Year in Review: 2011 in Sports

From scandals off the field to great moments on it, 2011 was an incredible year in Philadelphia sports.

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From scandals off the field to great moments on it, 2011 was an incredible year in Philadelphia sports.
10. Sixers Sold (July 13)
Billionaire buyout specialist Joshua Harris led a group of investors as they paid a reported $280 million to buy the 76ers pending league approval (the league approved the sale in October). In a short period of time the new owners had highs and lows before the team even took the floor as reduced tickets prices were met with praise while choices for a new mascot were nothing short of a debacle.
9. Wilson’s Wonderful Inning (May 26)
For one night (and early morning considering the game started on May 25) a journeyman utility infielder Wilson Valdez forever endeared himself to Phillies fans when he moved from second base to the pitching mound after the Phillies ran out of pitchers in a 19-inning marathon with the Reds. With the score knotted at 4, Valdez threw a scoreless inning including getting NL MVP Joey Votto to fly out. The Phillies scored in the bottom of the frame as Valdez became the first position player to earn a win since Babe Ruth.
8. The Union Make the Playoffs (Oct. 15)
It took just two seasons for the Philadelphia to make their first playoff appearance. They clinched a bid when they played Toronto FC to a draw. The Union’s first playoff victory will have to wait for another year as they lost to Houston Dynamo in the MLS playoffs.
7. Meet the “5 Aces” (Feb. 14)
Ruben Amaro, Jr. stole last off-season by putting together four ace pitchers in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. But on the day that the so-called “4 Aces” met the media they demanded that a fifth Phillies starter come along -- letting Joe Blanton share the spotlight and even the cover of Sports Illustrated. Halladay, Lee and Hamels lived up the ace hype, all finishing near the top of Cy Young voting, while injuries and inconsistency cost Oswalt and Blanton from living up to the moniker as rookie Vance Worley shined instead.
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6. The $100-Million Man (Aug. 30)
Coming off a Pro Bowl season, the Eagles rewarded quarterback Michael Vick with a reported six-year, $100-million contract. The deal made headlines because it marked the final step in Vick’s return from his conviction and subsequent prison time for dogfighting and because football fans questioned if Vick was worth the money. The 31-year-old QB was shaky in his first season of the deal as he missed games again due to injury and was horribly inconsistent when in the lineup posting a middle-of-the-pack 82.9 passer rating on par with his career average of 80.6 rather than the 100.2 he posted in 2010.
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5. Record-Breaking Phillies (Sept. 28)
The Phillies set a team-record with their 102nd win while sending the rival Braves home for the season with a 4-3, 13-inning victory in the regular season finale. All the good feelings about the Phils quickly dissipated though as they lost in five games to the Cardinals -- a team that only earned the wild card after the Phillies swept the Braves to end the season -- in the NLDS. To add insult to injury the Cards went on to win the World Series while Phillies slugger Ryan Howard writhing in pain after blowing out his Achilles on the final play of the season.
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4. Flyers Send Carter, Richards Packing
With two big trades the Flyers changed the makeup and attitude of their team. In one day they sent away captain Mike Richards and top scorer Jeff Carter opting for younger, less experienced players and cap room instead. The deals transformed the locker room and opened up the door for Chris Pronger to become captain and for the Orange and Black to afford contracts to bring former foes Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr as well as goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to town.
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3. Welcome to "Pence"-sylvania (July 29)
Amaro once again proved he has what it takes (mostly a bunch of prospects) to pull off a trade deadline blockbuster. He traded four minor leaguers to Ed Wade and the Astros to get right fielder Hunter Pence. The right fielder quickly became a fan favorite because of his regular guy persona, goofy playing style and an impressive .324 average and .954 OPS in two months with the Phils.
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2. “Dream Team” Declared (July 30)
There were so many moments this Eagles season that could sum up a disappointing, underachieving team but no moment was more polarizing for the 2011 Birds then when backup QB Vince Young showed up at training camp and put a target on the Eagles’ backs by saying the team of many former Pro Bowlers was a "Dream Team." The name stuck and after failing to make the playoffs the nightmarish season will always be seen as a bad dream just like the Miami Heat’s "Dream Team" season in basketball.
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1. Penn State Fires Paterno (Nov. 9)
The Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal could be the biggest news story period in 2011 but it’s also a huge sports story because of the sports department leadership taking the fall for the alleged cover-up of alleged sex abuse. We might never know what Joe Paterno really knew about what former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was allegedly doing with boys but we do know that the abuse allegations and corresponding alleged cover-up at Pennsylvania’s biggest school will forever change college football, the state of Pennsylvania and Paterno’s life. One week the man they call “JoePa” was lauded for his record-setting 409th coaching win, the next he’s being fired -- after 44 years leading the Nittany Lions -- over the phone by a board of trustees on damage control. The firing sent upset PSU students into the streets as news and sports networks alike brought the story into homes around the country.
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Honorable Mentions:
Dec. 19: J-Rolls Returns to the Phillies Dec. 17: Temple's 1st Bowl Win Since the 70s Dec. 15: <a href=""Chris Pronger lost for season with post-concussion syndrome Sept. 26: Phillies, Flyers Officially Announce That the NHL Winter Classic Is Coming to CBP April 1: Phillies Rally for Opening Day Win
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