2010: The Year Of Cain (And Kane)
A familiar sports saying, mostly used by older generations to describe culture change, is that something is "going to hell". In 2010, that generic phrase may have played out more literally than ever before. For this year, one name dominated the sports world, in a way a name rarely dominates across such a wide spectrum. Look at many different sports and one classical, infamous name rose above the rest. That name is Cain. In 2010 people with that name were raising Cain and titles.
Cain is a Biblical name, derived as one of the two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain killed his brother Abel, over a produce and meat dispute. Cain was the Original Vegan. The name Cain is seen in some realms as a sign of evil or more appropriately for sports, a curse. In 2010, the Cains of the world lifted curses and reached heights across the entire sports spectrum.
In the NFL, there are 2 players with the last name Cain. One is Jeremy Cain, long snapper for the Jacksonville Jaguars. A franchise left for dead, thought to be moving because of a lack of fan support, has been revived in 2010 The Jaguars can clinch the division with a win Sunday against the beasts of the AFC South, the Colts. Not sure the long snapper has a huge influence on the turnaround of a team, but just ask the Redskins about the importance of the field goal snap.
The other NFL player with the name plays a larger role on his team, currently the team tied for the best record in football. Tully Banta-Cain, linebacker for the New England Patriots, has 4 sacks this year and looks to be part of a team playing as dominant of football as they wear during mid-season 2007. The Cains have to hope that the huge success of the Cain name carries over into 2011 and the Super Bowl.
One of the largest curses in baseball belonged to the San Francisco Giants. The city of San Francisco had never seen a World Series Championship, and the Giants franchise last won a World Series in 1954, by beating the Indians (a truly cursed franchise). This year looked like it belonged to the Red Sox or the Yankees or the Phillies or a darkhorse like the Rockies. The Giants were an afterthought, and were barely even televised until September. Matt Cain was the 2nd or 3rd starter on a talented but unnoticed staff. In 2007, he had an ERA of 3.65, yet had a 7-13 record. In 2008, Cain had a similar record with a similar ERA. Cain pitched much better in 2009, but he was never seen as the pitcher to lead a team to a championship. Tim Lincecum was the one guy on the Giants staff who was thought of in that fashion.
Lincecum and Brian Wilson still may have been the most talented pitchers on the Giants during their run, but Matt Cain was the best. In 21 1/3 innings in the playoffs, Cain allowed 1 run, 0 earned runs. All of the big spending teams were knocked out and didn't make the playoffs, and only the Rangers and Giants were standing in the World Series. With smoke rising from the ashes (and the cans, and bongs, and joints), the Giants finally won a World title in San Francisco, thanks in large part to Cain.
Cain also has another spelling in terms of a name, and that is Kane, and a Kane helped lift the biggest curse in the NHL. Patrick Kane had a pretty impressive 2010, where he emerged as one of the best players on the US Olympic team that went to overtime before losing to Canada. Kane's work was much more impressive with the Blackhawks, a franchise that last won the Stanley Cup in 1961. The longest stretch between winning the Cup has lingered over Chicago, where the Blackhawks hadn't even won a Finals game since 1973. Without Kane, the Blackhawks may not have even gotten out of round 1.
Chicago played Nashville, a scrappy defensively sound team that gave the Blackhawks fits. Nashville looked to be set to go up 3 games to 2, as they had a power play with under a minute to go leading 4-3. Marion Hossa had a boarding penalty, Chicago had an empty net, yet Patrick Sharp was able to drive to the net for a shot. Sharp's shot didn't go in, but Patrick Kane was there for the rebound to tie the game at 4 with 13.6 seconds to go. Nashville were dead to rites at that moment and rested in peace. The Canucks and Sharks followed as the Blackhawks returned to the Cup Finals, to face a Flyers team that had a drought of their own, 35 years. The last time the Flyers won the Cup, they were part of a famous fog game. The only smoke this time around came in the form of an almost magical game winning goal.
In one of the strangest sports moments of the year, for a moment, the game winning Stanley Cup clinching goal was only celebrated by a few people, with the crowd and viewers unsure of just what happened. Patrick Kane made a nifty move around a defender and shot the puck towards the net. The gap the puck went through because Michael Leighton and the post was so small that it didn't seem possible that it was a goal. A few Blackhawks pointed at the net, and Kane raised down the ice in celebration while the Flyers just stood still. Kane eradicated 49 years of waiting in an instant, in a goal so quick that it was like a stabbing in the back.
Cain and Kane playing a key role in football, baseball and hockey is strange enough in 1 year, yet the reach of the Cain dominance went beyond team sports. In 2010, the UFC had another fantastic year, with sell-outs all around the world and big PPV numbers. The UFC has some big names, like Anderson Silva and Georges St Pierre, but the biggest and baddest name in UFC is Brock Lesnar. Brock has some health issues, recovering from surgery to overcome diverticulitis. The UFC Heavyweight Title was in a bit of a flux, with the champion on the shelf. Shane Carwin won an interim title fight, and Lesnar came back in July to crown the unified Heavyweight Champion. Lesnar survived some pounding and eventually choked out Carwin to prove again he was the beast of UFC. Then again, even beasts can be fearful of Cain.
The man in waiting, ready to take down the beast was undefeated Cain Velasquez. Velasquez was thought to be solid but lacked striking power, and was an underdog in his Februrary fight. After knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in February, the striking power question was definitively answered. Cain became the #1 contender and the next opponent for the winner of the UFC Heavyweight Title fight, a fight which took place in October. A bit smaller and lighter than Lesnar, Cain was still a sizable opponent for the mighty Brock, yet Lesnar looked ready to showcase his massive size and skill. Lesnar didn't make it to the bell in round 1. Cain destroyed Brock, pummeling him for over 4 minutes to win and take the UFC Heavyweight Title. In this battle, Cain played the role of David, and beat Goliath. David has bulked up since the stone and sword days.
With all of the success of Cain's in 2010, the most well known Kane may be the professional wrestler. Ever since Glen Jacobs put on a mask in 1997 and walked through hell fire and brimstone, Kane has been fighting bad storylines and underachievement. For the build up of the character and level that he has been near for years, Kane was only a World Champion for one day during his 12 year span. Now I understand Kane the wrestler winning the title is nothing like Cain the fighter winning one, but it seemed like the writers and management in the WWE liked Kane, just not enough to give him the World Title.
In 2010, the WWE seemed ready to shift more into a youth movement mode, with wrestlers like Kane being pushed down the card. Then again, it was 2010, and someone, somewhere in the WWE decided it was Kane's time. On July 18th, Kane beat Rey Mysterio for the World Heavyweight Championship. He still holds that belt today (I expect to get yelled at by Vince for that one). This reign has lasted a lot longer. For 12 years, Kane was an afterthought. Now in an era where titles change every month, Kane has held his for the longest reign since 2005. Some fans were probably confused as to why Kane was given the title this year. It's the year of Kane.
If you don't believe that Cain was dominate in 2010, I was ready to publish the article and I found this tidbit. Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan won the Gold Medal in the novice pairs at the US Figure Skating Championships in January. Cain ruled fire and ice in 2010.
In total, 5 Cains and Kanes have combined for possibly two NFL division titles (at least), a silver medal, a Stanley Cup, a World Series, a UFC Heavyweight Title, and a World Heavyweight Championship. Sin must be in.