The Top 4 Sports Stories That Defined a Decade

By: Whitney Carroll McKinnon
Posted: January 1, 2020

For the final Buzz Bulletin of the decade, we’re taking a look back at the four sports stories that we think were most influential in the sports landscape of the 2010s. Let us know what you think in the comments.

(Trigger warning: sexual abuse)

Boston Strong

New Englanders may have a reputation for being more than a little prickly at times, but we band together through the good and the bad. 

In the last decade, there has been no greater example of this sense of community than that created by the aftermath of the bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. When two pressure-cooker bombs injured 264 people and took the lives of Krystle Campbell, 29, Lu Lingzi, 23, and Martin Richard, 8, “Boston Strong” became the mantra of a region known for its refusal to back down, and of a baseball team that was ready to carry the weight of a mourning nation.

We will never forget David Ortiz’s expletive-adorned speech when the dust started to settle and we had a chance to lick our wounds. We will never forget Jonny Gomes on the cover of Sports Illustrated, biceps flexed in a moment of solidarity with the home crowd. And we will never forget the moment, after the Sox beat the Cardinals in the World Series, when the duck boats stopped for a moment at the Marathon’s finish line to commemorate the lives lost and altered in the tragedy six months earlier.

Jonny Gomes placing World Series trophy on Boston Marathon finish line
Jonny Gomes at the Marathon finish line

We will never forget that we are, and will always be, Boston Strong.

The Domination of U.S. Women’s Soccer

Girl power has been a theme throughout the last decade of sports, with no greater example than the dominance of the U.S. National Women’s soccer team. And man, has it been fun to watch.

Little girls whose soccer dreams began while watching Abby Wambach and Hope Solo in the 2011 World Cup finals have grown into young women who can still draw inspiration on and off the field from dynamic players like Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Alex Morgan. The American sports landscape (and our society overall) wouldn’t be nearly as rich without the presence of this consistently impressive squad, and we’re all better off for it.

Thank you, ladies.

Survivors Take Down Abusers

The 2010s weren’t all glory and inspiration in the world of sports. The last decade saw two of the most stomach-turning sports scandals in recent memory.

At the start of the decade, we witnessed legendary coach Joe Paterno’s fall from grace after it was revealed that longtime Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had been sexually abusing young boys through his Second Mile charity. Sandusky had been targeting young boys from unstable family backgrounds, including his own adopted son, for years before his horrific actions were uncovered. Sandusky was sentenced to 60 years in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until 2042; he will be 98 years old. After 45 years of coaching, Paterno was dismissed from the team as a result of his failure to act when told about Sandusky’s abuse and died just weeks later.

In 2017, victims of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar began to speak up about the sexual abuse they had suffered at his hands for years. Olympians McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas were among the 332 young women that had been molested by Nassar over the previous 20 years. In 2018, Nassar was sentenced to 40-125 years in prison. The survivors who spoke out against his crimes were awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2018 ESPY Awards.

More than 140 “sister surivors” of Larry Nassar accepted the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2018 ESPYs

These crimes were among the most heinous imaginable, but the steadfast courage of Nassar and Sandusky’s survivors serves as an inspiration to those suffering through similar horrific circumstances. Powerful men are finally being held accountable for their actions, and if not for the strength of survivors through their testimonies, they would likely still be abusing another generation of children today.

Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee

The most polarizing figure in the sports landscape of the last decade has been, without a doubt, Colin Kaepernick. The last decade has seen a marked increase in athletes speaking out against social issues, and Kaepernick is the flag bearer of this movement.

When the formers 49ers QB made the decision in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality, he had no way of predicting the firestorm that would start in its wake. Three years later, the one-time NFC champion would find himself essentially blackballed from the league.

Defining a decade: Colin Kaepernick kneels on the sideline

In previous eras, athletes were largely encouraged to play ball and shut up. Michael Jordan would have never publicly spoken out against a presidential administration the way Lebron James has a number of times; for James, it’s just business as usual. Kaepernick may be suffering the unfair consequences of his actions, but he is paving the way for future generations of athletes to speak out against injustice.

Honorable Mentions: Sports Stories That Defined a Decade

  • The Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908
  • Michael Phelps becomes the most decorated Olympian of all time
  • The Patriots come back from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl
  • The rise of the Golden State Warriors
  • Lebron James takes his talents to Miami

Feeling strongly about a moment that didn’t make the cut? Let us know in the comments!

Photo credit: ABC News, CBS Boston, Yahoo, Billboard, Rolling Stone

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