In just a few weeks, the world will celebrate the beginning of a new year and the end of a storied decade. The 2010s were jam-packed with monumental social and cultural movements, mind-blowing technological innovations, incredible music as well as brilliant sports moments. From LeBron James’ “The Decision” in the summer of 2010 to Simone Biles becoming the first female gymnast to land a triple double in 2019, there have been countless great moments, each with their own extraordinary stories. Staff members of the Wheel shared their favorite sports moments of the past 10 years.
Torrey Smith Has a Huge Game Following the Death of His Younger Brother (2012)
It would have been perfectly justified for Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith to sit out Ravens’ Week Three matchup against the New England Patriots in 2012. Less than 24 hours prior to kickoff, Smith received a devastating phone call: his younger brother had passed away in a motorcycle accident. Ravens Head Coach Jim Harbaugh told Smith that the team would support him if he chose to sit out and grieve. But Smith wanted to play.
Smith’s first reception of the game came in the second quarter, when he made a leaping catch in the back of the endzone, a catch that kickstarted the Ravens’ offense. After racking up receptions and yards throughout the game, Smith hauled in a second touchdown in the fourth quarter and was greeted with chants of “To-rey, To-rey” from the Baltimore faithful. The Ravens completed their comeback against the Patriots with a last-second field goal and won 31-30. Smith accounted for 127 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.
In the locker room after the game, Smith thanked everyone on the Ravens for their support in his time of distress, and one teammate remarked, “You’ve got 60 brothers in here.” While the game may not have been the most flashy or historic, it certainly was one of the most moving.
Ethan Mayblum – Contributing
The Mile High Miracle (2012)
Quarterback Joe Flacco snapped the ball with 42 seconds left in the fourth quarter. His Baltimore Ravens were trailing quarterback Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos by a touchdown in an AFC Divisional playoff game, and they were stuck at their own 30-yard line. Dodging a sack from defensive end Elvis Dumervil, Flacco ran up in the pocket and chucked the ball deep to wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Broncos safety Rahim Moore stumbled backward in an attempt to block the pass, allowing Jones to make the catch and walk into the end zone.
The “Mile High Miracle” forced the Ravens and Broncos into overtime. Baltimore would win that game, and they would keep winning all the way through Super Bowl XLVII, sending linebacker Ray Lewis off into retirement with another ring. While Manning and quarterback Tom Brady dominated the 2010s, Joe Flacco’s 2012 playoff campaign remains one of the NFL’s best, but it couldn’t have happened without some divine intervention at Sports Authority Field.
Isaiah Sirois – Associate Editor
#4 Auburn Returns #1 Alabama Missed Field Goal to win the Iron Bowl (2013)
With the score tied 28-28 and only one second left on the clock against Auburn University (Ala.), University of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban entrusted redshirt freshman kicker Adam Griffith with kicking a game-winning field goal. This was a surprising decision considering Alabama’s history of at-best inconsistent kickers, but what was the harm? If the kicker missed, the game would only go into overtime — which Alabama could surely win.
With the camera focused on the uprights, viewers held their breath as the ball traveled from the center towards the left post. No one was watching Auburn’s return man Chris Davis, who was watching the ball from the endzone. The ball dipped right into Davis’ arm, and suddenly every player was in motion.
With every Alabama defender running at him, Davis sprinted up the center before cutting left towards the sideline. Dodging tackle after tackle, aided by key blocks from his teammates, Davis managed to stay inbounds as he sprinted up the sideline. Evading one last tackle, Davis ran the last 40-yards to the endzone.
Students stormed the field immediately while shocked players and fans stared in disbelief. It was an odds-defying finish to a heated game between two bitter rivals. Besides, who doesn’t like to watch Alabama lose?
Lynden Fausey – Staff
Leicester City F.C. Defy 5,000-1 Odds and Win the Premier League in 2016
In 2015, Leicester City F.C. began the season as one of the worst teams in the English Premier League. Just a year later, Leicester was crowned champion of the Premier League.
Beginning the 2015-2016 season, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri was in the hot seat, and Leceister had 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier League, which is widely recognized as the most competitive soccer league. To put that into perspective, the odds of the Cleveland Browns winning the Superbowl in 2016 was 200-1, and the Atlanta Braves had 500-1 odds to win the World Series.
Leicester also had a budget that was 10 times less than the previous champions, Chelsea F.C. Yet Ranieri made the most of his shoestring budget and used a consistent and reliable lineup. Forwards Jaime Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, previously unknown to most fans, became superstars, scoring goals and adding assists as easily as forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
The team’s defense was equally crucial. Defender Wes Morgan and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeicel were dependable, conceding only nine goals in the final 17 games of the season in narrow, crucial wins, while midfielder N’golo Kante had seemingly infinite stamina to outrun opponents and win the ball.
Leicester’s victory was arguably the most stunning underdog triumph in sports history because it required consistent brilliance and grit across nine grueling months. Even non-Leicester soccer fans will always remember that Leicester team and their miraculous win.
