Ode to Sports: A year of anthems, Astros, Bama and Brady


By FRED LIEF - AP Sports Writer



Keep an eye on the clock, all through the night.

Not far to go till the dawn’s early light.

Twilight is gleaming. But, hey, we can see.

(Now entering the game, Francis Scott Key.)

Toast to the triumphs, sift through the debris,

See off a year in which sports took a knee.

FIRST QUARTER

It’s New Year’s Day: What’ll it be?

Wild Rose Bowl win for USC.

Soon Clemson makes its title climb,

Beating Bama in Nick of time.

Krzyzewski’s out, an ailing back.

Chargers, Raiders decide to pack.

Tiger returns, he perseveres,

He plays two times then disappears.

Australia brings an old refrain:

Two Williams, Roger, Rafa reign.

New England wins the Super Bowl

From 25 points in the hole.

Brady soars , the cheers grow louder,

Falcons turn into clam chowder.

Then whispers come amid foul play —

Brady’s jersey is MIA.

Gonzaga cruising, perfect slate.

UConn women, 100 straight.

Daytona: Kurt Busch, last-lap spree.

Kevin Durant bangs up his knee.

Briles and Baylor, a sordid pit.

Kaepernick, 49ers split.

Russell Westbrook , triple-doubles.

USA Gymnastics troubles.

At last Northwestern gets its chance

To take the floor in March and dance.

North Carolina proves the best,

With last year’s heartache put to rest.

The women? Well, let’s celebrate

The jolt by Mississippi State

That sent the Huskies tumbling down,

But Gamecocks get to wear the crown.

SECOND QUARTER

Dustin Johnson falls down the stairs.

Sergio’s Masters , answered prayers.

Aaron Hernandez, hanged in cell.

(His brain, it’s found, a damaged shell.)

Isaiah Thomas, time to grieve.

Steve Kerr’s hurting and takes a leave.

Drug ban over, Maria’s back.

Fans at Fenway talk racist smack.

Always Dreaming tames Derby slop.

Canelo fights and stays on top.

TV chat with repercussions:

Giselle says Tom had concussions.

The Preakness: Cloud Computing’s race.

Woods, drugged and jailed, is in disgrace.

Takuma Sato , Indy’s man.

Big day for racing and Japan.

Penn State scandal, stench still lingers.

Scooter Gennett hits four dingers.

Nadal rules Paris yet again —

His title count a perfect 10.

Penguins, once more sitting pretty,

Win the Cup in Music City.

Warriors shift to overdrive

And knock off James and Cavs in five.

McDonald’s and Olympics split;

The IOC’s not lovin’ it.

U.S. Open at Erin Hills:

Big Three sputter, Brooks Koepka kills.

New Zealand, yachting’s overlord.

Knicks throw Phil Jackson overboard.

THIRD QUARTER

Rise, young fan and baseball purist

For Aaron Judge, honored jurist.

A fatal crash, police report,

Mournful Venus takes Centre Court.

Her spirit strong, game still vital,

But it’s Muguruza’s title.

Federer’s flawless, much alive,

Eight-time winner at 35.

The Tour de France: Chris Froome’s a force.

Kyrie and Cavs move toward divorce.

Spieth at Open, one smart wager.

Just 23, wins third major.

Curry signs for 200 mil.

LA lands Darvish, goes for kill.

Parseghian passes, Irish wake.

Neymar’s transfer befits a sheikh.

Elliott’s banned, the Cowboys freak.

It’s time to lawyer up for Zeke.

In London, a familiar place,

Bolt crumples in his final race.

Justin Thomas takes PGA.

Giancarlo, and bombs away!

Blazing neon on Strip’s marquee:

It’s boxing versus UFC.

A lot of hype, a lot of trash.

More to the point, a lot of cash.

Preseason games, a different feel.

The players take a stand and kneel .

Then J.J. Watt takes up the fight

As Harvey strikes with fearsome might.

U.S. Open’s freshening breeze:

Here’s Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys.

The old guard, though, can still strike fear —

Nadal wins second Slam of year.

Cleveland streaks, Indian summer.

Dodgers go from best to bummer.

Want an Olympics? Step this way:

Two-for-one sale — Paris, LA.

Anthem protests walk high wire,

Once a spark but now a fire.

Trump says of those who take a knee:

Just get rid of the SOB.

Teams sign quarterbacks left and right,

But Kaepernick is kryptonite.

Curry to White House? Trump says no

(Not that Curry had planned to go).

The rancor grows, with more to come.

LeBron on Twitter: Trump’s a “bum.”

Feds shine light on college recruits

And agents dressed in fancy suits.

Bribery, lies and so much more.

Rick Pitino is shown the door.

FOURTH QUARTER

Cam Newton’s sacked for sexist spiel.

Mike Pence exits when players kneel.

U.S. soccer’s in disrepute.

Its World Cup plans go down the chute.

Same for Italy, just say ciao.

This one’s big: apocalypse now.

Rodgers injured, Green Bay looks through.

Hayward’s anguish in Celts debut.

October baseball, Astros set.

Justin Verlander, trusted vet.

World Series opens, savage heat

And Kershaw’s smoking, no retreat.

Game 5 mayhem overpowers —

Seven home runs, lasts five hours.

Pitchers yanked again and again.

Whole new game: power of the pen.

Game 7 — Morton does no wrong.

Astros, champions, Houston Strong .

Roy Halladay’s plane, flying low,

Grief by the Gulf of Mexico.

Contract talks for Roger Goodell,

And Jerry Jones is mad as hell,

Seething, threatening, on attack

Over ban of his running back.

UCLA heads to Shanghai.

Shoplifting? Sure, give it a try.

Trump tells freed players, please thank me

And also thank President Xi.

LaVar Ball, Trump then go for blood

And take to wrestling in the mud

At Homestead, Truex runs the show;

Danica, Junior, time to go.

The Eagles, Wentz remove all doubt.

(But not so fast — soon Wentz is out.)

The Tide just makes the playoff fold,

With Buckeyes left out in the cold.

Bahamas sighting in the sun —

A Tiger prowls, he’s not quite done.

Russia’s booted from Pyeongchang,

Its Sochi Games now boomerang.

But while the IOC says “nyet,”

It finds a way to hedge its bet.

Clean Russians get the welcome mat,

And Putin’s surely fine with that.

Shohei Ohtani makes his choice,

Hears an Angel’s beckoning voice.

Stanton’s traded, the Yankees splurge,

Bronx is jolted by power surge.

Baker Mayfield , Heisman dinner,

Walk-on walks away a winner.

A workplace scandal prompts a sale;

Panthers owner decides to bail.

The year’s soon almost out of sight.

Want proof? It’s there, all through the night.

We stand or sit and watch it pass

And see it off and raise a glass.

By FRED LIEF

AP Sports Writer

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