As we get ready to close the book on 2018, you'll hear a lot of negative sentiments about the year that was. While there was quite a lot of bad news that seemed to dominate the headlines over the 12 months, there was also some good news sprinkled in, too. If you're in the mood to stay positive heading into 2019, here -- in no particular order -- are 15 sports stories & moments that left us feeling good in 2018.
Ovechkin, Capitals finally win the Stanley Cup
It took years and years of heartbreak and disappointment, but Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals finally made it over the playoff hump were able to capture their first Stanley Cup this spring. Ovechkin was a force throughout the Caps' championship run, and his cathartic Cup raise was one of the best, most emotional Stanley Cup moments in the history of the NHL. Getting to see a team or individual shed a "playoff choker" label is always cool, but getting to see both do it simultaneously was truly special.
Fleury leads Golden Knights to incredible first season
While the Golden Knights officially entered the NHL's landscape in 2017, their inaugural season concluded in 2018 -- and it did so in the Stanley Cup Final. Not many people gave Vegas much of a shot to be competitive in their first season but the Knights were an incredible, improbable Cinderella story comprised of misfits. One of those leading misfits was Marc-Andre Fleury, the former Penguins goaltender who managed to revitalize his career with a fresh start on the Strip. Fleury was especially great in the postseason, a spot he struggled in for a number of years towards the beginning of his career.
Foles steps in to win Super Bowl
When Carson Wentz was lost to a knee injury last season, it seemed fair to write off the Eagles and consider their once-promising Super Bowl hopes canceled. However, backup quarterback Nick Foles stepped in with something to say about that. Not only did Foles lead the Eagles all the way to Super Bowl LII in Minnesota, but he delivered a huge performance to stun the New England Patriots (of all teams) and lock up the franchise's first-ever championship, winning Super Bowl MVP in the process.
Tiger gets an elusive win
The world has long been waiting for Tiger Woods' return to the top of the golf world, and it seemed like every time he got close there was always disappointment waiting at the end. Not at the 2018 Tour Championship, though. The five-year wait between wins ended up being worth every second, as the spectacle for his victory at East Lake was a legendary moment in golf history. With a win all but locked up as Tiger walked the final hole, he was swarmed by a massive amount of fans from every direction.
When the winning putt sank to the bottom of the cup, the crowd went absolutely nuts and Tiger let the emotions flow.
It was a long, frustrating and tumultuous road back to the top of the leaderboard for Tiger, but the long-waited victory was one of the best moments of 2018. It may not have been a major, but it was a welcome reminder of just how big of an impact Tiger has on the sport when he's at the top of his game.
Ingram makes his NBA debut
, playing in the NBA always seemed like a long shot. He was undrafted in 2007 out of American University and signed with the G League, where he'd stay for the next decade, grinding his way to becoming a minor-league lifer. That is until this April, when the Lakers called Ingram up for their final two games of the season. At 32 years old, he was going to make his NBA debut. As you'd imagine, it was a great moment for a guy that has dreamed of playing in the NBA his entire life.
That alone could have made Ingram's story one of the best feel-good basketball moments this year, but it didn't end there. Ingram took it up a notch when he dropped 19 points in his debut, becoming the oldest player to score 15-plus points in an NBA debut since 1963. He didn't miss a shot until the fourth quarter.
While it may have just been a flash in the pan, Ingram's story was still an amazing one that was incredibly to feel good about.
Browns turn the corner
The Cleveland Browns not only won one football game in 2018 (an improvement), they won several! In fact, they were able to climb out of the basement of the AFC North for the first time in years. Adding Baker Mayfield and subtracting Hue Jackson seems to work wonders for the outlook of the team and, finally, the league's biggest punching bag of a fanbase has something to be positive about. Oh, and not for nothing, they also starred in one of the most entertaining seasons of HBO's 'Hard Knocks' in years.
USA curling wins gold
The most unexpected and improbable United States gold medal at this year's Winter Olympics came from the American curling squad, which knocked off a number of impressive opponents -- including Canada (twice), Switzerland, Great Britain, and Sweden -- in to take home gold. It was the best finish in U.S. curling history and it came from one of the most fun, charismatic groups to ever represent the country.
