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Special Event

Sports Year 2000

Aired December 28, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NICK CHARLES, HOST: We can debate whether sport is a celebration of society or a reflection of it. The year 2000 gave us a vivid portrait of both. From the continuing rise of the most famous athlete on the planet to the hard fall of a basketball coaching legend to what many are still calling a miracle at the Olympics.

I'm your host Nick Charles, and we're about to take you on a fascinating journey through the sports year 2000.

One of the certain things about sports is, everybody has an opinion. Throughout the next hour we'll reveal the results of what our viewers and Web site users have voted as the most dominant player, most prominent coach, most compelling play and most memorable sports story of the year.

The captivating stories went from the L.A. Lakers' return to NBA glory to NFL players on trial for murder, to a subway series in baseball, to the humiliating exit of Bob Knight.

But in your opinion, no story in sports in the year 2000 could equal Tiger Woods on a golf course. Throughout the years, society has embraced a select few athletes whose achievements transcend sports. Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali come to mind immediately.

In the year 2000, Tiger Woods made that quantum leap. This 24- year-old sensation forged an identity as the most recognizable sports figure on the globe. He won three of the four major tournaments, the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, something that hadn't been done in 47 years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM HUBER, TURNER SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Was this a breakthrough year for Tiger Woods? I guess so.

You know, he picked up exactly where he left off at the end of last year and so he's on a roll. Even though he had the hiccup at the Masters and we thought, at that point, perhaps this might be the end of it for a while. But he got to Pebble Beach and just exploded again.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: To play as solidly as I did all week, it's just hard to put into words and describe the emotions that are going through me.

TOM WATSON, WON EIGHT MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: I am not surprised. They're all playing for second place.

JAIME DIAZ, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" SENIOR WRITER: I think Tiger's performance at the U.S. Open will rank as the greatest U.S. Open ever played. Probably the most dominating major championship ever played. And arguably the greatest golf ever played.

HUBER: We left Pebble Beach and went to St. Andrews, wondering how he could top this. And sure enough, all of sudden he's topping it. He was rolling up huge numbers again at the British Open. Compiling the career Grand Slam at the age of 24, and you just think, man, is this ever going to stop?

PAUL AZINGER, WON 12 TIMES ON PGA TOUR: It's amazing; but I can't say I enjoy getting waxed every week, you know, like that. But what are you going to do, you know? The guy's -- that's the way he's playing.

ERNIE ELS, NO. 2 RANKED PLAYER IN THE WORLD: You've got to ask yourself the question, you know: How much better can the guy get? You know, is this as good as the guy can play? Can we play better?

WOODS: To be able to, I guess, not only win the Open championship and have an ironic part at St. Andrews, then have a chance to complete my career Grand Slam. What more can you ask for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome the 1999 and defending PGA champion, Mr. Tiger Woods!

HUBER: I Still think the one thing that sticks out in my mind, as a sort of semi-golf historian were the two days that Tiger spent with Jack playing in his final PGA championship, being so astonished at the way this young man managed his game, not to mention the way he hit the ball.

I think that will always stay in my mind as one of the crowning moments.

JACK NICKLAUS, WON 2O MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: If I'm, sort of, passing the baton -- which, I think, it's been passed long before this, it's. you know -- I couldn't pass it to a, I think, a nicer young man who obviously is the cream of the crop right now by a mile.

DIAZ: I thought Tiger's battle at the PGA was really impressive because he didn't have his A-game like he had at the U.S. Open and British Open. And all the pressure was on Tiger; and yet he still found a way to win which, I think, is probably his greatest attribute; not so much that he has the best game, but that he's able to find a way even when he doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has taken the torch and he's running with it.

BOB MAY, FINISHED SECOND IN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: I think if you shoot three 66s in a major, you should win. But, you know, you're playing against the best player in the world and he proved that that's not good enough.

WOODS: We never backed off from one another. Birdie for birdie, shot for shot, we were going right at each other. And that's as much fun and as good as it gets right there.

HUBER: In think one of the things that I'll never forget is being able to stand next to him holding the trophies so many different times in so many significant events. I mean, one after another; it just is remarkable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much fun is this?

WOODS: I don't know; it's pretty good out here, working on my tan every day and playing golf, being one with nature. It's pretty good.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: Coming up: Bob Knight was not only synonymous with college basketball, he might have been the most prominent person in Indiana. But in the year 2000, he crash-landed.

Meanwhile, in baseball, a dynasty played on when the Yankees won the World Series again. But this time the team they beat, the crosstown New York Mets, made it even better.