Sammy John – Senior Staff
Anthony Ervin Wins Gold in Return to Pro Swimming (2016)
With his double arm-sleeve tattoos and relatively old age (35), Anthony Ervin of Team USA was the tough-looking swimmer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. No one expected this “old” man, who had been retired from professional swimming since 2003, to perform well against his American teammates or international competition.
But Ervin shocked the world when he won gold in the 50 meter freestyle. Ervin had won gold 16 years earlier at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but the stretch between his two gold medals was peppered with drugs, drinking, depression, a suicide attempt and homelessness. Ervin’s retirement, descent toward rock bottom and incredible comeback is a momentous story from this decade, because it’s a story unlike any other. Swimming is a physically and mentally challenging sport, and any return to the sport is impressive. Even aAfter a decade of bad decision-making and self-reflection, Ervin found himself at the top of the swimming world.
Cailen Chinn – Multimedia Editor
108 Years Later: Cubs Win World Series (2016)
Before 2016, the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series title was 1908 — well before television, household radios or even sliced bread existed. 108 years later, the Chicago Cubs could finally call themselves World Series champions after defeating the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series. The team finished the 2016 regular season with 103 wins and defeated both the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers to advance to the World Series, where they hadn’t been since 1945.
The World Series started off rough for the Cubs as they dropped three of the first four games. Chicago managed to prevail in Game Five by a score of 3-2 and forced Cleveland to close the series out in Chicago. The Cubs routed the Indians 8-3 in Game Six to force a winner-take-all Game Seven.
Up 6-3 in the eighth inning, it seemed like the longest championship drought in North American sports history would finally be snapped. But Indians outfielder Rajai Davis tied the game with a three-run home run to force extra innings. Cubs utility player Ben Zobrist, who was later named World Series MVP, drove in the winning run in the tenth inning.
The Cubs finally broke their infamous curse after 108 years. The city went wild for their team outside of historic Wrigley Field as over a century of baseball-induced frustration was released in one night. The 2016 Cubs will forever be remembered for their remarkable comeback and bringing the city of Chicago its first title in 108 years.
Michael Mariam – Contributing
Female Gymnasts Confront Larry Nassar (2018)
This decade has seen the gargantuan rise of Simone Biles, the successful trajectories of Olympic-turned-college gymnasts and the worldwide domination of gymnastics by American gymnasts. But those achievements paled in comparison to the elegant show of solidarity as numerous gymnasts stood up against Larry Nassar — a USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University sports doctor who was charged with 265 counts of sexual abuse — during his sentencing in 2018.
As world-class athletes like Aly Raisman and Jordyn Weiber confronted Nassar, the gymnasts challenged the decades-long institutional power that USAG holds over its female athletes. The gymnasts themselves brought the case to its head; the ultra-successful college gymnast Maggie Nichols revealed that she was the first to report sexual abuse by the disgraced doctor. Others joined in revealing their identities, rightfully earning the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
After Nassar was imprisoned, the organization went through massive upheaval, as once-lauded officers like USAG CEO and President Steve Penny were arrested for tampering with evidence in the case against Nassar, and USAG filed for bankruptcy.
USAG still has a long way to go in ensuring athlete safety, but these gymnasts paved the way for a better future for American gymnastics and for female athletes affected by sexual abuse.
Nicole Sadek – Editor-in-Chief
The Miami Miracle (2018)
In Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season, all was well for the New England Patriots as they took on their division rivals the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. At 9-3, the Patriots were already positioned to win the AFC East with little contention, while the 6-6 Miami Dolphins would be left to scratch and claw for a Wild Card spot.
After Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski split the uprights with 19 seconds remaining in the game to give the Patriots a 33-28 lead, the cameras flashed to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady smiling on one sideline and Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase looking concerned on the opposite sideline. On the next play, Kalen Ballage returned the ensuing kickoff to the 31-yard line, and with no timeouts, Miami was down to its final play. As quarterback Ryan Tannehill hiked the ball, announcer Ian Eagle made the final call.
“Seven seconds left,” Eagle said. “Tannehill will throw it, and this will end it after the shovel [pass] … or will it? Miami running around, circling. Oh look out! Gronkowski didn’t have the angle! Touchdown! Oh ho, Kenyan Drake! A miracle! Miraculous in Miami! A lateral heard round the world!”
After completing a short pass to wide receiver Kenny Stills, even the announcer thought the game was over. Stills then lateraled the ball to receiver Devante Parker, who took a few strides before lateraling the ball back again to running back Kenyan Drake. Drake looked around the field for a moment before recognizing the soft defensive coverage and took the game into his own hands. Drake rushed 69 yards into the endzone to win the game and shock the Patriots.
This moment was one of the greatest last-second lateral plays in NFL history. The 69-yard touchdown was the longest walk-off play since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. The exciting finish was a Miami miracle and a New England nightmare.
Scott Miller – Contributing