USA women's hockey team tops Canada
This year, in the third straight Winter Olympics, Team USA met Canada in the women's hockey final with gold on the line. While Canada took the prior two, this time it was the Americans who came away victorious thanks to a thrilling 3-2 shootout win. It resulted in Team USA's first gold medal in 20 years, and it was an extremely cathartic one for many of the American women. Not only did the victory dethrone Canada and help to erase the heartbreak of past losses, it also came on the heels of a program boycott over fair wages and equitable support just months prior.
USA stars dominate snowboarding in PyeongChang
Chloe Kim became the new face of American snowboarding this year when, as a 17-year-old, she became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal, capturing gold in the women's snowboard halfpipe. She also became an Olympic darling during her time in South Korea, not only for her insane displays on powder but also for the personality she showcased on the world's stage. (Mainly, tweeting about food literally in between runs in the halftime competition.)
Could be down for some ice cream rn— Chloe Kim (@ChloeKim) February 12, 2018
While Kim dominated on women's side, veteran Shaun White also starred on the men's side, successfully finding redemption after a failed 2014 Olympics. White won his third gold medal in the men's halfpipe despite suffering a brutal crash that required facial repairs just months before the start of the Olympics. Additionally, 17-year-old Red Gerard became the youngest American male athlete to medal at the Winter Olympics since 1928 when he took home a gold medal in the men's snowboard slopestyle.
Justify wins Triple Crown
Horse racing saw a legend emerge in 2018 when Justify successfully achieved one of the most elusive and illustrious achievements in sports -- thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner in racing history, the first to do it since American Pharoah in 2015. Following his wins at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, Justify was officially retired from racing with a perfect 6-0 record.
Loyola-Chicago/Sister Jean reach Final Four
At 98 years old, Sister Jean became an international superstar during Loyola-Chicago's improbable run to the Final Four during the 2018 NCAA tournament. The sister served as team chaplain and garnered a staggering amount of love and admiration throughout the tournament, becoming the face of an underdog squad that became just the second Loyola team to make the Final Four in program history (the first since 1963).
Sports gambling legalized by Supreme Court
All your degenerate friends found their biggest feel-good moment of the year when the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports gambling with a vote in May. The decision green-lighted individual states to determine whether they'll allow sports gambling, opening up how and where fans can bet on sports. Considering how popular sports gambling was despite the federal ban (it was estimated that Americans illegally wagered about $150 billion on sports each year) it seemed like an overdue ruling. It also seemed to be a feel-good highlight for several major pro leagues, as the NBA, NHL and MLB quickly landed national gambling sponsorship deals with MGM.
Flyers introduce Gritty to the world
No feel-good list is complete without Gritty. The Flyers unveiled their new mascot in September and he quickly became a beacon of joy, and yet also terror. But the world is a better place with disgusting, horrifying and sadistic sports mascots, so thank God for Gritty.
Rams-Chiefs Monday Night Football shootout
There were plenty of great games to be had in 2018, but arguably the most memorable came in the form of a Monday Night Football matchup between the Rams and the Chiefs this November. The thrilling shootout was quite possibly the greatest regular season NFL game of all-time, with the the Rams taking the 54-51 victory at Los Angeles Coliseum. The highly-anticipated matchup seemed to set an impossible bar with all the pre-game hype, but somehow it still managed to smash expectations and then some. It was the first game in NFL history in which both teams scored at least 50 points. It featured six lead changes, four of which came in the fourth quarter. It was just one of the most fun collective sports experiences of the year, and it was one of those games that will be remembered fondly for a long, long time -- even by the Kansas City faithful.
David Wright's farewell
David Wright said goodbye to baseball this year, though not before getting an emotional final sendoff from the New York Mets -- the team he grew up rooting for and the only team he played for during his 14-year career -- and their faithful. Wright was ceremoniously pulled from one final game at Citi Field and he received a rousing ovation from those in attendance as he tearfully saluted the crowd and embraced his teammates. Wright had a tremendous individual career in New York and became a beloved Mets icon, but he spent the last four years struggling to combat injuries and stay on the field. With that in mind, it was a very cool moment to see him be able to take the field and get the farewell he deserved.