But well before this subway series, pitcher John Rocker of the Atlanta Braves was the villain of every fan of the Mets and of New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHARLES: The last time New York had a subway series was 1956, when the Yankees beat the Dodgers. Born six years after that crosstown meeting, the Mets finally got their chance to face the Yankees in October; and the boroughs chose sides in a rivalry that evoked blazing passion both on and off the diamond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) go out to the Mets games and the real people come to the Yankee games -- the one and only baby, Yankees!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RINALDI, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" REPORTER: This was, I think, an event that people truly realized in New York, could only be once in a lifetime. And New York did it the way only that city can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Subway series, baby! Who's going to win? M- E-T-S, Mets! Mets! Met! Mets!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE CELLINI, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" ANCHOR: For a little, brief moment in time I think we were transported back to the '50s. The days of the Dodgers and the Yankees and the Giants and what it must have been like to be in New York back then and be a die-hard fan of one team while maybe your neighbor was a fan of another.

OZZIE SMITH, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" MLB ANALYST: We knew about the incident that they had had during the course of the season. It's my understanding that there was an apology offered that was not accepted. So at that point I think the war was on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The barrel of the bat went out to Clemens. Clemens fired the bat away and Piazza walked out toward Clemens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PIAZZA, NEW YORK METS: When he threw the bat, basically I just walked out to see what his problem was and I started asking him, and he really had no response. So, I was, you know, taken aback. It's a bizarre -- it's a bizarre incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER CLEMENS, NEW YORK YANKEES: I got a broken bat that came back at me and I was going to sling it on the on-deck circle and you know, like I said, my emotions are riding high and I didn't think Mike was coming out of the batter's box and I slung it on deck over there to our bat boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN GIANNONE, CNN/SI REPORTER: I believe there was intent. I don't believe there was intent to hit Mike Piazza, but I think there was intent to certainly send a message from Roger Clemens.

TOM RINALDI, CNN/SI REPORTER: When President Clinton raised up his finger and said, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, does it really matter what his intent was? It happened. It happened that Clemens picked up the bat and threw it at Piazza.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN/SI ANCHOR: I think what Clemens did, not necessarily throw it at Piazza, but get that bat in his hands and go, you know what? F- you guys. F- at Piazza, yes. And I think just in that instant, he just overcome with emotion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the 0-1, swung on. Hit in the air to deep center. Bernie's back. He's way back. He makes the catch. Ball game over. World Series over. Yankees win. The Yankees win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CELLINI: I think if I had to use one word to describe the Yankees as a team, I think it would be unselfish.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE RANDOLPH, NEW YORK YANKEES THIRD BASE COACH: You know, it's very rare nowadays to see a team that can sacrifice and willing work together and put everything aside for the team and win. And it's testament to what can happen if you want to do that and dedicate yourself to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM VERDUCCI, SENIOR WRITER, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": In October, the Yankees are clearly a superior team; I think, one of the best in postseason history. Their record shows it. The way they win games in the postseason shows it. I think it's their resiliency and their ability to get things done in the clutch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've won their third straight championship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERDUCCI: Being born in Brooklyn, living for a period of time in the Bronx; the series was special, but I only wished it could have gone more than five games, and as a life-long Met fan, it was horrific.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: Joining us now, Joe Torre. Born in Brooklyn; works in the Bronx where he won his third straight World Series and fourth in the past five years as manager of the Yankees.

Joe, people said the land mines you had to walk through made this season not as much fun for you. What do you say?

JOE TORRE, MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES: Well, it wasn't as much fun. It was a lot more work because there were a lot of distractions, and normally our ball club is able -- they're able to fight off the distractions. We were 0-6 in spring training, and there was a lot of talk about complacency and not caring and stuff like that and I think that's what made the year not as much fun for me. Nick.

CHARLES: What is about your style, Joe, that makes players want to play for you? TORRE: Well, I don't know if it's the fact that I've played before and it took me 30 years to get to the World Series. But I try to be honest with everyone, and the only thing I try to preach is the respect factor. To me, I just feel it's important to establish yourself, and then have enough respect, first of all, for your teammates -- where if you don't play and somebody else is playing, to respect the fact that he can do the job. And then secondly, to make sure you respect your opponents.

CHARLES: Joe, at the same time, it's not a popularity contest. You twice pulled Paul O'Neill for a pinch hitter in the postseason. He didn't like it.

