2006 Sports: Peyton's Party & The Mason Miracle
This article offers a snapshot of 2006 sports, a year that saw Peyton Manning get a long-sought Super Bowl win and a stunning Final Four run by George Mason lead up the year.
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The year 2006 was a long time coming for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The franchise had arrived as a contender in the 1999 season, but suffered repeated playoff frustration, especially at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Perhaps it was fitting that en route to his first Super Bowl title, Peyton had to overcome a significant stretch of bad playoff football, fall into a 21-3 hole against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, before finally rallying to win and eventually bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.
Indianapolis had more than New England to contend with in the AFC. The 2006 AFC playoffs were as stacked as any one side of an NFL postseason bracket has ever been. The four best teams in football were in the AFC, and the best of them all—at least during the regular season—was the San Diego Chargers.
The playoffs would prove to be the last, futile stand of Charger head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who had won as consistently as any man who has ever coached this game since he began as boss in Cleveland midway through the 1984 season. But Schottenheimer’s playoff frustrations were legendary, and 2006 added to the list.
Read more about the 2006 Indianapolis Colts and the entire stacked bracket in the 2006 AFC playoffs.
If the AFC playoff bracket was stacked in 2006, then the NCAA Tournament bracket was positively gutted. No #1 seeds made the Final Four, including UConn, the top-heavy favorite to win the whole thing. And no story was more stunning than George Mason, who came from the 11-seed in the East to upset UConn and make the Final Four. The Mason Miracle, even though it didn’t end in a national title, remains the historical signature of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
Read more about the 2006 George Mason basketball run.
It was the Florida basketball team that went on to win the Final Four, and it was part of an amazing year in Gainesville. The Gators became the first team to win the NCAA basketball and football titles in the same academic year. Billy Donovan’s basketball team beat George Mason and UCLA to win the Final Four, and then Urban Meyer’s football program dismantled Ohio State to capture the BCS National Championship. Read more about the 2006 Florida Gators—both hoops and football.
The football crown for Florida was unexpected. In 2006, SEC dominance was not taken as a rule of life—the conference had just one national championship in the previous seven seasons. What most college football fans had been focusing on was the buildup to the Michigan-Ohio State game, one that featured the teams ranked 1-2 in the country and promising to be the biggest game in the history of a storied rivalry.
Even though the winner didn’t go on, as expected to claim the national championship, it was still a game worth remembering, from the anticipation to the aftermath. Read more about the 2006 Michigan-Ohio State game.
The Fiesta Bowl didn’t impact the national championship race, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t memorable. The Boise State Broncos went undefeated and cracked the BCS, getting an invitation to play the Oklahoma Sooners on New Year’s Night. Many observers–myself included–felt this would be the game when unbeaten midmajors would be completely exposed and the major bowls again restricted to teams from the power conference. The only thing exposed that night in Phoenix was our ignorance.
Boise State let it all hang out. They ran the hook-and-trail, mixed in some other razzle-dazzle and took OU to overtime. Trailing in OT, 42-35, Boise scored a touchdown and then decided to win or lose it with a two-point conversion. The “Statue Of Liberty” trick play produced the conversion and with their 43-42 win, Boise had produced one of college football’s great upsets.
They have since gone on to win regular seasons games against quality power conference competition, and other midmajor teams have gotten opportunities to play in big bowl games–including TCU, who won the Rose Bowl following the 2010 season. It all had its roots in a memorable night in the desert.
Three more teams won championships in 2006. The St. Louis Cardinals were coming off consecutive years where they had dominant regular seasons, but came up short of a World Series title. The 2006 team had one of the most pedestrian regular seasons ever seen by any playoff team, but turned it on in October and won a title.
The Carolina Hurricanes turned the focus of Tobacco Road away from basketball and onto the ice for one glorious spring as they won the Stanley Cup. And the Miami Heat, with couple of Los Angeles imports in Shaquille O’Neal and Pat Riley, and led by the young and dynamic Dwayne Wade, won the NBA title.
Read more at the following links of the 2006 title runs for the St. Louis Cardinals, Carolina Hurricanes and Miami Heat.
The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals Break Down The World Series Door
The 2006 Carolina Hurricanes Turn Tobacco Road Into Hockey Country
The 2006 Miami Heat & Their NBA Championship Run