Our Year in Sports

The Yankees won eight of the clubs' 11 meetings in 2000, but that obscures just how closely matched they were. How close? Consider this: A distance of about six inches, spread out over four different plays, may have spelled the difference between them. Remember, the teams traded lopsided wins and then had a rainout when they faced off in the Bronx in June, but the Mets' karma against the Yanks began heading south on July 7th, when Paul O'Neill reached above the Shea Stadium wall to rob Derek Bell of a two-run homer that would have given the Amazins an 8th-inning lead. The next day, during the nightcap of the Queens/Bronx doubledip, Lenny Harris had Chuck Knoblach's 5th-inning drive in his glove—until his glove hit the wall and the ball plopped over the fence for what turned out to be the game-winning homer.

None of which is as surreal as what happened to Todd Zeile in the World Series. Zeile appears destined to be remembered for hitting the now-(in)famous drive that caromed back into play after striking the very tip of the leftfield wall in Game 1. But don't forget that he was also robbed of a homer during the Mets' 9th-inning Game 2 rally, when Clay Bellinger reached to the top of the fence to corral the ball. (As one Mets fan disgustedly observed, "If Zeile had done one more push-up before the Series—one more push-up!—he'd have two homers by now.")

The Mets dropped all of these games, three of them by one run and the other by two. Woulda-coulda-shoulda is a loser's game, natch, but it's hard not to wonder how an inch here or an inch there might have affected these contests. And one can only speculate as to what horrible misdeed the Mets must have committed in order for Fate to have decreed that they come up on the short end of so many heartbreakingly close plays. Matt Franco, if you've been kicking your dog every night, please stop! —Paul Lukas

Five-Ring Circus

The only thing better than an election year is an Olympic year. Not because of the human drama of athletic competition, the true spirit of sportsmanship, or the glory of sport, but . . . because Kevin Garnett had to wear a cowboy hat during the opening ceremonies. Because no triathletes were attacked by sharks . . . but they might have been. Because a Greco-Roman wrestler who looks like Drew Carey became the world's most popular athlete for 10 minutes. Because gymnastics judges can't measure a vaulting horse. Because Marla Runyon's seeing-eye dog could have outrun the whole field in the 1500 meters. Because team doctors don't know which cold medicines will show up positive on a drug test. Because team doctors do know which performance-enhancing drugs won't. Because it gives you an excuse to say Halil Mutlu, Haile Gebrselassie, and Hicham el-Guerrouj. Because Anthony Ervin lost sole possession of a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle due to the hydrodynamic drag caused by his hoop earring. Because they happen only once every four years. —Allen St. John

Generation Next

If the WNBA continues to thrive, 2000 will be looked back upon as a transitional year in which a new generation began to supplant the old. The fourth season for the league was the first in which the draft relied almost entirely on players just out of college. In 1999 the draft had gone deep with the vets of the ABL, and the two previous years, the WNBA had ingathered the stalwarts who had been racking up experience—and hunger to play at home—in Europe and beyond. This past year, the average age of the WNBA roster decreased by several points, and it will be dropping faster than the Nasdaq in the seasons to come.

In 2000, players such as Kym Hampton, 37, Suzie McConnell-Serio, 34, and four-time champion MVP Cynthia Cooper, 37, hung up their high-tops, and many more at least openly contemplated retirement. Meanwhile, numerous older players noted the experience gap during practices, complaining that their novice teammates weren't giving them enough of a challenge. Others began to question whether the new generation was paying their elders proper respect. As 34-year-old Liberty pointguard Teresa Weatherspoon fumed about Rockers rookie Ann Wauters, age 19: "For a youngster to walk in my face . . . I'll walk in your face!"

Of course it's only natural that younger athletes usurp their forbears—and even exceed their greatness. The difference here, though, is that as the WNBA succeeds, what may be forgotten is the history of the struggle to get it off the ground in the first place. Younger players, said Liberty low-post defender Sue Wicks, don't have a sense of what it meant "to play just out of your own passion and not even expect to see anything in the newspaper." Not that such expectations are bad in themselves—"Giving women that sense of entitlement is what we built this league for," said Liberty three-point master Crystal Robinson. Still, the questions of value and purpose that have come up with every major development in women's sports—the passage of Title IX, the absorption of women's collegiate sports into the NCAA, the mega-marketing of the WNBA devouring the mom-and-pop approach of the ABL—will be surging up again. —Alisa Solomon

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