TORRE: You don't think in terms of making friends in the postseason. You think in terms of trying to win ball games and you're going to do it the best you can. I think the players understand that and I'll never let the fact that I like somebody or dislike somebody affect my decisions.

I remember Paul O'Neill -- it was funny. After I pinch-hit for him the second time and both times the pinch-hitter struck out, I went up to him the third day and I said, Pauly, if I ever decide to call you back for a pinch-hitter, I said don't come, because I'm never going to do it again.

CHARLES: Why do you think even people who have harbored a great dislike for the Yankees can't help but like this team, Joe?

TORRE: Well, I think we're approachable. You know, it goes back to '96. We're a very human ballclub. I think We're likable group. If you don't like Paul O'Neill, you don't like fresh air, and Bernie Williams and Derrick Jeter. And again, we didn't flaunt it.

CHARLES: Given the Yankees' history of immortal players and teams, Joe, where does -- where do your teams rank?

TORRE: Well, I think our ball club is as good as any Yankee team or maybe any team that's ever played the game. I think it's very tough to keep guys focused and to keep your own focus for that many years, especially when your team turns over every year. And I think that's something that I'm very proud of.

CHARLES: And Joe, finally, there were skeptics when you got hired. You've obliterated the critics. Describe how personally satisfying it's been.

TORRE: I'm not here to prove anybody wrong. I'm here to maybe prove to myself that my philosophy and the way I decided I wanted to manage was -- it works. I remember what it was like when I played. And I really believe in players a lot and would like to believe that they want the same things I want. And I finally found a ball club that, you know, has responded to that.

Now, Joe Torre, thanks for your insight and hearty congratulations, and a Happy New Year. We'll see you new the dugout again, I guess. TORRE: Thanks, Nick, it's always a pleasure.

CHARLES: Joe Torre was among the candidates in our poll for coach or manager of the year. Others on the list include multiple title winner Phil Jackson, who got his first with the Lakers. And Dick Vermeil, who retired after his St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl.

Your winner is Joe Torre, who got 25 percent of the votes to edge Vermeil, while Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops and Jackson tied for third.

Just ahead on SPORTS YEAR 2000: The beginning of the end for Indiana coach Bob Knight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB KNIGHT, FORMER COACH FOR INDIANA: I would have to be an absolute moron, an absolute moron, with the things that have been laid down on me to grab a kid in public and curse at a kid in public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES: And later in the show, sisters and superstars. How Venus and Serena Williams took Center Court and center stage in the world of tennis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHARLES: The year in sports produced a vast array of lasting images. There was the assault on ice. Marty McSorley's stick wielding fury that struck down Donald Brashear. And Mike Tyson, creating both havoc in the ring and chaos in the streets of Britain.

But perhaps the most shocking video was one that showed Indiana coach Bob Knight grabbing one of his players by the throat. That graphic image, first shown on CNN/Sports Illustrated, touched off an investigation that led to the demise of a college coach who had won three national championships and who may have been the post powerful man in his state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL REED, FORMER INDIANA PLAYER: It was close enough to just come at me, reach and put his hand around my throat.

KNIGHT: I might have grabbed the guy and moved him over. I mean, if you choke a guy, I would think that he needs hospitalization.

REED: He had me by the throat, I'd probably say that little situation lasted about five seconds.

KNIGHT: I have no apologies to make whatsoever for anything that I've done in an attempt to motivate kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER WOLFF, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SENIOR WRITER: I think Knight's tactical mistake, probably, was to be be so unequivocal and categorical in saying, oh, this never did happen. And when the videotape came out, and it was clear that something had happened, he was on very shaky ground.

ROBERT ABBOTT, CNN/SI FIELD PRODUCER: The tape turned out to be the smoking gun. I think what it did is it forced the university to take a serious look at Bob Knight and his conduct. And when they started looking into his conduct, they uncovered other stories.

WOLFFE: Now, I happen to think that the thing that was uncovered that really turned the tide was the incident with Knight throwing the potted plant over the head of the secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had this glare in his eyes that really frightens you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MYLES BRAND, INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: This behavior cannot and will not continue or be tolerated at Indiana University. Should Bob Knight violate any of these requirements, he will be terminated. This is a zero-tolerance policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIANNONE: As zero-tolerance was spelled out by Myles Brand that day, I didn't think bob knight could ever abide by that because that's just not the way Bob Knight is as a human being. The question was would Myles Brand ever have the intestinal fortitude to say, you violated zero-tolerance, therefore you have to go.

