A year on the beat: Globe sportswriters share their favorite memories from 2018
To mark the incredible sports year that was 2018, we asked our team of writers and producers to share their fondest memories of 2018, whether it was a favorite story, something that struck them, or just a behind-the-scenes moment.
Dan Shaughnessy, Globe columnist
It was Jan. 21 in the press box at Gillette Stadium, the AFC Championship game. Tom Coughlin was sitting a row behind us in his capacity as Jags football boss. I remembered how good he was to my daughter Kate in 1993 when he was coaching at BC and 8-year old Kate had leukemia. Coughlin continued to correspond with Kate when he went to the Jags as their first head coach. I went over to chat with him before last year’s AFC Championship and showed him photos of a grown-up, very pregnant Kate and her 1-year-old son. “I can see she’s having another baby,” Coughlin noted. Matthew Hale Greenfield was born three days later.
Bob Hohler, investigative reporter
I love Bob Ryan. When I was young and driving a taxi, Bob was a must-read. When I was older and working as the Globe’s Red Sox beat writer, it was inspiring to sit beside him in the press box.
Bob, who retired in 2012 but contributes a regular column to the Globe, was old-school in many ways, especially with emerging technologies. I vividly remember his angst whenever the Globe’s IT team assembled the sports staff to teach us new word processing systems. I took some comfort knowing I wasn’t the only dinosaur in the room.
So, imagine my surprise, after Bob’s retirement, when he began hosting “Bob Ryan’s Boston Podcast.” I had never listened to a podcast before I was assigned this year to host a podcast with the Globe’s Spotlight Team about fallen Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.
I immediately thought of Bob. He had become a podcaster. Maybe I could, too.
The Globe and Wondery have since released seven episodes of “Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc.” The series has drawn more than 4 million downloads, and additional episodes are in the works.
Thank you, Bob, for the inspiration.
Andrew Mahoney, sports producer
The Northeastern men’s hockey team had just won its first Beanpot championship in 30 years, and coach Jim Madigan was concluding his postgame news conference when he had one bit of advice as he made his way back to the locker room at TD Garden: Stay off Huntington Avenue because it would be closed from Symphony Hall to the Museum of Fine Arts.
The comment drew a big laugh, but anyone who ventured over to NU’s campus after the game soon realized it was no joke, as a line a block long formed outside Punter’s Pub, with campus police on hand to make sure the celebration didn’t get too rowdy. The crowd was waiting to catch a glimpse of the Beanpot trophy, but the celebration would be put on hold, as the team bus broke down in the O’Neill Tunnel.
Eventually, the university dispatched several vans to retrieve the players and their prized possession. Those who were fortunate enough to make it inside Punter’s didn’t seem to mind. After all, when you’ve waited 30 years to see a trophy, what’s an extra few minutes?
Stan Grossfeld, photographer and sportswriter
I don’t like LA.
I don’t believe in Magic, Kobe, LeBron, or so-called Dodger fans that arrive in the third inning at Dodger Stadium.
I loved it when Manny Machado looked like a Little Leaguer flailing on one knee against a wicked Chris Sale slider to end the World Series. That was payback for the bad karma of spiking Dustin Pedroia last year.
My favorite memory is leaving LA on the Red Sox team charter with the World Championship trophy onboard. There was the joyous feeling of love and camaraderie of a Sox team that genuinely likes each other, celebrating high above the clouds all the way back to Boston.
Tara Sullivan, Globe columnist
When I showed up at Gangneung Gymnasium for the gold medal curling match at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, I truly had no idea what to expect. More than 20 years in sportswriting and I’d never even written about curling, never mind seeing it live. But only a day away from a long-awaited trip home and nearly giddy with exhaustion, I knew my first Olympic experience wouldn’t be complete without it. So I headed out to see the US take on heavily favored Sweden. I wasn’t alone. The arena was packed, and seats were scarce, but I managed to squeeze into a section of the stands among some fantastic Olympic colleagues like Dan Wetzel, Julie Foudy, Mike Rosenberg, and Barry Svrulga. Together we witnessed history, when the US, led by skip John Shuster, used an epic seventh end to secure the win. That I now understand that sentence is a credit to my favorite personal sports memory of the year.
Peter Abraham, Red Sox beat writer
You’re forgiven if you don’t remember Tony Renda playing for the Red Sox last season. He was on the field for one game and four pitches, maybe two minutes.
But what a memorable two minutes.
It was on Aug. 5 at Fenway Park, a Sunday night game against the Yankees. Renda, a 26-year-old infielder, had been called up from Triple A Pawtucket the day before.
With two outs in the 10th inning of a 3-3 game, Sandy Leon singled and went to second on a wild pitch. In came Renda to pinch run.
Andrew Benintendi bounced a ball up the middle into center field and Renda scored, joyously sliding headfirst.
The crowd chanted, “Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!” as it left Fenway. The Sox had taken four games to build a 9½-game lead in the division.
The Yankees were toast and Renda helped do them in.
“Best run I’ve ever scored in my life,” he said.
Renda went back to the minors three days later and never returned. But he had his moment and it was one of the best of a magic season.
