The first National Basketball Association title was won in 1947 by the Philadelphia Warriors over the Chicago Stags. In the following season, Philadelphia's repeat bid was ended in the Finals by the Baltimore Bullets.
The first National Basketball Association title was won in 1947 by the Philadelphia Warriors over the Chicago Stags. In the following season, Philadelphia's repeat bid was ended in the Finals by the Baltimore Bullets.
A few days ago one of the blogs I regularly visit, Bob Rickert's OregonLive Ducks Blog, posed this question: What are the top five sporting events you've attended? These were my answers:
(1) 1995 Rose Bowl, Oregon vs. Penn State, Pasadena, California: Yes, our Ducks lost this game. But when my dad and I entered the legendary Rose Bowl stadium that morning, we were overcome by the thrill of walking into the 'Grandaddy of them All' on a perfect 70-degree day, seeing our team run onto the field as Pac-10 champs for the first time in 37 years with the nation watching. We said to ourselves, 'This is what heaven must look like.' Plus, Oregon played the best team in the country very close for 3 quarters.
(2) 1996 World Series, New York Yankees vs. Atlanta, Yankee Stadium, New York. This was the game where the Yankees clinched their 26th World Series championship and first in nearly two decades. I was living in New York at the time, and my roommate camped out for tickets to Game 6. The Yanks lost the first two Series games at home, then won four in a row to take the series, winning it all as we watched from the upper deck. As a then-New Yorker, it was absolutely stunning in a way far beyond sports to see this city of millions come together in pure joy. I was slapping high-fives with homeless men in the Bronx late at night -- something that would normally have been pretty dangerous.
(3) 1992 Tournament of the Americas basketball: USA vs. Cuba, Memorial Coliseum, Portland. This was the first-ever game played by the "Dream Team" of professional USA basketball players, and their first exhibition was in Portland. It didn't even sell out! My dad and I saw a starting five of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, which was incredible. But the best part was when Clyde Drexler came off the bench to a thunderous standing ovation. The US won the game by 79 points (!), but it wasn't about seeing 'competition' so much as a display of talent by the greatest basketball team ever put together.
(4) 1980 Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State football, Parker Stadium, Corvallis. This game isn't one for the history books per se, but it was my first Civil War game, and my dad and I were treated to a virtuoso display by Oregon quarterback Reggie Ogburn, whose talent at both running and passing pre-figured Akili Smith and Dennis Dixon. Oh, and Oregon won by several touchdowns.
(5) 1987 Oregon vs. Washington football, Autzen Stadium, Eugene. This 29-22 win for Oregon against Chris Chandler and the mighty Huskies was part of a magical freshman season for Bill Musgrave and a very cathartic victory against dreaded Washington after several years of losing. This game was also one of the first times as a Duck fan I really thought to myself, "We really can be good!" Within two years, the Ducks would not only make it to their first bowl game in 26 years, but would begin a streak of 15 bowl appearances in 19 years that continues today.
A few thoughts from the laptop as I nurse a cold and watch football...
Instead of listening to the game, I have the TV muted and am instead have my iPod going. I happened to be listening to a guilty pleasure song, “Sowing the Seeds of Love” by Tears For Fears, as the game started. Which felt kind of funny, hearing this kind of flowery love song and watching all these pituitary cases running around pumping their fists.
The home team is the Philadelphia Eagles, and before the game they were showing Sylvester Stallone being introduced to the crowd from his luxury-box seat. Stallone was acknowledging the crowd by hoisting his arms in the air not unlike how he does in the original Rocky movie. You could see the Philly fans going wild, and it seemed like kind of a cute moment, albeit of course a cheesy one. But then I remembered Stallone is currently in the midst of promoting the latest Rocky sequel, and the moment was kind of ruined. No doubt it was all pre-arranged as part of the film’s promotion.
I miss that Monday Night Football no longer does the player introductions where each player is filmed saying his name and college. (This tradition has been carried over, however, to NBC’s new Sunday night telecast). Seeing the players with their helmets off and speaking humanizes them. Plus, even within those constraints of just saying your name and school, you could see players’ different personalities come out. The only problem was, ABC sometimes allowed players to get away with saying something other than their college name, such as the name of their high school or elementary school. Or other players would name some slangy variation on their college name, like “The U” for Miami, or “THE Ohio State University” for Ohio state. That stuff used to be a real pet peeve of mine, but only because I loved the format otherwise.
