times by having umpires review questionable calls. One drawback might be that there are fewer funny tennis meltdowns with the MacCAM since its introduction in 2004.