Adam Himmelsbach, Celtics beat writer
This moment needs a disclaimer. Yes, the reason Terry Rozier’s father had never seen his son play a basketball game in person before was because he was incarcerated for most of his son’s life for committing violent crimes, including involuntary manslaughter. But he has served his time and he claims to be a changed man ready for a fresh start. And, most important, the younger Rozier had nothing to do with what happened. The Celtics point guard just grew up without a father at his basketball games, even though they maintained a bond from afar. So it was cool to see what it meant to Rozier to have his father courtside for the Celtics’ preseason game in Cleveland in October.
At that time the elder Rozier was not yet allowed to leave the state of Ohio. The father spent most of the game taking pictures of his son, and after the final buzzer Rozier made a beeline toward him and gave him the jersey off his back. About an hour later, Rozier Sr. stood in the arena’s concourse with friends and family members, and his son’s jersey draped over his shoulder, and Terry told him that he could not wait for him to come to Boston, too. Every son should be able to have a moment like that with his dad.
Hayden Bird, Boston.com writer
It’s rare that my widely dispersed sports interests overlap, but when a rumor emerged that Robert Kraft was on the verge of buying Spanish soccer team Sevilla, that’s exactly what happened. Skeptical that the initial reports were necessarily true, I did a little bit of digging. A quick Twitter search revealed a different story, and the net result was a hilarious discovery: The entire rumor was fabricated by Spanish NFL fans in a WhatsApp group. This is the type of strange but useful journalism you can do when you cover New England sports but also love soccer.
Chad Finn, Globe writer and sports media columnist
As someone who catches on to only the most obvious metaphors, I must bow my head and admit that I already spent my Small Behind-The-Scenes Moment That Neatly Sums Up The Sports Year in our World Series commemorative section. Then, I wrote about David Ortiz engulfing Mookie Betts in a hug in the delirium following the Red Sox’ clinching victory in Game 5 of the World Series, the Red Sox superstar champion of the present literally embracing the superstar champion of the moment. That will remain the first scene I will recall when I reminisce about this year in the future. But a few innings before that, as I sat in the Dodger Stadium press box on a bucolic California night and watched the Red Sox charge toward the inevitable, something else dawned on me: All of us — fans and media alike, for once — should have immense gratitude for living in the place and time in Boston sports history. I realized that over the course of the calendar year, I had been able to cover the Patriots in yet another Super Bowl, a charge to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals by an undermanned Celtics team, and in a few more outs, a fourth Red Sox World Series title of my lifetime. No, they couldn’t win ’em all. But I never want to lose the appreciation for all that our teams did do in 2018. And you know, those Bruins weren’t too shabby either.
Rachel G. Bowers, assistant sports editor
This isn’t just my favorite sports memory of the year, but the best sporting event I have seen live: The Olympic gold medal women’s hockey game between the US and Canada in South Korea. Writing about the Americans a few times during the tournament, I could see how truly close the players were, how much this meant to them, how happy and loose they were — how much they believed.
And this gold-medal game had everything sports fans could hope for in a championship game: A 20-year gold medal drought for the Americans, a dominant Olympic run the last four Games by the Canadians, their fierce rivalry, the Americans coming off a threat to strike last year to get the pay they deserve, a tense first two periods, a late goal to send it to overtime, a six-shot shootout, a sweetsweetsweet winner by Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, an unbelievable performance in net by 20-year-old Maddie Rooney. Sports can be the greatest.
Alex Speier, Red Sox writer
On an arctic mid-January evening, new Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers met two Globe colleagues and me inside the Red Sox batting cage at Fenway Park to discuss baseball’s swing revolution. He spoke with concepts and details that I hadn’t previously encountered while imagining ways that the Red Sox might tap into still-unexplored potential of players such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. I came away from the session thinking that, at the least, the 2018 season would alter fundamentally my understanding of the modern offensive game, and that if Hyers was right, the Red Sox offense might realize drastic improvement. Both things transpired, with that conversation offering the first tangible evidence of a paradigm shift at the field level that turned tremendous talent into arguably the most dominant Red Sox team of all time.
Nora Princiotti, Patriots beat writer
I’ll remember 2018 for my trip to the Belmont Stakes with Rob Gronkowski and his family, where we watched Gronkowski the horse finish a surprising second to Triple Crown winner Justify. Gronk the horse started in last place, and the howls coming from the Gronkowski box in the stands as he made his way to the front were hysterical. There was plenty of fish-out-of-water comedy with Gronkowski, his brothers, and dad spending a day at the races with all the horsey types, and Gronk the horse was a doll.
Matt Porter, Bruins beat writer
Whenever someone asks me what it was like to travel to China with the Bruins, I typically mention how breathtaking it was to see the Great Wall. It was spectacular. Pictures do not do it justice.
It is also the most concrete, vivid memory in a trip that was otherwise a blur. As a summer arrival to the Bruins beat, I had some catching up to do. Little could have prepared me for 10 days in China with a group of people I barely knew.
Shenzhen, China, is where I covered my first preseason game, navigating with the heavy assistance of a translator app, in a place seemingly unaware the NHL was visiting. It was difficult to accomplish anything in a timely manner, from ordering food to hailing a cab to traveling a short distance. Scooters whizzed by pedestrians on the sidewalks. Drivers on the roads seemed insane to me. The jet lag was brutal.
But when I stood at the peak of one section of the Wall, on the mountains above Beijing, I thought of how fortunate I am to do this for a living — and how life is rarely what you expect.