Good Sports

When quarterback Drew Brees led the underdog New Orleans Saints to victory over Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, the win signaled that this would be the year of excellence over celebrity.

Whether it was the series of outstanding performances at the Vancouver Winter Olympics or the World Cup, 2010 didn’t always yield the most famous of champions, but always the right ones.

With Tiger Woods struggling through a swath of personal turmoil, perennial runner-up Phil Mickelson produced a sublime display to win the Masters. Spain’s technical experts outlasted flashier teams from Brazil and Argentina to take the World Cup. Rafael Nadal made the world look past a man named Roger Federer — although the world got a little distracted at Wimbledon by two unknown, dogged players.

Butler University showed the college basketball world the value of ignoring what outsiders see as your limitations and instead focusing on what you know. Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to a second straight NBA championship through his relentless work ethic and burgeoning trust in his teammates picking him up.

Sam Bradford showed the power of perseverance. He overcame an injury that called into question his decision to return for a final year of college football, and he became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft anyway.

Then there were those San Francisco Giants, ducking under the radar before exploding to life in October to capture a long-awaited World Series triumph.

The line between sports and celebrity has never been finer. Yet the Web’s most sought-after sports events of 2010 served as a timely reminder that star power doesn’t have to be the main attraction.

–Dan Wetzel, Martin Rogers, and Steve Henson

Yahoo! Sports national columnist Dan Wetzel is an award-winning sportswriter, author, and screenwriter. He has covered all levels of basketball, as well as college football, the NFL, MLB, and the NHL. He is the co-author of the new book “Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series.”

Yahoo! Sports general assignment writer/reporter Martin Rogers spent seven years as a soccer writer for the London Daily Mirror, covering the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, and international soccer. A journalism graduate from Harlow College, he is now based in Los Angeles, covering soccer, boxing, golf, and the Olympics.

Yahoo! Sports MLB editor Steve Henson previously covered baseball at the Los Angeles Times.