The Year In Sports

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Sportscaster Len Berman, author of the book "the Greatest Moments in Sports," talks with Robert Siegel about highlights of the week, and his list of best and worst sports moments of 2009.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Now, a look back at the year in sports - the greatest and the most appalling sports moments of 2009. Our regular Friday sports commentator Stefan Fatsis is far away on vacation, so we have invited the author of "The Greatest Moments in Sports," sportscaster Len Berman, to talk with us about the past year. Welcome to the program, Len.

Mr. LEN BERMAN (Sportscaster, Author, "The Greatest Moments in Sports"): Thank you. Nice to be here. It was much easier to pick the worst moments than the best moments.

SIEGEL: Ah, we'll save the worst for last, in that case. Starting with the best:, what did you think of 2009? What's the biggest high point?

Mr. BERMAN: I actually went back to the beginning of the year. It was a tough call for me because I really wanted to consider Roger Federer. He set the all-time record by winning his 15th major in tennis. He did it in a dramatic fashion - beating Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 16-14 in the fifth set. I chose that as my number two moment.

My number one moment - well, take a listen:

Sports Commentator: Forty-three seconds to go. Ben gets the snap. He's back, he pumps. He scrambles around, throws it back corner of the end zone. Santonio with a touchdown! Santonio Holmes - I don't know how he did it!

SIEGEL: Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes, winning the Super Bowl for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mr. BERMAN: Yeah. To win a Super Bowl on virtually the last play like that, it was a remarkable catch. And Pittsburgh has now won more Super Bowls than any team in creation. And I just thought that was just the high watermark. Clearly, that was the Pittsburgh radio call and not the Arizona...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: I think so. Now, Roger Federer's 15th major in second. Third, fourth and fifth.

Mr. BERMAN: Well, I thought Usain Bolt, the Jamaican runner who just doesn't get the attention he deserves, especially in the United States. He wins not only the 100 and 200 meters at the World Track Championships in Berlin, he sets world records in both. I thought that that was really a singular accomplishment. I gave him number three.

Number four, I went for the old guy: Tom Watson, at 59. He very nearly won the British Open. Now normally, you choose a great moment of someone who actually wins, but the fact that he came so close at his age, I gave him the fourth greatest moment.

And the fifth was just a random game, which I happened to be watching and not because I went to the fine university. But Syracuse played Connecticut, six overtimes in a Big East quarterfinal basketball game at Madison Square Garden. I thought that was just a phenomenal game, so I gave it number five.

But again, it was much easier to pick the awful people of the year rather than the successful.

SIEGEL: The awful people, OK, the most awful thing of 2009.

Mr. BERMAN: Can I work backwards?

SIEGEL: OK, the number five most awful thing.

Mr. BERMAN: Well, actually, I had a sixth. I gave dishonorable mention to Serena Williams for her outburst at the U.S. Open. Clearly, there were a lot of disappointed people out there who think that she should've cracked the top five but unfortunately, she did not.

Number five: Now, Tiger Woods knocked this guy off the back page, but Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino got embroiled in a sex scandal. It involved a seedy story about a waitress in a restaurant and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, here's a man who is the leader of a basketball team setting the example for a fine university, and he gets involved in a sordid episode.

Number four I gave to Michael Phelps and his famous bong picture.

Number three, I gave to two of the biggest names in baseball busted for steroids: Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers. Of course, Ramirez was busted for using a female fertility drug - God only knows why.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERMAN: That was number three.

Number two was Plaxico Burress going to prison for shooting himself in the leg.

SIEGEL: He was the New York Giants receiver and...

Mr. BERMAN: Wins the Super Bowl.

SIEGEL: ...won the Super Bowl and almost, literally, shot himself in the foot.

Mr. BERMAN: He shot himself, absolutely. And he carries an unlicensed gun into Manhattan, which is automatic jail time - as Mayor Bloomberg was quick to point out. And so now, he's behind bars.

And number one worst - well, I think, you know, do you really have to ask? I mean, it's the pristine image of Tiger Woods going up in flames - which somebody asked me the other day, was I surprised by all this? I didn't think - surprise you in sports, and I was surprised by this. He had such an airtight, squeaky clean, steel-trap mind on and off the course, and then he just disintegrates. And that was surprising to me.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you about the greatest moments for a moment, since you wrote a book of the greatest moments in sports. Do you think any of what happened in 2009 has the potential for living on in memory the way Babe Ruth's calling his home run did, or the way that the immaculate reception did in the Super Bowl of years ago?

Mr. BERMAN: I would say the only one that comes close to that standard would be Roger Federer. It's very possible that nobody wins as many majors as Roger Federer again. And now, it's up to 15 and counting. So, I think there's a chance that what he did would rise to the level of greatest moments in sports.

SIEGEL: Len Berman, talking with us about the best and worst moments in sports. He's the author of "The Greatest Moments in Sports" and of course, a very well-known sportscaster. Thanks a lot for talking with us.

Mr. BERMAN: My pleasure. Happy holidays to you.

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