One of the themes that dominated the sports world was redemption. Teams, players, coaches and management figures that were once reviled as whipping boys came out on top in 2008.
The Philadelphia Phillies were a redemption story all on their own. They took advantage of a Cub-like collapse by the New York Mets last season to win the NL East before falling to the Colorado Rockies in a three-game sweep.
Then in 2008, the Phighting Phills came back again and took advantage of another Mets collapse to secure their second straight NL East title. But the team had to overcome more problems than what comes after earting a few too many of those Philly Cheesesteaks.
Brett Myers struggled in his return as a starting pitcher, Jimmy Rollins was booed by the Philly phaithphul and everything that was spelled with an 'F' turned into a 'PH' when Philly depheated the Tampa Bay Rays.
Redemption '09: Look out for the New York Yankees, who missed the playoffs for the first time since in Danny Almonte's lifetime, to strike gold after buying Major League Baseball from Bud Selig.
Despite being the best player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant had never won a Most Valuable Player award. That is until last year, of course. Bryant shedded the label that he needed Shaq Daddy and dominated the league from start to finish. And that came of course after being booed by the home team on opening night after a summer in which he seemed destined to be traded to the Chicago Bulls.
John Paxson got his redemption, however, when the Bulls lucked out and got the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and took Derrick Rose.
But the year's biggest redemption went to the Boston Celtics, who added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to give Paul Pierce thek ind of supporting staff he deserved. But Garnett always choked in the playoffs and never was willing to take the last shot. Allen was a nice player, but not the kind of player you win a championship because of. And Pierce wasn't a prime time player.
Yet, when it was all said and done, the Boston Three Party won an NBA title tossing those old criticisms away.
Redemption '09: LeBron James made himself a whole hell of a lot better in the offseason thanks in part to his work with Team USA. My bet is that he will win the league's MVP honors and lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an upset of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
He will then be bought by best friend CC Sabathia and then sold to the New York Yankees in exchange for the rights to a Broadway musical to be named 'Yes, Yes Nannette.'
Revenge is a dish best served in Arizona ... at least that's what the New York Giants felt.
Their coach was on the hot seat. Their quarterback looked like he was going to be run out of town. And their star defensive end was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel of his career. They couldn't win at home and the media was falling on them like a ton of bricks.
On top of that, the New England Patriots came into the Meadowlands on the final night of the regular season and put a whoopin' on the Giants in a game that was close for a while, but saw Tom Brady and Randy Moss shatter passing and catching records, respectively.
Nearly a month later, the Giants pulled off the shocker of all shockers -- defeating the previously unbeaten Patriots. Sending the 1972 Miami Dolphins into a happy moment only a double dosage of Viagra could provide.
Redemption '09: According to Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, his team is close to something. What? A mutiny? Close to finding a cure to cancer? Or is it a cure to lower gas prices and less dependancy on foreign oil. Needless to say, Da Bears have a lot of work to do to make this list next year.
Kansas couldn't win the big game. Not under Roy Williams. Not under Bill Self. And with a minute to play in the national title game against Memphis, Self and the Jayhawks were about to take another one on the chin.
But some missed free throws down the stretch by the Tigers (what else is new?) and a key 3-point field goal by Mario Chalmers pushed the game into overtime where Kansas and Self would win the national championship.
Redemption '09: The North Carolina Tar Heels and SIU Salukis will have some redemption bragging rights in '09. UNC will win the national title as Tyler Hansbrough will justify his hard work by leading Roy Williams to his second national title.
As for SIU, Chris Lowery's youngsters will be a year older, a year more experienced and a year better as long as they continue to work hard this season. If history has taught me anything, it is that the Salukis are due for a deep run in the tournament and the 2009-10 season might be one of those magical seasons for Southern. Too bad I can't fail a year or two and continue to cover the team.
The Ultimate Redemption Award goes to ... the aptly named Redeem Team.
After finishing the 2004 Olympics with a bronze medal, Team USA smashed its competition early and often in the '08 games in China. Kobe Bryant proved not only to be the world's most popular player, but to be the best in the world as he traded in his score-first mentality to play lockdown defense on the opposition's best offensive threat.
And when USA needed Bryant's offensive heroics, he changed in a telephone booth, put on his Superman cape and delivered a gold medal.