ABBOTT: Myles Brand gave him the opportunity to continue coaching at Indiana and possibly one day break Dean Smith's record. I thought that was a carrot that Coach Knight wanted badly and I felt that he was smart enough to adhere to zero-tolerance. Whatever he had to do, I thought he would do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He kind of gave me a screwy look and like, he grabbed my arm and he kind of like got in my face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CELLINI: Did Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight violate a zero- tolerance policy during a Thursday incident in which he grabbed an Indiana student by the arm and allegedly cursed at him? (END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KNIGHT: I would have to be an absolute moron, an absolute moron with the things that have been laid down on me to grab a kid in public and curse at a kid in public.

WOLFFE: His entire style has always been one of guts, and who has more guts. Certainly not some academic, some guy with a philosophy degree up on the hill. That's not somebody Bob Knight ever anticipated he was going to lose to, least of all, some 17-, 18-year- old freshman punk who doesn't address him as Coach Knight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAND: In an early morning telephone conversation with Coach Knight today, I gave him the option of resigning as head basketball coach. He declined and I notified him that he was being removed as basketball coach effective immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLFFE: It all culminated shortly after midnight when Bob Knight made an appearance on campus and that was one of the more surreal things I've ever seen in this business, seeing Bob Knight come out and seeing thousands of students standing there and screaming his name and chanting and cheering for him and showing their support. And the Bob Knight started to speak and everybody was completely silent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KNIGHT: What I said was, there's nobody -- there's nobody that's ever coached that appreciates the support of students like I have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIANONNE: It just struck me as amazing what kind of grip this guy had on the people of Indiana and the students at university even in a deposed state.

WOLFFE: The great tragedy is he had at his disposal an entire state, an entire university, rabid fans, enough people in my profession, the sports writing profession, I think that were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he had just taken that half- step toward us -- toward all of us: toward the citizens of Indiana; toward the people that he worked with and the players that he coached to try to be the more well-rounded human being that circumstances demanded and he wouldn't take that step. ABBOTT: Bob Knight was defiant from day one. He was defiant when Neil Reed's allegations came out. He was defiant when the tape came out. The only time he was apologetic was to Myles Brand in a closed-door meeting. If he been honest about things from the start, I don't think what transpired over the summer would have transpired.

In our society, if you come clean and say, hey, I made a mistake, forgive me. The public will generally forgive you. Bob Knight never did that, and I think that was his biggest mistake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: Bob Knight is in the process of writing a book, and has made it clear he wants to coach basketball again. Coming up next, one of the most improbable stories ever. Rulon Gardner wasn't supposed to have a prayer against one of the most imposing figures in Olympic history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karelin looked like a guy that had been chiseled out of granite. Rulon Gardner looked like the kind of kid that used to be called Fatso in grade school, which is in fact exactly what happened to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES: Plus the story of another long shot who came through. Dick Vermeil joins us to talk about how he came out of a 14-year retirement and took the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl title.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHARLES: While Pete Sampras continued to fortify his legend, many would say his achievements were eclipsed by the staggering accomplishments of Venus Williams, who won 35 consecutive matches and conquered the field at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. When we ad her sister Serena to the mix, what we experienced were two women who dominated the double scene, winning both Wimbledon and Olympic gold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VENUS WILLIAMS, WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: I totally think that when the players walk out on the court with me, they're a little bit intimidated. possibly. I don't think they really feel in their hearts they can win.

JONES: They've been so cocky. They've always talked the talk. They never quite walked the walk on a consistent basis until this year.

When I saw the Williams sisters wearing the traditional Wimbledon whites on the grass courts, practicing pre-Wimbledon, and then saw the father there with them who hates to fly and rarely travels abroad with them, that they meant business. And boy did they mean business. SONJA STEPTOE, CNN/SI REPORTER: Wimbledon was the crowning moment for both the Williams, but particularly for Venus. That semifinal contest where they had to play each other, and literally I think the entire tennis world was biting its nails along with them during that match.

But then, Venus triumphs in the final, and she leaps, you know, across the grass court, and then Serena is very happy for her when Venus wins. And then they come back and win the doubles together. And so I think what started off as sort of a low moment for Serena quickly turned into a triumph for both of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: We get to do it together as a sister and as a family, and we do everything together, so winning the gold together is just something that we're going to do -- have done together, just like everything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: We both look out for each other because really sometimes I think of her as my right arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the whole [laughter]

WILLIAMS: That's the left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: We'll make this the year of the William sister because not only the Grand Slam singles success and the doubles Grand Slam success and the two Gold medals at the Olympic games, but also the reality for people like Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport that the Williams sisters could beat them on big stage on a consistent basis. .