The Monday Night Football broadcast team this year is announcer Mike Terico, former quarterback Joe Thiesmann, and journalist Tony Kornheiser. I love the fact that they’re using a non-player as a commentator. When they did it with Dennis Miller a few years ago, it had mixed results. Miller could be really funny or insightful sometimes and embarrassingly forced and annoying others. I like the idea of a journalist doing the show, be it a print writer or TV guy. Kornheiser happens to be both, but he comes from the print world as a Washington Post columnist.
But the only problem is that Kornheiser is starting to drive me crazy. And what's particularly weird about it, considering I’m a journalist too, is that the annoyance comes precisely from his media instincts. He tends to really harp on whatever the biggest ongoing drama or storyline seems to be involving that night’s teams or players and return to it ad nauseum. With the Eagles playing tonight, for example, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be talking a great deal about Terrell Owens, the controversial wide receiver who used to play there. Sometimes listening to Kornheiser on MNF, I’ve wanted to scream, “Let it go!” Hence the iPod.
Speaking of which, I’ve found that if one has the regular sound on with football, it’s just astonishing how many commercials there are. For the last couple years as Valarie and I have got in the habit of watching English soccer, where entire 45-minute game halves go by without a single commercial, it’s really hard to sit through scores of commercials over a potentially 3-to-4-hour broadcast. Granted, getting rid of or significantly reducing commercials would surely mean that the advertising would simply be moved to the players’ jerseys, as it is in soccer. And with my love of sports uniforms, that would drive me crazy. (I’d love to have an Arsenal jersey or certain other ones, but you can’t get them without the advertisement, so I refuse to do it.)
Currently my favorite NFL team uniform is the Indianapolis Colts. I’m very old-school when it comes to uniforms. I’m reminded of a great Chuck Klosterman essay for ESPN in which he came to the horrific realization that despite being politically a liberal, he was a unequivocal conservative when it came to sports. I feel the same way, and uniforms are just one example. Other uniforms that I like are the Cowboys (although they’re traditionally my least favorite team), the Steelers (my longtime favorite team), the Cleveland Browns, and the Chicago Bears. I really hate the Seattle Seahawks uniforms. Or as my dad and I have called them since I was a kid, the “Seaturkeys”.
I just saw Steve Smith score the game’s first touchdown, but I hadn’t watched one play in the entire game because I was writing this. Speaking of Steve Smith, though, it’s good to see him scoring touchdowns and not throwing up into a garbage can, as the cameras showed a couple weeks ago when the Panthers were playing. Luckily I missed that one, though. But since I’m sick with a cold, I must admit that football is the ideal TV to watch. I can pay half attention and if there’s anything good I miss there’ll be several replays.
Since it began a two weeks ago, Valarie and I have been watching World Cup matches virtually every day. Each night I program the VCR, and then we watch them the following evening – or at least part of them. Here is a game diary from the first week:
June 9: Germany looks dominating even without captain/star Michael Ballack, who’s headed to English Premiere League champs Chelsea this fall. Part of me wants to root for Germany because many of my ancestors came from there. But I don’t like it how the home team has already won the World Cup numerous times before—including Germany in 1974. Although to be fair, that’s how my favorite team, England, got their title in 1966.
In the other opening-night game, Ecuador surprises Poland, which turns out not to be so much of a surprise when I find out that Ecuador has previously beaten Brazil and Argentina this year. It’s also cool to see because my aunt Barbara lived in Ecuador in the Peace Corps in the early 1970s. (She actually returned there this month with my mom to visit my Barb’s daughter Christa, who was studying there for a semester.) Plus, the Central and South American teams particularly seem to play a pretty kind of soccer, with great passing and dribbling.
June 10: England beats Paraguay, but only 1-0. And the goal was actually scored by Paraguay! England has got to play better if they’re to have any chance of winning the cup. I just don’t get it. This is probably the most talented side England has had since its Cup win 40 years ago, but they just don’t ever seem to play that well. Is it the coach, or is it that there are too many chefs and not enough cooks?
