Ten Questions. Ten Sports. One Year.
How well do you remember these significant sporting events of 1998?
Question 1 (MMA):
On October 16th, 1998 the Ultimate Fighting Championship held their first-ever event in Brazil. The Pay-Per-View was named UFC: Ultimate Brazil and was only the second UFC event not to use a tournament format. This event held multiple landmark moments for the organisation as the very first UFC Lightweight and Middleweight champions were crowned during this event. Pat Miletich became the inaugural Lightweight Champion, defeating. Mikey Burnett via split decision and Frank Shamrock caused John Lober to submit to punches to claim the Middleweight championship. Furthermore, future MMA legend Wanderlei Silva made his promotional debut and lost to another now-icon of the sport, Vitor Belfort, after just 44 seconds.
Despite successfully crowing new champions and laying the groundwork for their future Brazilian expansion, the event did not avoid criticism. The UFC’s promotional poster caused controversy amongst the Brazilian fanbase, but what was the reason for this?
The Brazilian flag was improperly presented on the promotional poster. The motto on the middle of the flag, which reads “Ordem e Progresso”, was missing, as was the star representing the Federal District of Brasilia. Brazilian law number 5700, chapter V, article 31 states that it is prohibited to “alter the national flag’s proportions, colours, shape, or label, or deface it with any other inscription” which the UFC did on their poster.
Question 2 (Baseball):
The 1998 MLB season was the host of the legendary Mark McGwire vs Sammy Sosa home run record chase. The battle between the St. Louis Cardinals’ and Chicago Cubs’ sluggers is widely thought to have restored American’s love affair with Baseball after a turbulent period for the sport. The two National League superstars exchanged homers throughout the season, constantly one-upping each other as they both attempted to break Roger Maris’s long-standing and highly coveted record of 61 home run in a campaign. During their legendary season-long battle, both McGwire and Sosa surpassed the record and continued to trade the top spot during the season’s final month. The chase came down the wire, entering the season’s last series tied at 65 home runs each. McGwire scored five home runs against five different Montreal Expos pitches to emerge victorious after one of the most gripping seasons in MLB history, finishing on 70 with Sosa ended with 66. Despite the steroid controversy that tainted both men’s careers in the years following, this chase is still considered one of the most notable events in Baseball history.
During each of Sammy Sosa’s 66 home runs, the Cubs right fielder gave a ‘V’ sign as his celebration. What was the significance of this sign?
Sosa gave the ‘V’ signal as a tribute to the legendary broadcaster Harry Caray, who passed away in February of 1998. Caray is credited with popularising the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, which now occurs during every MLB game. The Chicago Cubs erected a statue to their former announcer outside Wrigley Field in 1999.
Question 3 (Basketball):
1998 NBA finals saw the Chicago Bulls complete their second three-peat of the decade as they defeated the Utah Jazz four games to two. Micheal Jordan won the NBA Finals MVP for the sixth time, once again breaking his own record for most times winning the award. The finals drew the highest TV viewership in NBA history, gaining an average 29.04 million viewers per game, with a staggering 35.89 million people watching game six. Utah, led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, won the first game of the series on home turf in overtime before dropping the second game 93-88 to the Bulls. In Chicago’s United Center, Phil Jackson’s men dominated the Jazz in game three and four. However, Utah pulled the series back to 3-2 with an away victory to stop the Bulls winning the championship at home. However, the Salt Lake City franchise only delayed the inevitable as Micheal Jordan led his team to an 87-86 game six victory, thus handing Chicago their sixth title in eight years.
Many consider the 1990′ Bulls as the greatest team in basketball history. However, this game would be the final time the team would play together. Michael Jordan retired for the second time following his sixth champion win. The legendary coach Phil Jackson rejected a contract extension after a public feud with Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause, choosing to leave the team after the season. The franchise also released Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman, who signed for the Los Angeles Lakers after being let go. Rodman’s fellow Hall-of-Fame member Scottie Pippen and likely-future inductee Steve Kerr were also traded before the 1999 season. But where did the two Bulls’ legends get traded?
Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets for Roy Rogers and a 2nd round pick in the 2000 NBA draft. Pippen eventually would return to Chicago in 2003, retiring as a Bull and having his number 33 retired by the franchise.
The San Antonio Spurs traded Chuck Person and a first-round pick in the 2000 NBA draft for Steve Kerr. The point guard Kerr became the second player to win four straight NBA titles without being a part of the 1960s Boston Celtics dynasty, as the Spurs defeated the New York Knicks in the 1999 NBA Finals. After a brief spell as a Portland Trail Blazer, Kerr returned to San Antonio and claimed his fifth NBA championship in 2003 as the Texas-franchise beat the New Jersey Nets four games to two before retiring in the same year. Kerr eventually became the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, winning three more NBA championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. The former Bull also won the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2018.
Question 4 (Curling):
Curling made its winter Olympics debut at the Nagano games 1998. The sport made appearances as a demonstration sport in 1932, 1988, and 1992 before being added to the program in 1993. Canada were the favourites coming into the games in both the men and women’s version. The women’s team, which featured Sandra Schmirler, Jan Betker, Joan McCusker, Marcia Gudereit and Atina Ford did not disappoint as they emerged victorious, defeating Denmark 7-5 in the gold medal match.
The men’s team also made it to the gold medal match but surprisingly only earned the silver medal. Which team shocked the curling world by winning the gold medal?
Switzerland won the 1998 winter Olympic gold medal in Curling, defeating Canada 9-3 gold medal game. The Swiss team, Patrick Hürlimann, Patrik Lörtscher, Daniel Müller, Diego Perren and Dominic Andres, actually lost to Canada in the group stage 8-3 but secured a semi-final place by finishing third. They faced Norway, who finished second, in the semi-final, narrowly defeating them 8-7. During the Nagano games, Switzerland won two gold medals, with Gian Simmen claiming their other on in Snowboarding, winning men’s halfpipe competition.
Question 5 (Hockey):
The Stanley Cup 1998 was contested by the reigning and defending champions Detroit Red Wings from the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference champions, the Washington Capitals, making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. The Red Wings swept the Capitals 4-0 to regain the historic trophy. This victory also marked the second finals in a row where Detroit swept their opposition, doing the same to the Philadelphia Flyers a year before. The legendary Head Coach Scotty Bowman won his record-breaking eighth Stanley Cup, winning six with the Montreal Canadiens, one with the Pittsburgh Penguins and two coaching the Red Wings. Bowman would add one more to his collection in 2003 with Detroit. The 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Steve Yzerman claimed the Conn Smythe trophy. The center gained four points during the final, scoring and assisting twice with a plus/minus score of five.
The Red Wings had extra motivation going into the Stanley Cup finals. Six days after their 1997 cup victory, Detroit’s defenceman Vladimir Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov suffered serious brain injuries the limousine they were in crashed into a tree. Konstantinov was paralysed due to the accident whereas Mnatsakano spent time in a coma. Konstantinov was never able to play hockey again. However, the Red Wings still recognised him as a part of their team. The organisation received special dispensation from the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup their 1998 cup victory. Throughout the regular season, Detroit wore a patch on their jersey with the initials of Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov on it. There was also a word written in both English and Russian on the patch. What was the word?
The patch had the word ‘Believe’, ‘Верить’ in Russian, on it. ‘Believe’ became the Red Wings catchphrase during their playoff run. The team also kept Konstantinov locker set up throughout the 97/98 season. A rock with the word engraved on it sat in his place. In one of the most heartwarming moments in sports history, Konstantinov was brought onto the ice in his wheelchair to celebrate Detroit’s 98 championship win with his teammates.
