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Looking back at 2004

Craig Depken posted his list of the top twenty sports topics in 2004. It's a nice blend of sporting achievements, economic and fiscal implications of sport, and ignominious episodes.

I'd add one thing to Craig's list, and I'd put it at the top. 2004 was the year in which analytical methods became widely recognized as critical to success on the field. Moneyball was published in 2003, and while the thesis was largely (and correctly according to a paper of mine with Jahn Hakes) accepted among people with economic and financial knowledge, it was hotly debated in baseball circles. Then the Boston Red Sox, a team owned and managed by analytical types, broke the curse and won the World Series in 2004. That development was the icing on the cake. Preceding that, in April, Arsenal won England's Premier League under the guidance of "The Professor," Arsene Wenger. The man with a degree in Economics didn't just guide the team to the title, he did it on a budget, he did it by going unbeaten (an unprecedented feat), and did it playing with a style that won applause from all corners of the football world. The championships of the Sox and the Gunners were achievements of historic magnitude. And let's not forget that the year began with Wenger's counterpart in American Football, Bill Belichick winning his second Super Bowl victory in three years with the Patriots. It was a phenomenal year for analytical management in sport.

On the financial side, the mirage of "economic impact" has burdened Greece with debt service that will consume a couple of percent of GDP for the forseeable future. I'd move that above the Cowboys' heist of Arlington, and MLB's fleecing of D.C. in terms of economic significance.

As for individuals, I have never seen a pitching performance as brilliant as Randy Johnson's perfect game against Atlanta, and I'll never forget it. Amazing, jaw-dropping, and ultimately exhilarating. Perfection, indeed, hence it tops my list of individual feats.

Happy New Year, everyone!