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: When the Williams sisters and the rest of the world descended on Sydney for the Summer Olympics, we saw Kathy Freeman carry the expectations of a nation. We watched the blurring image of Marion Jones streak to three Gold medals on the track. And the master of the 400-meters, Michael Johnson, win Gold in his final games.

The games of the new millennium also gave us new stars. Seventeen-year-old Australian Ian Thorpe won three Gold and two silver. The United States baseball team was told it didn't have a chance, and then beat Cuba for the Gold medal. And 17-year-old Cheryl Haworth said she hopes her weight-lifting Bronze medal sends a message that you don't have to look a certain way to be an athlete.

But perhaps the most notable Olympian was Rulon Gardner, a Greco- Roman wrestler from Wyoming who had labored in oblivion until he came to Sydney and conquered a Russian icon who hadn't lost a match since 1987. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JACK MCCALLUM, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" SENIOR WRITER: My first thought was, gee we've lost the last chance to really get out this legendary Karelin. And then, three minutes later, all of a sudden I'm thinking, wait a minute, I just witnessed one of the greatest upsets, not only in Olympic history, but in sports history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RULON GARDNER, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: After all these years of watching him be on the top, it just makes me feel, I guess, lucky to be the one that beats him. So if it goes down as one of the greatest victories, that's fine.

The reactions the American people have; they're so proud that there still is an American hero out there.

There are so many different people I've met on this, you know, this road trip. We met Jay Leno.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Please welcome gold medalist Rulon Gardner ladies and gentlemen.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GARDNER: There are so many experiences that are great. You've never been pampered until you get a ride in a limo.

Well, first time for everything now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never been in a limo before?

GARDNER: No.

Back in Wyoming we don't really have very many limos. If -- I guess if you count the pickup truck, but that doesn't really count.

Thank you for coming and sharing this opportunity with me. This medal is not mine, this is all of ours because this is us, together, to help me get there and this is part of you and part of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: Rulon Gardner told me in Australia, while he expected his life would never be the same because of his colossal upset, he'd never forget where he came from: a dairy farm. And so it was no surprise to pick up a magazine recently and see this full page ad of the new dairy king carrying two buckets of milk. Coming up next, the NFL team that rose from the ashes and won the Super Bowl, riding on the arm of a quarterback who had been passed over for years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER KING, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" SENIOR WRITER: Here's a guy who had no business being in the NFL; and all of sudden he develops into, quite possibly, the best quarterback in the NFL, playing one of his best games in the biggest game of his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to be fielded by Lorenzo (ph), Neal (ph) at the 25. Pitches it back to Wycheck (ph); he throws it across the field to the Dyson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got something! He's got something!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty, 40, 50 10...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got it! He's got it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty, 10, nine, end zone! Touchdown Titans!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES: That move, soon dubbed "the music city miracle," was under consideration for play of the year, as was the phenomenal catch by made by Florida State's Peter Warrick in the college football championship Sugar Bowl game. But of the six, only one could win; and the winner is "the music city miracle," beating out another Tennessee Titans moment, when they came up a yard short from sending the Super Bowl into overtime.

The 2000 Super Bowl was one of the most thrilling in NFL history. The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans; but the outcome wasn't decided until the final play of the game. While there were many storylines, none surpassed Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and head coach Dick Vermeil.

Their improbable journey to and victory in Super Bowl XXXIV will link them forever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB LORENZ, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" ANCHOR: I hate to use the cliche, but what a Cinderella story. For a guy to step in -- nobody knew anything about the guy; and for him to do what he did and perform the way that he did and defy the expectations -- you so rarely see that in sports today. TREV ALBERTS, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" NFL ANALYST: I mean, here's a guy who simply refused to give up. Working in a grocery store at Hy-Vee in Cedar Falls, Iowa; some of the people he worked with said that, when he was working there he would tell them, just wait. I'm going to be playing in the NFL one day. And they laughed at him; and who wouldn't.

KING: There has never been a football underdog who's come from a further distance to greatness than Kurt Warner. He's the ultimate underdog story; he never should have been there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KURT WARNER, RAMS QUARTERBACK: When you're going through it, you're never quite sure what it's going to teach you or what you can take from it. But as I look back, I realize that every step was important and that the Lord had a plan and a reason for preparing me the way that He did.

