2019 was a year of triumph. And tragedy. One of hope. And heartbreak. Before we embark on 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s content curation desk is taking a look back at the biggest stories of 2019 and their effects on Georgia and the rest of the nation. Today’s topic: Sports.
After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, professional wrestling star Roman Reigns announced the disease was in remission and then returned to the ring. Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, played college football at Georgia Tech and briefly played professional football in the NFL and CFL. He signed with WWE in 2010. Besides being a top WWE draw, Reigns has become a visible spokesman for those afflicted with the disease and efforts to find a cure.
One of the Atlanta Braves’ biggest adversaries decided he’d stick around in the NL East for another decade. The offseason’s most notable free agent, Bryce Harper signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Until 2019, Harper had spent his major league career with another division rival, the Washington Nationals. On paper, Harper’s signing made the Phillies the most improved team in baseball. On paper.
The U.S. Women’s soccer team captured the world’s attention after defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup final. Metro Atlanta’s Emily Sonnett and Kelley O’Hara were on the team, along with Morgan Brian of St. Simons Island, Georgia. After their victory, members of the team called for equal pay for male and female athletes.
Atlanta Falcons fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Los Angeles Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship. The hated Saints lost the game after a hugely controversial no-call on what was clearly a pass interference penalty against the Rams. If the Saints had won, the Falcons’ longtime bitter NFL rival would have played in Super Bowl 53 ... in Atlanta.
A team that finished four games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East became a world champion in 2019. The Washington Nationals, a team the Braves dominated for much of the season, won the World Series in Game 7 against the Houston Astros. This was the same team that Bryce Harper departed, to sign one of the biggest contracts in MLB history with the Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, the Nationals won their first title in franchise history.
Professional golf’s most recognized athlete became a major champion once again. Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters in 2019. The win also became Woods’ 15th major. Woods returned to championship form after an 11-year hiatus, a period that saw Woods overcome widely publicized injuries, professional upheaval and personal issues.
The Clemson Tigers became the kings of college football. In January, Clemson put the finishing touch on its perfect 15-0 season with a 44-16 victory against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship in Santa Clara, California. It was the second national title in the last three years for the Tigers, who defeated Alabama 35-31 in the championship game after the 2016 season.
Predicted by many pundits to finish ahead of only the lowly Miami Marlins in the division, the Braves won their second consecutive NL East title in 2019. Led by a combination of dynamic young players including Ronald Acuna Jr., solid pitching from rookie Mike Soroka and veteran leadership from All-Star Freddie Freeman, the Braves were nonetheless eliminated from postseason contention in a five-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won a record sixth NFL championship at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. Coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams and coach Sean McVay, who attended metro Atlanta’s Marist School, in history’s lowest-scoring Super Bowl, 13-3. This was Atlanta’s third Super Bowl and the first hosted in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Check out the other stories in our year-end project:
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