Year for the ages: Chicago Cubs' win just the latest nail-biter

The moment the Cubs won
The moment the Cubs won

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  • The Chicago Cubs win was thrilling, but was it the year's MOST thrilling finish?
  • Spanish soccer, the Olympics and college basketball have also brought nail-biters

(CNN)Hmmm, what's the best hackneyed sports cliche to describe Wednesday night's thrilling finish in World Series Game 7? One for the ages? Yes, one for the ages. Let's go with that.

Up 6-3 in the eighth inning, the Chicago Cubs looked to have snapped their 108-year hex. They sent out their human flame thrower, Aroldis Chapman, who quickly gave up a run and then the lead when the Cleveland Indians' Rajai Davis cracked one out of Progressive Field, tying the game at six and sending it into extra innings.
    It took some heroics from the Cubs' Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero to restore the lead in the 10th inning and Davis did his best to get his team back in the game, but the Indians couldn't catch up.
    It was one for the ages.
    As the nation groggily caught its collective breath Thursday morning, it dawned on us here at CNN that this is far from the only nail-biter to which sports fans have been treated in the last year or so.
    There have been ... several for the ages. So without further bloviating, let's have a look at the (wholly subjective and unscientifically derived) top 10:

    10) Barcelona wins La Liga in final week

    Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick as Barcelona sealed the La Liga title against Granada in May.
    This one is a little anticlimactic, hence its position at No. 10, but it came down to the final game of the season in May. Kicking off at the same time as archrival Real Madrid, who stood a mere point behind the defending champions, Barcelona took on a lackluster Granada squad. If Barca failed to notch anything but a win, the Galacticos could topple the champs by beating another cellar dweller, Deportivo de La Coruña.
    Of course, the subhead kills the suspense here. It didn't happen, despite the best efforts of Real's Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona's star vampire... er, striker Luis Suarez bagged a hat trick to sink Granada and secure Barcelona's second straight title. Chicagoesque celebrations ensued across Catalonia.

    9) Clemson and the ol' college try

    Surprise hero emerges from Championship Game
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    In the semifinals, Alabama had trounced Michigan State and Clemson had beaten Oklahoma by almost three touchdowns, so we knew there would be points. But 85 of them? 85? Phew. Clemson's Deshaun Watson torched one of the best defenses in the nation for more than 400 yards as Clemson racked up 31 first downs to the Crimson Tide's 18.
    But the only numbers that matter are the scores when the clock hits 0:00. When Alabama's Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry scored his third rushing touchdown with just over a minute left, putting the Tide up 45-33, it seemed like it was time to hit the sack. But Watson wasn't ready for bed. He marched his Tigers 68 yards in 55 seconds, capping the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass.
    But for all the excitement, Clemson fell short. Alabama recovered the ensuing onside kick with seconds left to secure its fourth title in seven years.

    8) Kyle Busch caps comeback

    Kyle Busch celebrates with his crew after winning the series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015.
    The 31-year-old wasn't even supposed to be in it. After a nasty February 2015 wreck the day before the Daytona 500 left Busch with a broken leg and foot, Busch charged back to finish in the top five 12 times.
    He took five checkered flags in that span, including the final contest in Miami in November 2015, where he took the lead on Lap 261 of 267 to beat out rivals Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, the latter by a single point in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

    7) Real Madrid dons European crown

    Real Madrid win UEFA Champions League final
    Real Madrid win UEFA Champions League final

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    Real Madrid win UEFA Champions League final 02:41
    They weren't the best team in Spain, but Real were last season's best European team. Such is soccer/football. In the May final of the Champions League, which pits the top club teams across Europe against each other, it was a Madrilenian affair with Real facing crosstown rival Atlético Madrid. Defender Sergio Ramos opened the scoring in the 15th minute, and Real held the lead for most of the game until Yannick Ferreira Carrasco leveled the score with 11 minutes remaining.
    After a grueling 30 minutes of injury time, the game remained tied, sending it to everyone's favorite, penalty kicks. The first seven penalty takers hit net, putting Real up 4-3. Atletico's Juanfran (yes, he's one of those one-named fellows) stepped to the spot and banged the ball off the goalpost. It was a bad year for Real star Ronaldo and penalty kicks, but even with 120 minutes worth of hair gel-infused sweat running down his face, he nailed it.
    Then, he ripped off his shirt to show everyone how often he works out. Because, of course.

    6) Simultaneous touch

    American Simone Manuel embraces Penny Oleksiak of Canada after the pair tied to win gold in the Women's 100m freestyle final on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games this August.
    Many eyes were on American Simone Manuel ahead of the Rio Olympics, as she was expected to compete for gold in the women's 100-meter freestyle, which would be a first for a Yank since 1984. Compete the 20-year-old Stanford swimmer did. Not only did she best world record holder Cate Campbell of Australia in the event, but she also became the first black American woman to earn gold in the pool. Oh, and she set Olympic and US records en route to a four-medal haul in the Games.
    But the finish is what's key here. It came down to ... what's a swimming pool's equivalent of "the wire"? As the Texas-born Manuel stroked her way to the finish, Canada's Penny Oleksiak, the event's youngest swimmer, stayed with her. They touched the wall together at 57.2 seconds. For only the third time in the history of Olympic swimming, there were two gold medals and two national anthems at the podium ceremony.