DICK VERMEIL, HEAD COACH, RAMS: Thank you, very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And then Dick Vermeil; I mean, here's a guy who, when he first was signed as a coach, I'm thinking, what does he know about the pro game anymore?

RON MEYER, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" NFL ANALYST: A lot of eyebrows were raised when Vermeil was named the head coach of the Rams. A lot of people think the game has passed him by, being away that long.

But those people didn't know Dick Vermeil. Dick Vermeil is a true professional.

LORENZ: Dick Vermeil comes back and has his guys not really enjoying the system for the first two years that he's around. But the third year he eases up on them a little bit, they buy into his philosophy and his dream and it happens for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rams 23, Titans 16. Back to throw is McNair. He's got Kevin Dyson, reaches for the goal line. No; he falls at the one. Time runs out; that's it! That's it!

And you got to love it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The thing I'll always remember about this game is that, in the hours after the game, I've never seen a coach -- really I've never seen a person after a Super Bowl happier than Dick Vermeil was. And I'll never forget, I'm trying to get a couple of minutes with Vermeil and the first thing he sees me, he embraces me in a bear hug. And, you know, I try to get away a little bit and he's almost cracking my ribs.

VERMEIL: The only time I shed tears was when my brother said that our mother who -- excuse me -- said that, she told you you would go back and coach a Super Bowl winning team before you quit. And God was she right!

KING: You know, it's like Bill Parcels used to say, you just -- you don't write scripts like this because people would laugh at you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: The man who transformed a franchise from a doormat to the Super Bowl champions of the new millennium is with us now.

Dick Vermeil, don't be humble for a change: How did you do it?

VERMEIL: Nick, well, we did it by working real hard. You know, I've always believed the one thing you can do as a football coach and an organization is work harder than other people. When you take over a losing organization, every team that's been beating you, they have the same access to talent -- the draft, the free agency and everything else. And the only way you can gain an edge is spend more time, invest more time on the practice field, and that's what we did.

CHARLES: Dick, you cried on the sidelines when Trent Green was lost for the season. How did your team feed off that kind of personal emotion that you brought to the field?

VERMEIL: Well, Nick, I remember that like it was 20 minutes ago, when Trent Green went down. And I was emotionally shook. I have never been on the football field when a player got hurt. I have never seen a football team respond and react like they did.

I can remember Isaac Bruce on all fours banging his fist into the turf, looking back at the bench and seeing players that were really emotionally upset. So they felt, at that time, that our season, our hopes had diminished. But none of us realized what we had in Kurt Warner.

But I did believe he could play, and I can remember this like it was yesterday, again, going to our press conference the next day. And I was emotional, no question; I was hurt and upset and disappointed for Trent because he had put so much into this opportunity.

But I did say, and I've been quoted many times as saying, "We will go with Kurt Warner and we will play good football." And he went way beyond my expectations.

CHARLES: So take us through this magical ride you and your team were on, with some specific stories and game circumstances you remember.

VERMEIL: We go to Cincinnati; we're gaining confidence. We beat Cincinnati. Az Hakim returned a punt for a touchdown; everything was going our way. In that locker room after that ball game I said, guys, this next week we're at home in our dome against the San Francisco 49ers. They've beaten us 17 times in a row.

Enough is enough; when they come in our dome we're going to beat the living hell out of them. And I said it in more defined terms, believe me; and they bought into it. Because we, as a coaching staff, I think by that time had established credibility with the players. They trusted us, they believed in us. And they hadn't heard me say that before.

CHARLES: What kind of a spectator have you become, Dick, watching the Rams the season after you left them?

VERMEIL: I've missed two games that the Rams have played this year. We have a dish at home. My wife is more adamant about making sure she's sitting down in front of the seat, than I am. And I've seen them play in person twice. You know, I miss them. It's a great group. I've never felt closer to a group of players than I felt to those guys, and my coaching staff. I miss them, but I knew I would, when I made the decision to come home.

CHARLES: Dick Vermeil, you're at the pinnacle of your profession and as a person. Thanks for being with us and sharing those moments.

VERMEIL: Thank you, Nick.

