Anniversary: 20 years in pictures
FIRST WINTER CLASSIC
The inaugural NHL Winter Classic changed New Year’s Day for sports fans. Few will forget the scene in 2008, when an NHL-record crowd of 71,217 fans watched the Buffalo Sabres play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. Snow fell during a cloudy, cold day, giving the game a grassroots, pond-hockey feel and making for fantastic television of the NHL’s first, regular-season outdoor game in the U.S.
WATCHING, CRINGING AT THE REPLACEMENTS
The NFL, traditionally the gold standard of sports leagues, suffered a rare PR crisis early in its 2012 season when it failed to come to terms with its referees and used replacement refs. The turning point in talks came after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on “Monday Night Football” Sept. 24, 2012, after a controversial and confusing call by the replacement referees resulted in a fourth-quarter touchdown for Seattle. Two days after the game, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association reached an agreement to end the referees lockout that began in June.
SOUR END TO ALL-STAR GAME?
The 2002 MLB All-Star Game in Milwaukee was supposed to be a hometown coronation of sorts for local hero and Brewers owner-turned league Commissioner Bud Selig. But with the teams running out of pitchers, Selig ended the game as a 7-7 tie after 11 innings, prompting boos and days of criticism. The following year MLB began an effort to inject more life into the All-Star Game by awarding the winning league home-field advantage in the World Series, a policy that remains in effect a decade later.
THE PASSING OF “THE INTIMIDATOR”
In the darkest and most unsettling day in NASCAR history, racing icon Dale Earnhardt was killed when his car crashed near the end of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2001. A haunted NASCAR President Mike Helton announced the death of the racing legend at a press conference by stating, “We lost Dale Earnhardt.”
NHL SEASON CANCELED
In a low moment for labor relations in sports over the last 20 years, the NHL canceled its entire 2004-05 season after owners and players failed to reach a labor agreement. Here a locked gate is seen outside the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks, on Feb. 16, 2005.
SUPERDOME AND HURRICANE KATRINA
Devastation hits Louisiana and the sports industry played a critical role in 2005 as the Superdome was used as an emergency temporary shelter for people during Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Saints were forced to play their first scheduled home game on the road against the New York Giants. The rest of the team’s home games were split between the Alamodome in San Antonio and LSU’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Six years before landing its breakthrough deal with Fox, UFC was fighting for its life. Bleeding millions and desperate for exposure, UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta took one last swing, covering $10 million in production costs for “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality show on Spike. In the season finale, with a $100,000 UFC contract on the line, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar (shown above) slugged it out in a fight so stirring, UFC President Dana White awarded both fighters contracts. Thanks to what White still calls the most important bout in its history, the UFC was on its way to breakneck growth.
COWBOYS GO IT ALONE
Few will forget the image when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones marched onto the Giants Stadium field with Nike’s Phil Knight and Nike client Monica Seles at halftime of the opening NFL Monday night game Sept. 4, 1995, to announce the Cowboys’ seven-year sponsorship deal with Nike. It was a blatant and public rebuke of the league’s sponsorship policy, and the NFL and Jones sued each other over the team’s private deals and later settled. But Jones’ overt efforts resulted in major changes to the league’s corporate sponsorship program.
“Wardrobe malfunction” entered the pop-culture lexicon as Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson’s costume during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII on Feb. 1, 2004, at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The incident led to heavy FCC fines for broadcaster CBS (later dropped on appeal) and, according to founder Jawid Karim, helped spawn the idea for YouTube.
A TRAGIC LOSS FOR EBERSOL
In one of the saddest moments in sports over the last 20 years, a private charter jet carrying Dick Ebersol and two of his sons, Charlie and Teddy, crashed during an attempted takeoff from Montrose Regional Airport in Colorado during Thanksgiving weekend on Nov. 28, 2004. The jet’s captain, flight attendant and Ebersol’s 14-year-old son, Teddy, were killed. Ebersol and his older son, Charlie, along with the first officer, survived. All of the sports industry grieved at Ebersol’s loss, as IMG’s Barry Frank said at the time, “Dick’s one of the giants of this industry and an injury to him or his family affects us all.”
On July 8, 2010, ESPN aired a live special, “The Decision,” during which celebrated free agent LeBron James announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and taking “his talents to South Beach” in signing with the Miami Heat. The 75-minute special was a rare case of an athlete scripting out a program with a network. While the show generated strong ratings, both James and ESPN were heavily criticized over the production for manipulating the newsworthy impact of the story.
Turnaround artist Ted Forstmann bought the agency that virtually invented sports marketing, IMG, for $750 million in 2004, dramatically changing its culture and approach before his death in 2011. The company is expected to be sold by the end of the year for more than $2.5 billion.
It was one of the most disturbing scenes in recent pro sports when Indiana Pacers players climbed into the seats behind the scorer’s bench during an ugly altercation in the last minute of their game with the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 19, 2004, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. It marked one of the few times that athletes fought with fans in an arena during a game and resulted in a serious image problem for the NBA. The incident also drew some of the harshest penalties in sports, as nine players on both teams were suspended after the brawl, including Indiana’s Ron Artest, who was suspended for the remainder of the season.
A CAPITAL IDEA
Washington, D.C., officials welcome the Nationals, as the Expos leave Montreal in MLB’s first relocation in 33 years, and bring baseball back to the Capital.
BROTHERS IN ARMS
In an image that came to symbolize the end of the NFL lockout, a grieving New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft leans on Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts at a news conference in Washington, D.C., July 25, 2011. Kraft had lost his wife of 48 years, Myra, just five days earlier and Saturday noted Kraft’s efforts to help resolve the labor dispute while going through such a difficult, personal ordeal. The image marked a new era of NFL labor peace.
Three NFL franchises relocated in 1995, just as the league was using “Pledge Allegiance” in its consumer marketing efforts. Two teams moved out of L.A., but it was Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell who shocked the industry when he relocated his team to Baltimore.
Over two days in Chicago in 2006, NFL owners, including the Steelers’ Dan Rooney (far left) and the Panthers’ Jerry Richardson (far right), managed the handoff of power from longtime Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (right, with ball) to then COO Roger Goodell.
Two weeks after the undefeated Barbaro stormed to a Kentucky Derby win in 2006, he shattered his right hind leg at the Preakness Stakes. People nationwide tracked his progress. Cards, flowers and fruit baskets poured into the veterinary hospital in Pennsylvania. Barbaro survived his surgery, but died eight months later. He was buried at Churchill Downs, becoming the first horse to receive that honor.
During the summer of 1998, the nation was captivated by baseball and an exciting home run race between the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs. Both men ended up passing Roger Maris’ long-standing record of 61 home runs.
HOME, SWEET HOME
With waning interest in Los Angeles and the promise of a taxpayer-financed stadium in St. Louis, Rams owner Georgia Frontiere packed up her team and moved east in 1995. Though the Rams were welcomed with open arms, the move left the nation’s second-largest media market without a team to call its own. It’s a situation that has yet to be resolved, despite plans by many would-be owners, and the league has watched a generation of L.A. fans grow up without a home team.