Also, after sleeping late, I wake up and come into the living room where Valarie is watching Trinidad & Tobago and Sweden in the 80th minute of what would remain a scoreless draw. T&T is the smallest nation ever to play in the World Cup. This is awesome! After time runs out they’re celebrating the draw like they’d won the whole thing. But why not? Watching this team also makes me think countless times of Elaine Benis on Seinfeld saying of the marathoner from T&T staying at her place, ‘He’s Trinidadian…and Tobagan.’
The Argentina-Ivory Coast matchup was of great interest, because the former team is one of the favorites to win it all, and the latter has the excellent striker Didier Drogba, whom Valarie and I know from Chelsea, where he plays. Actually, on the Argentine side is one of Chelsea’s other best goal scorers, Hernan Crespo, who opens scoring with a first-half goal. La Cote D’Ivoire loses this one, but they look capable of beating another team on another day.
It’s also interesting seeing the different countries’ uniforms, most of which seem to be designed by Nike, Adidas or Puma. I love how Puma has outfitted lots of the African countries making their World Cup debuts. But putting the logo on each of the shoulders in addition to the chest looks crass. What is this, Nascar?
June 11: The day starts well with Holland, another country I’m rooting for (more family ancestry, plus I love their liberalism and great design), defeating Serbia & Montenegro. Incidentally, I’d like to see Serbia & Montenegro play Trinidad and Tobago in a dual-country-team showdown. Unfortunately I screw up taping this morning's 6AM Holland match. I set the VCR for 6PM!
Instead, we watch Mexico defeat Iran. It makes me think of our friend Rosie, whose family came from Mexico and whom I remember saying she was nervous about this game. Luckily Omar Bravo and company win, although they lose a key player to injury. Later, I also catch a little bit of Portugal’s defeat of Angola. Angola’s symbol is a hammer and sickle. Are they really still Communist? How cute!
June 12: I watch the US versus the Czech Republic, which the US loses pretty definitively. Pavl Nedved seems to be running circles around us even in his late 30s. Good striker? Czech! But I’m not too bummed about the US losing. I don’t wish them any ill will, but I much prefer rooting for England. I actually feel uncomfortable rooting for my own country because then it becomes an extension of patriotism. And since September 11, all the most overtly patriotic people here end up being the ones I disagree with politically. Besides, the US dominates in a lot of other sports. The world would really hate us if we became the best at soccer.
June 13: I’m excited to see France versus Switzerland because my favorite soccer player, Thierry Henry of Arsenal, is French and starts for the team. But France, despite having a ton of great players, plays too cautiously. And the team seems to suffer from its commitment to still starting the aging Zinedine Zidane, who won the World Cup for France (another home team) in 1998. But Switzerland also has an excellent defense and great organization—like a Swiss watch! How appropriate that the 0-0 score is essentially neutral.
I also watch some of Brazil and Croatia, which Brazil wins but not so impressively at 1-0. Are they really the overwhelming favorite? Maybe England’s opening victory isn’t so bad after all.
June 14: An avalanche of writing deadlines means I’m not able to watch much of the games, but in the evening on tape I watch a little of Spain’s decisive victory over Ukraine. Spain has long been a disappointing team in the World Cup given their breadth of talent, but maybe this year they’ll finally put it together to at least make it to a late round. Certainly the ability seems there in this impressive win.
June 15: England plays another disappointing game, albeit getting another win, against Trinidad & Tobago. The score is 0-0 into the 70th minute or so when England gets one and then another goal in quick succession. But the good news is that one of their best players, Wayne Rooney, is back from a broken leg. He’s a superb scorer and passer at just 19, although not a handsome guy. A co-worker of Valarie’s was dead-on in describing him as “part mongrel”. But if England wins it all, I think the mongrel will need to be knighted.
This week the Chelsea Football Club won their first English Premiere League title in fifty years. The Premiereship does things a little differently from American sports with respect to the significance of regular season versus playoffs. I like their way better.
In England, there are essentially three big titles you can win. There is the aforementioned Premiereship regular season crown. Next there is the FA Cup, which is like the playoffs but is played throughout the course of the year, with only the championship being played after the regular season has ended. And then there is the Champions League, an all-star roster of European teams in which the top four Premiereship teams from last year get to play.