CHARLES: And coming up, when John Rocker went on record with his inflammatory comments, his self-inflicted baseball season of hell began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a guy who has offended just about everybody in the clubhouse with his comments. This is a guy, in my 15 years in Atlanta, was the most disliked guy by his teammates, of anybody. They don't like this guy. They didn't like this guy to begin with. This just makes it even worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES: Plus, a Super Bowl Sunday that turned into a personal nightmare for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHARLES: We saw, earlier, how the Super Bowl played in Atlanta this year produced riveting drama. But drama of a quite different sort was played out just a few miles away from the site of the game. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was at the scene of a brawl outside an Atlanta nightclub that left two men dead in the street, and the player on trial for murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You will find, very quickly, that this is not a case about football or football players or the Super Bowl. This is a case about the murder of two young men. LESTER MUNSON, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED LEGAL ANALYST: At the time of the indictment, they thought they had a very good case. The case, then, began to fall apart, almost immediately. The turning point, in this case, was the decision of Paul Howard, the elected prosecutor, to handle this case himself.

The moment he made that decision, the Ray Lewis prosecution was doomed. He had no idea what he was doing. He made mistake after mistake after mistake. The prosecutors misjudged the quality of the limousine driver's testimony from the very beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray Lewis didn't do anything to cause, aid, or encourage anyone to stab someone with a knife, did he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No sir, not that I could see. Not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time, I would like to ask you, Mr. Lewis, how do you plead to one count of obstruction, as contained in the accusation 00-SC-06574?

RAY LEWIS, LINEBACKER, BALTIMORE RAVENS: Guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MUNSON: When the prosecutor completely surrendered and gave him a probation plea bargain, they had to take it. This preserved his career. They made sure that the NFL, and that the Baltimore Ravens would go along with the plea bargain, and they had themselves a very sweet deal, without having to worry about the judgment of the jurors.

PETER KING, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SENIOR WRITER: The whole question is: two people are dead, and he played some small role in those deaths. And I don't understand why that is not worth a suspension. Period. I think what that says is that, the NFL is not nearly as hard on felons, and on people who are part of heinous crimes, as the league likes to think it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS: Where am I going from here? Back doing what I'm doing. Playing football. Enjoying what I do. Showing kids that there's still a passion for the game, even though you are falsely accused about certain things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: Lewis' co-defendants in the trial, Joseph Sweeney and Reginald Oakley, were both acquitted by the jury. Ray Lewis is still on probation, but back playing football, where he's had another outstanding season helping Baltimore to the playoffs.

A year ago, John Rocker of the Atlanta Braves was just another good Major League pitcher, until he casually revealed some ugly sentiments about minorities to a "Sports Illustrated" writer:

"Imagine having to take the train to the ballpark, looking like you're riding through Beirut, next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year old mom with four kids. It's depressing."

CHARLES: Also, this quote:

"The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. How the hell did they get into this country? I'm not a racist, or a prejudiced person, but certain people bother me."

CHARLES: From the moment those remarks were published, John Rocker's life was, and probably never will be, the same.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL LANGFORD, PRESIDENT, UNITED YOUTH-ADULT CONFERENCE: John Rocker and his hateful comments is a cancer in the Brave's organization that must be removed.

HENRY AARON, BRAVES SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: We still have some people out there, you know -- it's just a matter of them putting 3 K's on the front of their shirt, you know, because they are KKK.

STAN KASTEN, BRAVES PRESIDENT: What we have here is a case of a player who, again, to me, at least, has expressed a great deal of remorse, immediately has accepted responsibility and has sought help, and under those circumstances, I'm not going to abandon a player.

TOM GLAVINE, PITCHER, ATLANTA BRAVES: He's kind of dug his own grave, so to speak.

LEO MAZZONE, BRAVES PITCHING COACH: He's going to blow himself out. One of his teammates might punch him out. Something is going to go wrong, now, with his career.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOSIE KARP, CNN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED REPORTER: John Rocker didn't know anything about pressure, until he arrived in Florida that first day for spring training. He might have thought, as a closer -- coming in, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, postseason -- that that was pressure, but until he walked into that clubhouse, and for all intents and purposes, what the Braves did, was locked the door behind him and say hey, tell us what you were talking about and, hey, we're going to let you know what we're thinking, and we're going to ask you questions, and you're going to have to sit here and take it, and he did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN ROCKER, ATLANTA BRAVES: My apology is no more than just words, unless it is followed by actions. I hope, that this year, I can somehow redeem myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER: John Rocker's first inning of the 2000 season.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM VERDUCCI, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SENIOR WRITER: Rocker had developed this Rodman-esque, WWF personality -- an almost cartoonish character, if you will, based on being this over-the-top, larger than life, loud mouth, left-handed pitcher, and people cheered because they got to see a "celebrity" go out there to the mound. He's almost an anti-hero, but someone that they cheered, regardless.

