Everything changed for the Chicago Cubs on a rainy November night. A century-plus worth of heartache washed away by a wave of pure joy. There were hugs, cheers, and tears — and bottles and bottles of booze, sprayed everywhere from Cleveland to the shadow of Wrigley Field. Lovable losers, no more. The story of so many lifetimes is the Associated Press’s Sports Story of the Year. The Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908 collected 48 of 59 first-place votes and 549 points in balloting by AP members and editors that was released Sunday. The death of Muhammad Ali after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease was second with 427 points, and LeBron James leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the franchise’s first NBA title took third with 425 points.
AP voting for 2016’s top sports story
Total points based on five for first-place vote through one for a fifth-place vote; first-place votes in parentheses.
549 (48) — Cubs win first World Series since 1908
427 (4) — Muhammad Ali dies
425 (3) — LeBron James leads Cavs to first NBA title
223 — Broncos win Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s last game
215 (1) — Colin Kaepernick anthem protest
188 — Arnold Palmer dies
177 (1) — Olympics-Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky lead U.S. swimmers
126 — Olympics-Usain Bolt wins 100, 200 and 4x100 golds for third time
124 — Olympics-Simone Biles leads U.S. women’s gymnastics
116 (1) — Leicester City wins English Premier League soccer title
113 — Olympics-Ryan Lochte controversy
95 (1) — Alabama wins NCAA football title
85 — Villanova wins NCAA men’s basketball title
59 — Jimmie Johnson wins NASCAR Winston Cup championship
56 — Gordie Howe dies
55 — Olympics-Russia doping
48 — UConn wins fourth consecutive NCAA women’s basketball title
40 — US wins Ryder Cup
38 — Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense plane crash
35 — Olympics-Dirty water, logistical problems, crime
18 — Penguins win Stanley Cup
9 — Openly gay Derrick Gordon leads Seton Hall to Big East basketball title
6 — NFL TV ratings decline
6 — Warriors set NBA record with 73 wins
5 — Tom Brady ends Deflategate appeal
4 — Nico Rosburg wins Formula 1 title, retires
2 — Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit dies
1 — Dustin Johnson wins U.S. Open golf championship
Hawaii snaps its 10-year bowl skid
Hawaii has come quite a ways in one season under coach Nick Rolovich, culminating in snapping a decade-long skid on Saturday night. Dru Brown threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns and the Rainbow Warriors (7-7) overcame an early deficit to beat Middle Tennessee, 52-35, in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu. The victory marked Hawaii’s first bowl win since 2006, an unlikely end to a season that began with losses in three of its first four games under Rolovich. ‘‘I'm grateful for their effort,” said Rolovich, whose team had its first turnover-free game of the year. Hawaii turned three turnovers by Middle Tennessee (8-5) into 21 points. The Blue Raiders outgained the Rainbow Warriors, 542 total yards to 500.
Miami of Ohio puts win streak on line
Miami of Ohio is the first team in FBS history to overcome a 0-6 start to finish the regular season 6-6. In Monday’s St. Petersburg Bowl, the RedHawks — cochampions of the Mid-American East Division — take on a team from the Southeastern Conference in Mississippi State (5-7), which has a worse record than Miami. ‘‘Our kids are super excited for the challenge. . . . We’re super excited to play a SEC school,’’ RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. ‘‘It’s cool.’’ The Bulldogs were selected to play, despite their losing record, because of their NCAA Academic Progress Rate. Said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, ‘‘The message for our guys was, we didn’t have our best season but because of our academics and how we have taken care of things in the classroom, they got rewarded with a bowl game.’’ . . . Two .500 teams will get together at Monday’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Vanderbilt (6-6) appeared headed for a lost season in the SEC until back-to-back upsets of Mississippi and Tennessee clinched bowl eligibility. The Commodores are in the postseason for the first time since 2013. North Carolina State (6-6) can relate to Vanderbilt’s story. The Wolfpack started the season 4-1, then lost five of six before upsetting North Carolina Nov. 25 — the last time N.C. State played. ‘‘There are always highs and lows, ups and downs, but you do remember how you finish, and these guys have finished together,’’ Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said.
Bautista hasn’t closed book on Jays
According to a report by Yahoo Sports, free agent slugger Jose Bautista may be willing to return to the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year deal if the salary exceeds the $17.2 million qualifying offer he rejected following the season . . . Zylan Cheatham had 16 points and 11 rebounds to help San Diego State (8-4) beat San Francisco, 62-48, for the Diamond Head Classic championship in Honolulu. The Aztecs hit nine 3-poiners against the Dons (10-3) to set a tournament record with 29 threes over three games. Paris Lee (18 points) and Illinois State (8-4) cruised past Tulsa, 68-56, for third place. In the fifth-place game, Utah (9-3) defeated Stephen F. Austin, 74-66. Hawaii (5-7) snapped a four-game skid with a 60-46 win over Southern Mississippi in the seventh-place game.