Rory McIlroy s wire-to-wire win at the British Open continued a disturbing trend of major sporting events culminating with a drama-free final. From the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl blowout to the 1-0 snoozer that capped a thrilling World Cup, the biggest events on the 2014 calendar have been disappointments. For The Win ranks the 14 most highly anticipated sporting events of the year. (Note: We re only talking about finals. Most of the NCAA tournament was great, the World Cup was fantastic and the NHL playoffs were wild.)
14. Super Bowl XLVII (Seattle 43, Denver 8)
The Denver Broncos botched their way to a safety on the game s opening play and things wentdownhill from there. In a few years, we ll look back at Super Bowl XLVII, see the score, and assume the Seahawks were an unbeatable juggernaut. And they were, to a degree. But let s not forget Seattle came within a Richard Sherman tip of losing in the NFC championship and were actually 2.5-point Super Bowl underdogs at kickoff. We expected a classic, which is what makes the result so disappointing.
To be honest though, we were due for a Super stinker. Ever since the Rams-Titans Super Bowl in 2000, the NFL championship has provided far more classics than duds, which is the opposite of how it used to be. From 1984 through 1997, the game was a laugher. It s only recently we started to get a Super Bowl that was deserving of all the pregame hype.
13. NCAA women s basketball final (Connecticut 79, Notre Dame 58)
Undefeated UConn against undefeated Notre Dame. No matter your interest level in women s basketball, this game should have beencatnip for all sports fans. But after trailing 8-6 early in the game, UConn rattled off 16 straight points and never looked back, eventually winning by 21 points. It was the opposite of the Super Bowl: Given the dominance of Geno Auriemma s Huskies, we totally should have seen this one coming.
12. Men s U.S. Open (Martin Kaymer wins by 8 strokes)
Dominance is interesting when it s done by Tiger Woods, somewhat compelling when it s Rory McIlroy and as boring as watching paint dry when it s Martin Kaymer. TV ratings reflected this, as the heavily-hyped U.S. Open at Pinehurst drew historically low ratings.
11. British Open (McIlroy wins by 2 strokes)
You know it s been a bad year for golf majors when people were getting excited about Sergio Garcia cutting the lead to two shots at one point on Sunday afternoon. That s as close as he, or anyone, would get. Rory McIlroy, who held a six-shot lead going into the final round, played a steady afternoon of golf and never was in danger of losing his grip on the Claret Jug. At least this runaway had historic implications, however. McIlroy joining a list that includes Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus (as youngest to win three different majors) is good for the sport.
10. Winter Olympics
The Olympics took place five months ago, but it feels like five years. Quick, what do you remember about Sochi? Broken-down doors in the Olympic village and the missing Olympic ring during the Opening Ceremony. The hockey final was a dud. (Canada beat Sweden 3-0.) There was a figure skating controversy, but it failed to gain much traction. The American figure skaters did a fine job in earning bronze during the team competition, but were mostly unmemorable in the regular events, save for Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning gold in ice dancing. Lindsey Vonn wasn t there. Mikaela Shiffrin won a slalom gold that was shown on American television eight hours after it happened. There were great stories, as there is during every Olympics, but Sochi failed to leave a lasting impression on the sports world.
9. The Masters (Bubba Watson wins by 3 strokes)
When he won in 2012, Watson had to hit a miracle shot out of pine straw to defeat Louis Oosthuizen in a sudden-death playoff. There was no such drama on Sunday. This one was a lot better for me and my nerves and my family, Watson said in April. That s definitely true, but the same can t be said for viewers.
8. NCAA men s basketball final (Connecticut 60, Kentucky 54)
UConn never trailed in the surprise final. Kentucky made it interesting with eight minutes left in the game, but after tourney hero Aaron Harrison missed a corner three that would have given the Wildcats their first lead, Kentucky faltered and never got close again.
7. World Cup final (Germany d. Argentina, 1-0)
A wonderful tournamentsputtered to the finish line. Germany destroyed Brazil in a 7-1 semifinal rout that was compelling only for its historical implications. The final was a tightly-played 0-0 affair heading into extra time before a late German goal leftLionel Messi, Argentina and soccer fans worldwidewonderwhat might have been.
6. Stanley Cup Finals (Los Angeles Kings defeat New York Rangers, 4-1)
There were two overtime thrillers to start the series and a double-overtime classic to clinchthe cup, but after Los Angeles burst out to a 3-0 series lead, the Kings coronation was only a matter of when, not if.
5. NBA Finals (San Antonio Spurs defeat Miami Heat, 4-1)
Sure, it was a five-game rout for Tim Duncan and the Spurs, but at least the NBA Finals had the drama of LeBron s cramp game, the majesty of the San Antonio s ball movement and the retroactive historical implications of being LeBron s final games in a Miami Heat uniform.
4. Belmont Stakes (Tonalist wins)
There was the briefest moment when California Chrome looked like he d make a charge on the homestretch but in the end, this Belmont Stakes was like so many others since 1978, a disappointment when the Triple Crown bid failed once again.
3. Daytona 500 (Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins)
The 2014 Daytona 500 wasn t a classic the six-hour rain delay and 11:18 p.m. ET finish ensured that. But it gets high marks due to the drama of the final laps and the feel-good win by one of the sport s brightest stars.
2. BCS National championship (Florida State. 34, Auburn 31)
Florida State was down 21-3 in the first half and it appeared we d see another SEC title-game blowout. But Jameis Winston brought the Seminoles back. FSU took a 27-24 lead on a 100-yard kickoff return with 4:31 left,lost it a few minutes laterand regained it for good with 14 seconds left.
1. Wimbledon men s final (Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer)
So far, the five-set classic between Djokovic and Federer is the sporting event of the year.