MARK MORGAN, CNN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED REPORTER: The date everyone circled on their calender, obviously, was June 29, when John Rocker would make his return to Shea Stadium.

MORGAN: It was much unlike anything I've ever covered, especially as far as a sporting event goes, and really, the police presence was what made it so different, And there was a real palpable sense of tension throughout the stadium that night, because people really didn't know if there would be one or two guys in the crowd -- fans, who would go a little overboard. And that's really what the police feared.

JOHN GIANNONE, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" REPORTER: When John Rocker did, finally, what he was suppose to do; which was, he came out early. He said what he had to say, he apologized again. And then he went out on the very first night he was in New York; he pitched a scoreless inning. He went back to the dugout, kept his mouth shut. And then after the game he didn't say anything and he finished up that weekend without incident.

And it was probably the first time since he made those comments that he acted appropriately.

SMITH: People will remember those comments, and those things will follow him forever. But if John Rocker goes out and he has a stellar career of save after save -- you know, 25 to 30 saves a year, I think that down the road somewhere he will be forgiven.

TERENCE MOORE, "THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION" WRITER: He is scarred for life. No matter where he goes, he's going to be remembered as, that guy who said those things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: Rocker went on to pitch one more game in New York without a problem and, for the season, posted 24 saves with 77 strike- outs in 53 innings.

Coming up next on the show, we'll reveal who you voted for as your athlete of the year. Plus, the L.A. Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. They were supposed to take L.A. and the NBA by storm; but it took a different kind of star to give this show a real Hollywood ending.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHARLES: For the people of Los Angeles, the return of the Lakers to prominence was highly anticipated. For a team that featured two of the league's biggest stars in Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, results had been poor.

It wasn't until former Chicago head coach Phil Jackson, carrying his six championship rings he'd won as the Bull's head coach, came out of retirement that expectations were finally met.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL JACKSON, LAKERS HEAD COACH: This is a team that is talented, it's young, it's on the verge. It's been on the verge, and yet it hasn't quite gotten over the top. That's a similar situation that happened 10 years ago in Chicago, and we hope to have the same type of success here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRED HICKMAN, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" ANCHOR: You know, everybody talks about the Zen and all that stuff. That's way overblown; the guy knows how to coach and he knows how to motivate individuals. And I think that what inspired Shaquille O'Neal to be better.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" ANCHOR: I think when Shaq saw the trophies at Phil's house and visiting his country place, that he knew that, you know what, I think this guy knows what he's talking about; and he'll lead and I'll follow.

PHIL TAYLOR, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" SENIOR WRITER: As the season went on, you could see the Lakers getting better and better. The execution -- the triangle offense became sharper, the passing became crisper. It was exactly the kind of season that Phil Jackson must have hoped for when he took over the job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Portland with a 13-point lead at 71-58. Here's an important number: the Blazers 49 and five during the regular season when leading after three.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAYLOR: At the start of that fourth quarter, I didn't think the Lakers had a chance; and more importantly, I'm not sure that they thought they really had a chance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kobe's down the middle, he's in deep, throws to Shaq, slam dunk! The Lakers lead by six.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN LOUGHERY, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" NBA ANALYST: I think the Lakers learned that they could trust one another coming down the stretch of a tough basketball game, and that carried over to the finals.

CELLINI: I think he feels like now he belongs. And I think he answered those critics that have been haunting him throughout his career. He has the championship. He has the magnificent numbers from that series, and no one can ever take that away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGIC JOHNSON, WON FIVE TITLES WITH THE LAKERS: He became a dominant player; not just a player, but a dominant player. Not just a star, but a superstar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RINALDI, CNN/"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED" REPORTER: When you're around Shaq, he really does seem to be like a mountain of a man. So it was all the more startling when the confetti came down from the rafters of Staples Center and you finally saw the man-mountain break down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, L.A. LAKERS: Like Kobe said, the trophy is home and where it belongs. And we're going to get another one next year. Can you dig it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES: League and play-off most valuable player Shaquille O'Neal was one of our candidates for athlete of the year; but this was a year Lance Armstrong won his second straight Tour de France since beating cancer.

But for all of the staggering achievements, nobody in your eyes could touch Tiger Woods. He reigned supreme over this sensational field, totaling half your votes as athlete of the year.

Well, that's our show. Thanks for being with us as we roll through the calendar and the SPORTS YEAR 2000. Happy holidays everybody.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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