Dec 28, 2004 7:32 AM

Sports in 2004 was all about a reverse of the curse.

Maybe it was the Dave Roberts steal of second base in Game 4 against the Yanks, or the bloody Curt Schilling sock or a St. Louis collapse. Whatever, the Red Sox wiped out nearly 90 years of heartbreak to capture the World Series in the best Boston Tea Party in two centuries.

Rarely does an achievement stand out so much in a year full of athletics, but this did. Everything else was a distant second. Not even the Balco scandal and all the asterisks can take away from ending the curse of the Bambino.

Boston may have played St. Louis in the Series, but the winning cards were dealt when the Yanks blew a 3-0 best of seven lead for the first time in major league history.

For the smart guys who bet the Red Sox before the season began, our hearty congratulations. We can only try to be as fortunate this year. Maybe, the Cubs can finally break through!

There were other sports going on throughout 2004 and you’ll find as many lists as opinions. Here’s our Top 10 list, along with 10 predictions for 2005. We won’t bet the house on these, but 60 percent would work just fine.

Our top stories for 2004

10. NHL strike: We would have placed this one higher if folks really cared. Obviously, the players and owners don’t, so why should we as fans care.

9. NASCAR points: The revised system featured a controversial playoff series of races over the final two months, but fans loved it and the sport thrived.

8. Barrera-Morales III: For us in Las Vegas, the third fight in this epic boxing series was the highlight of a troubled sport this town craves and needs.

7. Lance Armstrong: Tour de Lance instead of France. Now five straight for the man who beat cancer and has Sheryl Crow too!

6. Smarty Jones: The other feel-good story, along with the Red Sox. This one didn’t finish well. No Triple Crown, but Smarty gave horse racing a big boost.

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Carolina Panthers miracle run comes up three points and one breast short against New England.

4. Tiger Woods: The "slump" talk just would not cease. All Tiger did was make every cut again and finish second in money to Vijay without a major. Not bad.

3. Shaq-Kobe: The in-fighting, eventual trade of O’Neal to Miami and Bryant’s rape trial kept these two NBA mega stars in the spotlight all year.

2. Peyton’s 49 TDs: Manning’s pursuit of Dan Marino’s single-season touchdown pass mark was just what the NFL needed to help erase Janet’s boob-boo.

Honorable mentions: UConn men/women hoops double, Balco and Bonds, Annika’s 10 wins, Smashnova out-polls Anna, Vijay golf No. 1, Serena’s slide, Ricky Williams quitting Dolphins, Reggie White’s tragic death.