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Top 10 National Stories

1. White Sox Win It All

* They swept the defending champions and media darlings, the Boston Red Sox, in the first round of the playoffs. They beat the Angels in the American League championship series, four games to one, with a controversial assist from umpire Doug Eddings. They swept Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros to win their first World Series since 1917. The only thing they did wrong was not play their home games in Boston or New York.

2. Hurricane Katrina

* The devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina sent shockwaves through the sports world as well. With the Louisiana Superdome rendered unplayable, the New Orleans Saints were forced to play one home game in New Jersey and split seven others between Baton Rouge, La., and San Antonio. Likewise, the New Orleans Hornets moved most of their home games to Oklahoma City for the 2005-06 season. For the Saints, this meant a lost season and a sobering look at American greed and opportunism, with San Antonio officials conspiring with Saint owner Tom Benson to move in and possibly pirate the franchise away to Texas.

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3. Lance Logs No. 7

* How will Lance Armstrong’s unprecedented seven-year ride be remembered a half a century from now? As a Tour de France tour de force? As an incredible victory of spirit and drive over life-threatening illness? Or as a dynasty forged beneath the never-dissipating specter of illegal performance-enhancing drugs?

4. More Drugs

* You couldn’t go too many days in 2005 without opening the sports section or flipping on ESPN and learning about more big names linked to steroids. From Mark McGwire to Rafael Palmeiro to Marion Jones to Tim Montgomery, the broad brush of performance-enhancing rumor and proof painted many high-profile careers into a humiliating corner.

5. The Great Trojan Dynasty

* The Trojans opened 2005 with a 55-19 thrashing of Oklahoma, then kept on rolling: 12 more regular-season victories (for a current winning streak of 34), another Heisman Trophy (three in four years for USC), an average of 580 yards and 50 points a game and a shot at a possible third consecutive national title against Texas in the Rose Bowl.

6. The Great Patriot Dynasty

* They said it couldn’t be done in this watered-down NFL era of parity and free agency. But there the New England Patriots are, winners of three of the last four Super Bowls and headed into the upcoming playoffs with a good head of steam, weathering attrition in the coaching staff and throughout the defense and throwing a scare into every AFC team that qualified for the postseason, Indianapolis included.

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7. The Great Silent Dynasty

* While tears are still shed for the demise of the Shaq-Kobe glory years and eyes widen when discussing the Detroit Pistons’ exploits with and without Larry Brown, the San Antonio Spurs are sitting on three NBA championships in six seasons. Maybe if they brawled in the locker room -- or better yet, with fans in the stands -- more people would notice.

8. Breaking Into the Old Boys’ Club

* Danica Patrick almost won the Indy 500. Michelle Wie almost made the cut at a PGA Tour event. Liz Johnson reached the final of a PBA Tour stop. Big-time sports are going co-ed, whether the Hooties and the codgers like it or not.

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9. Roy, Once and for All

* Roy Williams finally won the one they said he couldn’t win, taking over at North Carolina and taking the underachieving Tar Heels all the way to the NCAA championship, culminating in a memorable title-game triumph over Illinois.

10. Tiger, Twice More

* After a down 2004 -- no majors, No. 1 ranking ceded to Vijay Singh -- Tiger Woods rebounded with victories at the Masters (highlighted by an unforgettable birdie chip on No. 16 on Sunday) and the British Open, along with a second-place showing at the U.S. Open. Evidently, marriage agrees with Woods after all.

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-- MIKE PENNER


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