Aside from the Champions League, which is not really comparable to any major league American sports scenario, I love the fact that the English Premiere League, through the Premiereship crown and the FA Cup, awards equal significance to finishing with the best regular season record and winning the playoffs, essentially an elimination tournament.
I’ve long thought that in American sports, be it the NFL or NBA or MLB (the New England Patriots don't play the Edmonton Eskimoes, for example, and the Boston Red Sox don't play the Yomiyuri Giants), it’s a shame that all those games played in the regular season have so little importance other than qualifying for the playoffs. I think if a team finishes with the best regular season record, that should be considered a very important achievement in and of itself—one of two coveted crowns along with the playoff championship.
Take the Portland Trail Blazers, my favorite professional franchise. The team is credited with one NBA championship, which they won in the 1976-77 season. There are also two other occasions where the Blazers finished with the best regular season record: 1977-78 (58-24, with a 50-10 record through February) and 1990-91 (63-19, including a 21-1 start). Yet in both cases, those seasons seem to carry more disappointment than joy because they didn't lead to championships. In 77-78 Bill Walton got injured during the playoffs, and Portland of course couldn’t win the title without him. In 90-91 the Clyde Drexler-led Blazers were upset by Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers during the Western Conference Finals.
I’d like to have license to look upon those two impressive Trail Blazer seasons with the pride of accomplishment. If there were some kind of official title or trophy associated with those stellar seasons, say maybe the “Michael Jordan Trophy” for the regular season crown (Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls earned the best regular season ever at 72-10), then I’d almost feel like the Blazers had three crowns instead of one.
Of course not everybody out there is a Blazer fan, but there are lots of other great teams in football, basketball and baseball that had great regular seasons only to lose in the playoffs. A few years ago the Seattle Mariners broke the American League record and tied the major league record for wins, but they lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. A couple years before that the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings finished 15-1 but were upended in the NFC championship game by the Atlanta Falcons. Those teams deserved to be honored, yet I’m sure their fans feel nothing but frustration because there is no honor for the regular season crown.
And yet, to me having the best regular season record is arguably a more valid indication of a team’s greatness than winning the playoffs, where a team can get hot and go on a winning streak and suddenly wind up running away with the title. There’s a nobility to the regular season in sports that isn’t appreciated, I think. It’s the bread to the playoffs’ cake. Cake is sweeter, of course, but it’s bread that is there sustaining us day in and day out. To me that’s where the greater honor lies.
Ever since 1981, when as a fourth-grader I first started following the World Series avidly and aligned myself with Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, and Craig Nettles, I’ve been a New York Yankees fan. I’ve always believed in choosing a sports team to follow and then sticking with them in good times and bad. Of course with the Yankees, there have been decidedly more good times, but keep in mind that after losing the ’81 series to the Dodgers (amid “Fernandomania”), the Yankees did not make the playoffs again until 1995. I did, however, get to experience in person the joy seeing New York win the World Series in 1996 over Atlanta. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
But aside from the Yankees, I’m more used to rooting for underdogs. My favorite team, of course, is the Oregon Ducks, who have enjoyed more than a decade of consecutive winning seasons but are not a classic team in the mold of Notre Dame, USC, Penn State or (more recently) Miami. And it’s a similar story with the Portland Trail Blazers, who until last year made the playoffs something like 19 years in a row, but have not won the NBA Championship since 1977 and do not enjoy the mythic status of the Lakers or Celtics.
All this has been on my mind since the Yankees lost Game 7 of the ALCS to Boston, the latter being baseball’s poster-child (along with the Cubs) for baseball frustration because they haven’t won the World Series since 1918. Of course I was rooting for New York to win this recent ALCS-deciding game, but I knew Boston deserved it more. Yet supporting Boston is of course easier said than done. Not only are the Red Sox our arch rival, but aside from the sympathy their so-called “curse” generates, I also don’t find either the Red Sox players or their fans very likable—especially that Johnny Damon: get a hair cut, caveman!