Question 6 (Golf):
Pak Se-ri is arguably the most important woman in golf’s history. Eric Adelson from Golf World called Pak “a pioneer who changed the face of golf even more than Tiger Woods.” When Pak came into the LPGA in 1998, she was the only Korean representative. Her influence caused a Golf boom in her home county, inspiring the next generation talents like Na Yeon Choi and Inbee Park. Ten years after her debut, there were 45 Koreans on the tour. During Pak’s LPGA rookie season in 1998, she was victorious on two major tournaments, the McDonald’s LPGA Championship and US Women’s Open. The golfing legend forced an extraordinary sudden death playoff during the US Women’s Open after making an astonishing shot from a water hazard to remained tied for first place. The playoffs lasted 20 holes, making it the longest tournament in women’s professional golf.
Pak won the US Open after earning a birdie by putting a tricky shot from nearly 20 feet from the hole. Korea Times named this victory the 3rd most acclaimed moment in 60 years of South Korean sports history. A statue of Pak making her now-famous water hazard shot was placed outside of Gongju’s stadium. She also became the youngest player ever to win the US Women’s Open, but how old was she?
Pak was just 20 years old when she claimed her now historic US Open victory. She also became the youngest living inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007 at just 29 years old. In total, the Korean legend won 25 LPGA titles during her career, five of which were major championships.
Question 7 (Football):
On July 12th, 1998, the Stade de France, Saint-Denis. France was the setting for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final. In their first World Cup final, the host nation faced off against the reigning and defending champions Brazil. The South American powerhouse was the favourites to win it all. They topped their group before defeating Chile, Denmark and the Netherlands in the knock out rounds to reach the final. France also came first in their group before knocking out Paraguay, Italy, and Croatia to earn their place in football’s biggest game. In the first-ever World Cup final being contested between the host nation and defending champions, France emerged victorious, winning their maiden World Cup after a 3-0 win. Zinedine Zidane was named the Man of the Match following his two-goal performance. Emmanuel Petit added the games final goal in the dying minutes.
The most notable talking point before the game was Brazilian Superstar Ronaldo’s status. It was reported that the Inter Milan striker suffered from a convulsive fit on the eve of the game. However, there are hundreds of different tales about what happened to the soon-to-be Balon d’Or winner. Folha de S Paulo reported that Ronaldo suffered from a nervous breakdown whereas a source at TV Globo allegedly wrote an e-mail said that Brazil agreed to ‘sell’ the World Cup to Fifa for $23 Million so France would win. In exchange, FIFA would also give Brazil a “softened” path to the World Cup 2002 final and the country could host a world cup in the 2010’s. Brazil did indeed win the 2002 competition and hosted the 2014 World cup, so it is up for debate if this is true or just a coincidence. The player who Ronaldo replaced the team sheet only 72 minutes before kickoff believed that the 21-year old Superstar started because of commitments to sponsors. Which player was replaced and made these allegations?
Edmundo was the striker who Ronaldo replaced just before the final. He claimed to have witnessed his fellow striker’s “fit” after a cry for help from Roberto Carlos before being rushed to the hospital. Edmundo suggested Nike’s influence caused Ronaldo, who the sports brand sponsored, to start in the Stade de France and caused “The Animal” to miss out despite the young star clearly not being fit enough to play.
Question 8 (NFL):
After falling three times at the final hurdle in 1987, 1988 and 1990, Hall of Fame Quarterback John Elway finally got his hands on the Lombardi trophy as the Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl on January 25th, 1998. The Broncos defeated the heavily-favoured defending champions the Green Bay Packers, led by league-MVP Brett Farve, 31-24 at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, becoming the second wild card team in history to win the big game. The Colorado franchise, the AFC number four seed, defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers during their playoff run to reach their fourth Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers topped an incredible strong NFC central to earn the number two seed and avoid the wild card. The reigning champions defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round before winning the NFC champion game 23-10 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite the focus being on Elway’s long-awaited championship victory, the quarterback had a relatively poor game, connect with only 12 of his 22 pass attempts for zero touchdowns and one interception for a rating of 51.9. Instead, the Bronco’s running back Terrell Davis was the star of the show. Davis, who is Denver’s all-time leading rusher, won the Super Bowl MVP award after gaining 157 yards from 30 carries. The Hall of Famer also scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:45 left on the clock. What made Davis’ performance even more remarkable is that he missed the majority of the second quarter, but what kept him from taking the field?