    5) Madness in Kolkata

    The West Indies celebrate victory after Carlos Brathwaite hit the winning runs during the ICC World Twenty20 final against England.
    At the 2016 Twenty20 Cricket World Cup Final in April, it was West Indies that needed a miracle to defeat England in a frenetic final. With just six deliveries of the innings remaining and 19 runs required for victory, Carlos Brathwaite took center stage by smashing four consecutive maximums to spark wild celebrations.
    Brathwaite hit each of Ben Stokes' four balls for six, drilling the ball out into the crowd to leave spectators stunned. It left poor Stokes in tears as he made his way off the field and left the West Indies partying late into the night. Even Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt joined the soiree.

    4) Cleveland snaps its own curse

    Cleveland Cavaliers win NBA Championship
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    So, the Indians couldn't pull it off Wednesday night. That's OK. North Coast got a taste of being on top of the sports world earlier this year, snapping its own 52-year championship drought. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors had played an ugly series in the NBA Finals. Heck, the first three quarters of Game 7 didn't really show off either team's considerable prowess on the hardcourt.
    But that fourth quarter. Wow. And that last minute of the fourth quarter. Wow-wow. Tied 89-89, The Cavs' Kyrie Irving let a three-pointer fly in the face of league MVP Steph Curry and drained it. The Warriors would never recover. Curry chucked up a brick at the end, only for teammate Marreese Speights to collect the rebound and put up an equally ugly shot. The Cavs and prodigal son LeBron James had overcome a 3-1 deficit -- the first ever in a Finals series -- to become the world's best. There were no strangers in Cleveland that night.

    3) An unlikely first

    Brazil thrills in soccer; track medalist wins appeal
    Brazil thrills in soccer; track medalist wins appeal

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    Brazil thrills in soccer; track medalist wins appeal 04:26
    When it comes to Brazil and soccer, there is little Canarinho hasn't achieved. They've boasted the world (and arguably history's) best player in Pelé. They've qualified for every World Cup, winning five. They have Confederations Cups, South American Championships, Copa Americas. The copas overfloweth. But never had they won Olympic gold until (spoiler alert) this year. Before 2016, three silvers, two bronzes, zero golds.
    With home-field advantage at the Rio Games, Brazil skated through the group and knockout stages to make the final. Their opponents, Germany, had struggled in the group stage, but made easy work of Portugal and Nigeria in the knockout stage. In regulation of the gold medal match, both teams notched a goal but couldn't find a winner in 120 minutes, setting up penalty kicks. Both teams were perfect on their first four shots, but Germany's Nils Petersen missed his team's fifth penalty, setting up the storybook ending: Neymar, the future of Brazilian soccer, for Brazil's first Olympic gold.
    The star stutter-stepped then fired. The net rippled, and 70,000 Brazilians inside the historic Maracana Stadium erupted in a deafening din. Did the fact Germany had whipped Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup make the win sweeter? As they say in Sao Paulo: Sim! Sim!

    2) Diving to the finish

    Shaunae Miller dives over the finish line to win the gold medal in the women's 400-meter final ahead of  Allyson Felix of the United States.
    At the London Games in 2012, Allyson Felix had been a juggernaut, snaring three golds after winning one at the Beijing Games in 2008. But for all that silverware, a gold in the women's 400-meter had eluded her. Rio 2016 was supposed to be the American's year, and the 400-meter would mark her fifth gold should she prevail.
    You see where this is going, right? As Felix neared the finish line alongside Bahamian Shaunae Miller, she appeared to be edging ahead of Miller, but then Miller did something you don't often see in track meets. She took a face-first dive across the finish line to win by .07 seconds. "I didn't quite do enough," Felix told reporters later. Translation: "I didn't hurl my scantily clad body across the finish line onto the unforgiving track surface." It's OK, Ms. Felix. You've got nine Olympic medals. You can let Miller have one.

    1) What's smoother than moves by Villanova?

    Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater wins NCAA championship
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    Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater wins NCAA championship 01:30
    And that brings us to No. 1, the mackdaddy finish of the year before Wednesday's win by the Cubbies: Kris Jenkins with the dagger through the heart of Tarheel Nation. This year's March Madness brought us some tasty finishes, but none more delicious than the final between Villanova and the University of North Carolina. Nova is known for its solid hoops program, but it was up against UNC, where basketball is king. That, and an apparently top-notch African-American studies program.
    The Wildcats shot lights-out all night, while the Tarheels were outright terroristic from three-point land. It came down to the wire, and with six seconds left, and his team down by three, Marcus Paige lofted an acrobatic three-pointer to tie the game at 74. UNC fans, alum Michael Jordan among them, were rightfully elated, but it was short-lived. On the following inbound pass, guard Ryan Arcidiacono hustled up the court and dished it to Jenkins at the arc. He let it fly just before the buzzer. Bang.
    V for Villanova! V for Victory! B for Blue! W for White! What does it spell? Who the hell knows?
    All this to say, it's been a fantastic year for sports. Where do you think the Cubbies land on this list? Did we miss anything from the past 12 months? Is our list out of order? If so, give a shout at this here Twitter handle. And please keep it civil. It's only a game.