Nevertheless, I’m rooting for Boston to win the World Series. I was actually rooting very hard for the Red Sox in 1986, when they famously choked in Game 6 against the Mets. (Incidentally, I don’t believe it was entirely Bill Buckner’s fault. The dam had already begun to burst before then.) It comes down to simple fairness, something that rarely seems to happen in major league sports where money is king. Much as I love the Yankees, I’m always aware how much their advantages not just in money but in location and reputation resemble the pro sports team I despise more than any other: the Los Angeles Lakers. The Red Sox are more like the Trail Blazers, the often-talented team that nevertheless virtually always becomes the punching bag in a one-sided rivalry. So go out there, Boston, and take the bouquet for all us bridesmaids.
The past couple weeks it seems like most everyone I know has been watching the Olympics. I love swimmer Gary Hall, Jr.'s playful brashness, beach vollyballer Karrie Walsh's lanky net play, and those insanely iron-lunged Kenyan and Ethiopan distance runners. In most cases, whether a fan of other mainstream athletics (football, baseball, etc.) or not, I and others have been enjoying watching Olympic sports we almost never watch otherwise: swimming, gymnastics, even track & field. If NBC is so willing to hype the Olympics every four years, and if so many people are tuning in (the network had all the first seven from the top 10 Nielson-ranked shows this week, all Olympics coverage), why is it that not even the World Championships for these sports seem to make it to television at all? NBC, for example, doesn't have any professional basketball, football, baseball or hockey contracts. So why don't they really focus on making Olympic sports something people watch more than just every four years? I'm not saying that beach vollyball or the 10,000 meter run will ever overtake the NFL or NBA in popularity. But if it were a lazy Sunday afternoon and I had the choice between an Olympic sport and, say, golf or NASCAR, I'd definitely go for one of the Olympic sports. Unless you're a rich dork or a redneck, wouldn't you?
Yesterday, Clyde Drexler was announced as an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, which as a longtime Trail Blazer fan made me very happy. But perhaps even more than that, I was glad to see that Drexler has chosen to go in as a Blazer. This choice had been very much in doubt, because when he was introduced during halftime of the NBA all-star game a few years ago as one of the 50 greatest players of all time (for the league's 50th anniversary), Drexler was cited as "from the Houston Rockets", which I assume was his choice.
Although Houston is where Drexler won a championship, there is no doubt that he played his best basketball in Portland. The fact that Clyde chose to align himself for eternity with the Blazers is a real source of pride. To my knowledge, he's only the second player to go in to the Hall in a Portland uniform, after Bill Walton.
Drexler has always been my all-time favorite Trail Blazer. Because I was only 5 years old when Walton's 1977 team won the championship, Clyde's Blazer era is also the one I have the most fondness for. The teams he was part of in the early 1990s were routinely among the league's best, as evidenced by two Western Conference championships in three years. And their up-tempo style under Rick Adelman made the team so exciting to watch. It seemed like whenever a member of the opposing team missed a shot, Clyde was racing down the court with Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams (and Kevin Duckworth trailing behind), with Drexler flying through the air on many a spectacular dunk. Like Michael Jordan, Drexler was big and strong enough to post up like a small forward, but quick and elusive enough to take anybody on the dribble. Plus Drexler had an indefinable sense of physical grace and style that was more than just speed or the ability to make shots. He just looked so good playing the game.
Of course it still hurts thinking of how close those Blazer teams came to winning a championship only to come up short. In particular, I'll always remember the 1991 season, the one in between their two Finals losses to Detroit and Chicago, when the Blazers had the NBA's best record at 63-19 but were tripped up in the Western Conference Finals by those damn Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, I'll always love Clyde the Glide, and thank God I don't have to be bitter over his wearing another team's jersey for all-time.
