It’s not that teams did not distinguish themselves in 2005. The San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots, USC Trojans, North Carolina Tarheels and Chicago White Sox were all wonderful examples of the dedication to a common cause that is the essence of team play.
But when you breath in deeply of the year that was, that aroma in the air isn’t the sweet smell of teamwork. It’s the acrid stench of selfishness. When the year said, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let T.O. come over,” there was no deodorant barrier to stop him.
It’s rare that one man can set the tone for an entire year, but Terrell Owens pulled it off. The Eagles’ loss in the Super Bowl was barely in the record books before Owens was crying about how his heroics weren’t celebrated enough. As the year went on, his selfishness dominated the year. In the process, he so warped our vision that we began seeing similar behavior wherever we looked. Whatever good there was in 2005 was eclipsed by the shadow of self-interest and greed.
So make 2005 the Year of the Me.
It wasn’t all bad. There were great individual accomplishments that will stand the test of time without blemish. Roger Clemens turned 43 in August and pitched as well as he — or anyone — ever has. Reggie Bush electrified the nation and galvanized Heisman Trophy voters, walking away with college football’s most treasured prize with the highest percentage of first-place votes in history. In the process, he helped USC to a second straight undefeated season.
Roger Federer affirmed his place as a worthy successor to Pete Sampras as one of the greatest tennis players who ever lived.
Nicklaus himself played in his last Masters and last British Open. On the way out, he posed one last time the Swilcan Bridge, eyes brimming with the emotion of more than 40 years of competitive golf.
But for the most part, even the great achievements seldom seemed to come with a bitter dose of self-pity served up by the authors of greatness.
Ron Artest was given a year off in 2005, but he came back with an ego undiminished by his experience, and ended the year by turning his back on the team and the town that stood by him during his enforced sabbatical.