Upon its completion in 1965, the Houston Astrodome was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World. By any measure of the age -- even an age in which man was racing toward the moon -- it was a spectacular marriage of imagination and engineering.

When I caught up to it last spring, while embedded in Saint Mary's NCAA Tournament run, the Astrodome was a sad sight. Once a commanding presence in its only-in-Texas-sized parking lot, the Dome now sits in the literal shadow of colossal Reliant Stadium.

But that's life, isn't it? In the turn of a page, one generation's greatest work is trumped by the next, by feats no one could have foreseen until they happened.

In that respect, the sports year 2010 was a real page-turner.

Perhaps the most improbable sight of all was that of the San Francisco Giants making a mad dash for the pitcher's mound from all corners of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington after winning the franchise's first World Series in 56 years.

That this unlikely collection of free spirits and castoffs succeeded where generations of Giants (Willie Mays and Barry Bonds among them) had failed was oddly fitting. Tim Lincecum, at once diminutive and dominating. Aubrey Huff, quirky and wholly appreciative of his first postseason experience. Buster Posey, too young to know it isn't supposed to be this easy. Brian Wilson and his pet beard, making his fans sweat blood before saluting another save as if there'd been nothing to it.


Advertisement

The victory parade was cathartic, remarkable for the legions of fans who thought they'd never see the day, and memories of legions more who didn't. If the Giants had been the only reason to remember 2010, they would have been reason enough. They left us with an abundance of warm memories and frozen-in-time moments.

But they weren't alone. They were part of a theme, especially on the local level. At Cal, for example, the men's basketball team, led by pocket-size point guard Jerome Randle, won its first conference regular-season championship in 50 years. If that wasn't on a par with winning the NCAA title (and it wasn't), something still can be said for hoisting a trophy you haven't won since Eisenhower was president.

Similarly, the Cal women won the WNIT, something they never had done. (Stanford's women, it cannot be overlooked, reached the NCAA Tournament Final Four, something they seemingly always do.)

But the wildest ride in Bay Area basketball circles belonged to the Saint Mary's men, who became media darlings in the Great Northeast by progressing through the Providence, R.I., regional to the first Sweet 16 appearance in school history. If there was a downside, it was that senior center Omar Samhan never did get the date with Taylor Swift for which he pined during a news conference in Houston.

A's pitcher Dallas Braden chose Mother's Day to throw the 19th perfect game in major league history. It came just 20 days before Philadelphia's Roy Halladay threw the 20th, and 33 days before Detroit's Armando Galarraga would have thrown the 21st but for a blown umpire's call on what should have been the final out.

Speaking of things we've never seen before.

If not once-in-a-generation moments, the following loosely fit the Once Upon a Dream theme:

  • The Sharks advanced to the conference finals for just the second time in team history.

  • Stanford's football team won 11 games, produced its second consecutive Heisman Trophy runner-up and earned a berth in the Orange Bowl.

  • The FC Gold Pride won the Women's Professional Soccer title in September -- then folded in November for lack of investors.

    The theme wasn't just a Bay Area thing. Spain won its first World Cup, beating the Netherlands 1-0 on a goal by Andres Iniesta in extra time. If not a panacea for Spain's unrest and economic distress, the championship was at least a diversion -- one that occasioned a joyous crowd of 75,000 to gather in Barcelona and a much larger civic celebration in Madrid.

    Closer to home, the New Orleans Saints -- for years dubbed the Ain'ts for their relentlessly inept play -- won the first Super Bowl in the team's 43-year existence. In so doing, they served as both an inspiration for and a symbol of the region's ongoing recovery from the brutal destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

    The unexpected, the unlikely, generational achievement, civic inspiration, global interest, social relevance -- you can't expect much more from a sports year. And to 2011: Good luck topping that.

    Which, if we're remembering this correctly, is what the mayor of Houston said when he cut the yellow ribbon to open the Astrodome.

    Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@bayareanewsgroup.com.