2015 is almost over. Seriously, there are only 23 days left until you celebrate New Years by: a) sitting at home watching college football while everyone else in your life is outside enjoying themselves, or b) grousing about how you are not sitting at home watching college football.
We are strong supporters of the reflection the end of the year brings -- it's always good to stop for a second and figure out where you are, where you've been and where you're going -- and thus find the traditional and requisite end-of-year listmaking not just irresistible but therapeutic. So for the next four Tuesdays, we'll be putting together some top-10 lists for the year we just survived, barely. First: the top 10 teams of 2015.
It is important to remember when ranking teams in a certain calendar year, of course, that in most sports, a season crosses over two years. The first half of 2015 for, say, Chelsea, was a lot more pleasant than the second half has been. But the key factor in this list still remains championships: If you won a title in that calendar year, no matter what happened afterward, it was a good year. So 2015 has been better, in this calculation, for Chelsea than it has been for Leicester City. If Leicester can hang on to its current top spot in the Premier League, well, we'll see you in 2016.
For now, though, the top teams of 2015.
10. Portland Timbers. Sure, they may have actually finished only tied for second in the Western Conference, but this is America, people: The postseason is what counts here. Portland beat Columbus, 2-1, just this past weekend to win the 20th MLS Cup -- in one of the craziest finals in the Cup's history -- but what pushes the Timbers into the top 10 is that insane fan support. Hundreds of fans met them at the airport when they arrived back in Portland, and they were expecting thousands upon thousands at their downtown rally Tuesday afternoon. And don't forget the most ridiculous, fantastic mascot in all of North American sports, the incomparable Timber Joey.
9. Chelsea. It dominated the Premier League so thoroughly last season that the final two months of the EPL season were sort of dull. (This is not going to be a problem this year.) It might seem strange to see Chelsea in the top 10 of sports teams in 2015 considering it is not currently in the top 10 of the Premier League -- currently 14th! Chelsea! -- but you cannot take that title away.
8. Duke Blue Devils. They get the college team edge over Ohio State because they were a charismatic team lead by several future NBA players, and because they did it against Wisconsin, a squad that had just bested an undefeated Kentucky team. (It also hurts Ohio State that the Buckeyes were the first College Football Playoff champions. It's almost like we don't have context for them yet.) The atmosphere in Indianapolis was among the best in recent Final Four history, and it wouldn't have been that way without Duke. It even makes up for the Ted Cruz problem.
Duke basketball player, Grayson Allen looks a lot like Ted Cruz pic.twitter.com/8aAZhBKOVJ— A D A M ! ! ! (@AdamCBivins) December 2, 2015
7. Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks finished third in their own division, but that didn't matter in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in the last six years. Even better, it was the first time they had clinched the Cup in Chicago since 1938. People were pretty excited.
6. Kansas City Royals. Lost in all the excitement over the Royals' first championship since 1985 was the fact that they had the best record in the American League this year. This was not an October surprise, or at least it shouldn't have been. Somehow, returning to win the title a year after coming so close made it even sweeter.
5. Minnesota Lynx. The Lynx might just be the most overwhelming, overpowering team in all of North American professional sports. They've won three of the last five WNBA titles, and they have Maya Moore, perhaps the sport's best, most popular player. But it's not just that. When your team wins a championship, does Prince play in celebration until 4 a.m.? No? Well, that's what happens when the Lynx win.
4. New England Patriots. Well, the Patriots were certainly the most champions of 2015. You couldn't get away from them this year, whether it was winning the Super Bowl on that, uh, bewildering Seahawks playcall, or, of course, Deflategate, a word we fear we'll be whispering on our deathbed. They drop a spot with the losses of the last couple of weeks -- had they gone undefeated this season, it would have been the ultimate vengeance -- but this was their first title in a decade. They made this one count.
3. Barcelona. Tough to top what Barcelona did this year. It edged out Real Madrid to win La Liga, and while that was happening, it up and won the Champions League. By beating Juventus, Barcelona won its fourth Champions League title in the last 10 years. It's sort of nice having Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, apparently.
2. Golden State Warriors. No team took its league more by storm than the Warriors, who rode a new coach, a dynamic offensive system and the most exciting, intoxicating player to watch in decades to an NBA title, ushering in an electrifying new style of basketball that's doing wonders for the league's image. And, oh by the way, their title defense happens to be the best start in professional sports history.
1. USWNT. Maybe you like baseball, or football, or basketball, or soccer. Maybe you don't like sports at all. Maybe you just had a spare Sunday afternoon in July. But the U.S. women's national soccer team -- during a fractious, contentious, sometimes downright ugly year in our national conversation -- unified us all in a way nothing else did. If you didn't like the USWNT, I'm not sure if you like anything.