As the Blazers have fought to stay above .500 and begun to finally have some success in doing so as of late, winning 9 of their last 12, much as been made of the team's struggle to make the playoffs for a 22nd straight year. Because of the long streak, there is a lot of pride at stake for the team and its fans. But I for one am all but hoping that the team does not make the playoffs. In the last few weeks the Los Angeles Lakers, a team I loathe more than words can describe, have re-emerged as the NBA's best team. So if Portland were to make the playoffs at the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference, there is an overwhelming likelihood that the Blazers would play the Lakers and, as we all pretty much know, get demolished. The reason I despise the Lakers is essentially pure jealousy. The Blazers have been beaten by Los Angeles many a time in the playoffs, with the 1991 and 2000 seasons being especially heartbreaking. Both years I'm convinced we would have won the NBA championship had we gotten by them in the Western Conference Finals. So why are Blazer fans putting their hopes into becoming first-round cannon fodder for a team that starts four future Hall-of-Famers? If this were a military exercise, our generals would prudently retreat and regroup for a later fight, when we could realistically hope to win. Of course the Blazers can't say they don't want to make the playoffs, but let me say it for them. There's nothing to gain except a lost lottery pick in the upcoming draft. Nothing would give me more pleasure than seeing Stoudamire, Ratliff, Miles and company beat Los Angeles. But there's about a 1% chance of that happening, and no Portland fan, especially one who hates the Lakers as much as I do, wants to see another playoff defeat to that wretched hive of scum and villany dressed in purple and gold. A couple more decent trades or draft picks and the Blazers can be back in the championship race in a year or two. I'm setting my sights on that.
This week the Sporting News cover features a picture of Michael Jordan in a Trail Blazers uniform as part of a story that imagines if several key moments in sports had turned out differently. It's been 20 years since the 1984 draft that saw Portland pick Sam Bowie over Jordan, and it seems like this imfamous move will just never go away. That said, I still don't fault the Blazers' reasoning. We already had at shooting guard Clyde Drexler, a future Hall-of-Famer in his own right. We needed a center, and Bowie had been an All-American at Kentucky. While it's clear Jordan was destined to become an all-star caliber of player, nobody knew he'd do what he'd do with Chicago.
As Blazer tragedies go, I spend more time fretting about certain other episodes. On the court, you have to start with the 4th quarter meltdown in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals against those dreaded fucking Lakers. The other one that will always haunt me is losing the 1991 Western Conference Finals to that same team from Los Angeles, after having the NBA's best record at 63-19. In both those years, I believe we would have won the championship--even against Jordan's Bulls in 1991, which would have erased this whole tired "What If?" garbage.
For the past several months I've been convinced that the Blazers needed to trade Rasheed Wallace. But I feel a little bit more conflicted about it now. Although there's no question his behavior is often a distraction, my problem has always been more with his play. I hate seing a power forward with as as good a turn around jump shot and solid defensive post skills as Wallace perrenially parking himself out by the 3-point line. He also has been bad about not calling for the ball enough. But with the emergence of Zach Randolph as a regular 20+ points-per-game scorer, it's created a better niche for Rasheed. He doesn't have to carry the scoring load all the time. He can pick and choose his opportunities to take over the offense, which is what Wallace prefers--only now we'll still have a post presence looking to score. And it's also worth noting that while Wallace still gets definitely more technicals than the average NBA player, we are now a couple of years removed from when that problem was at its apex. Although Portland surely isn't done making moves, either this season or over the offseason, I think Randolph and Darius Miles give the Blazers a good young nucleus, and the trio of Wallace, Stoudamire and Anderson provide a nice foundation of veterans. Dale Davis to me is expendable, but I also think we should keep another constant source of trade rumors, Ruben Patterson. His heightened oncourt energy are so often a real boon to the team, and can't be measured in Patterson's mediocre statistics. He also plays superb defense. Ah, if only John Nash were reading this weblog. Or anyone!
Without any shred of a doubt, the USC Trojans are national champions. I say this not as a USC fan. I didn't even like them at all before my sister started going there. I say this because USC was voted #1 in both the AP and coaches' polls before winning the Rose Bowl. The so-called BCS national championship game will only produce a co-champion on paper because of a contractual obligation that requires coaches to vote the winner of that game #1. What a damn joke!
Yeah!!! Oregon 34, Oregon State 20. I didn't think it would turn out this way, but it did. Oregon completely out-coached OSU, with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig spreading the ball around in a way that he hasn't really done all season, exploiting the Beavers' overpursuit. And defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti got his unit to stop the run (holding probable All-American RB Stephen Jackson to 68 measly yards) and make Derrick Anderson throw the ball under pressure (leading to two key 4th quarter interceptions). Friends and family know that I'm a nervous wreck every year when the Civil War rolls around, and this year was no different. But all's well that ends well, right?