Terrell Davis suffered from migraine headaches during the game, rendering unable to play during the second quarter. Despite this, the running back became the only player to rush for three touchdowns in a Super Bowl. He is also the only non-San Francisco 49er to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Alongside his touchdowns. Davis ran for 157 yards and caught two passes for eight yards. To this day, he still holds the record for most postseason single-season touchdowns with eight.
Question 9 (Formula 1):
The 1998 FIA Formula One featured an incredible, season-long battle between McLaren’s Mika Häkkinen and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher for the World Drivers’ Championship. The two drivers won 14 of the 16 races during the campaign, with only David Coulthard and Damon Hill also claiming a victory. With Häkkinen and Coulthard behind the wheel, McLaren-Mercedes won their eighth Constructors Championship in their history, with Schumacher’s Ferrari finishing as runners up, 23 points behind their rivals. The Williams team, who had won the last two championships, finished in third place after their first winless season since 1988.
Häkkinen started the season strong, winning four of the first six races of the season and establishing a clear lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship. However, Schumacher’s mid-season resurgence saw the German win the next three races, closing the gap. Over the next six games, the two drivers exchanged victories, with the McLaren driver earning three and the Ferrari man winning two, with both men forced to retire during the Belgium Grand Prix. The Flying Finn pipped the German legend to the title on the season’s final race in Japan. Schumacher earned the pole position for the race. However, he suffered multiple misfortunes which cost him the chance at victory. What happened to the Ferrari driver?
Schumacher stalled on the grid and later retired from the race due to a blown tyre. As soon as the German withdrew from the track, the championship was Häkkinen’s no matter the race’s outcome. Regardless, the Finn won the race, with Schumacher’s teammate Eddie Irvine finishing in second. This was Häkkinen first-ever championship. The McLaren driver successfully retained his crown in the 1999 season, although, this would be his last title with the Flying Finn leaving the sport in 2001. Schumacher’s reign of dominance began at the start of the millennium. The Ferrari man won four straight titles between 2000-2004.
Question 10 (Tennis):
The 1998 Wimbledon Championships took place from June 22nd to July 5th. The 122nd edition of the legendary Tennis Grand Slam saw Pete Sampras retain his Men’s Singles Championship, defeating Goran Ivanišević 6–7(2–7), 7–6(11–9), 6–4, 3–6, 6–2 in the final. This victory marked the American’s fifth Wimbledon title and 11th career Grand Slam singles crown. Jana Novotná won the Women’s singles championship by defeating Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets. This was her first and only Singles Grand Slam title. The Czech also won the Women’s Doubles at the same event with her partner Martina Hingis. The Dutch duo Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis defeated the Australian pair Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde to claim the Men’s Doubles crown.
A young Serena Williams won her first of many Grand Slam titles of any kind, teaming with the Belarusian Max Mirnyi to win the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles championship. The pair defeated Mahesh Bhupathi and Mirjana Lučić in straight sets. Another future superstar was victorious during the 1998 competition, winning the Juniors Boys’ Single Championship, but who was it?
Rodger Federer won the 1998 Juniors Boys’ Single Championship after conquering Irakli Labadze in straight sets. The Swiss Superstar went on to win the Mens’ Singles Wimbledon title a record eight times, including a dominant four-year stretch from 2003-2007 where he retained his title each year. Shared with long-time rival Rafael Nadal, Federer has the most Grand Slam Men’s singles titles in history, winning 20. He also became the player to be ranked the ATP World No.1 for the most weeks in history, with a combined 310 weeks on top of the mountain.