Being that we are at the end of what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months, why not take a look back at the biggest sports stories of such a year? After all, I’m pretty sure nobody else does these sort of retrospectives…
15) The Los Angeles Kings Win The Stanley Cup
For purposes of full disclosure, I have a bias on this one; I’ve been a Kings’ fan since I had to hold a puck with two hands. But there’s a couple of reasons why this win by the sole surviving original California hockey team (raise your hand if you remember the California Golden Seals) is a big story.
- The Kings are the first native Los Angeles team (not relocated from another city) to win a championship (Anaheim is NOT Los Angeles).
- The Kings became the first NHL team to enter the playoffs as the 8th seed and eliminate the 1st and 2nd seeded teams in their conference.
- The Kings became the first team to win the Stanley Cup entering the playoffs as a #8 seed.
- The Los Angeles Kings ended one of the longest championship droughts (45 years) when they hoisted the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
The moral of the story: Don’t look now, but the Golden State is slowly becoming hockey territory. In the last twenty years, California has won more Stanley Cups than Canada has.
14) Johnny Football Becomes Johnny Heisman
The rise of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had all the media hype of other stories you will see on this list, but it had one crucial difference. Johnny Football became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, thus breaking one of the last barriers in the history of the 50-pound trophy awarded by the Downtown Athletic Club. Manziel literally came from nowhere to the pinnacle of college football in a vote that was never really close.
The moral of the story: Until further notice, the Heisman is an award for quarterbacks and running backs only. If I had a vote, by sticking with the strict definition of the “best player in college football,” my ballot would have been as follows:
- Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
- Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
13) The Indianapolis Colts Cut Peyton Manning
The Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis came to a rather inglorious, if not completely anti-climactic end on March 7, when team owner Jim Irsay announced at a press conference that the team would release the man who had become the face of the Colts’ franchise. A 2-14 season during which Manning never saw the field due to a neck injury illustrated the need for a consideration for the future in Indianapolis. Couple that with the economic reality; cutting Manning meant the Colts would save a $28 million roster bonus due on March 8, plus be free-and-clear of the remainder of his contract. Add it all up, and it means this move surprised nobody, because it allowed the Colts to have money for the next franchise quarterback, #1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck.
The moral of the story: Even 4-time MVPs are no longer immune to the economic realities of sports.
12) Augusta National Adds Its First Female Members
To be honest, I’m an old-school guy who believes that private clubs should be able to pick and choose who they want as members. That’s why when I first found out that Augusta had caved to a bunch of ball-busting feminists with chin-whiskers and married to sociology professors, my neanderthal heart sank a bit. But when I found out that the women Augusta picked would completely piss-off the “drives a Subaru with a rainbow bumper sticker” crowd, I had renewed faith in all that is right. Who better to do that that the hated George Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a woman who had the audacity to make a bazillion dollars in the world of corporate finance?
The moral of the story: Social activists, you too need to be careful of what you wish for.
11) The Resurgence of Notre Dame Football
Notre Dame last saw the top of the college football mountain in 1988. In the quarter-century since, the Irish have remained a media darling while simultaneously spending more time as a doormat than a contender. Since that last title, Notre Dame has appeared in exactly five BCS bowls, and has lost every single one of them by at least 14 points. They are 6-11 in bowl games overall in that time. There was a fifteen-year span between 1993 and 2008 where the Irish lacked a single post-season win.
But now they’ve managed to finish the regular season undefeated and ranked number #1, thanks largely to a key goal-line stand in overtime against Stanford, Pittsburgh’s inability to make a clutch kick, and a complete meltdown by Oklahoma. After all that, the Irish are set to face defending BCS champ Alabama for the title.
The moral of the story: Despite all the media attention the Irish are gathering, you would be hard-pressed to hear Notre Dame is a ten-point underdog.
10) The Beginning of the End of the National Hockey League
If you needed a perfect model for how not to run a professional sports league, you need look no further than the NHL. The latest example of their stupidity came with the latest failure to come to a collective bargaining agreement after two months of talks between team owners and the NHL Player’s Association broke down and the league entered its fourth work stoppage since 1992. I’ve never been the commissioner of anything bigger than a fantasy sports league, but even I know that in order to keep people interested in your sport, you need actually to play some games. As of now, that hasn’t happened, and with every passing day, it looks more likely that hockey fans will be deprived of an entire season for the third time since 1994.
It’s time to understand that even die-hard hockey fans like myself are ready to wash their hands of this shit. Idiotus Supremus Gary Bettman and the owners don’t get that they are killing a league over their insistence in making the players’ union pay for their complete lack of business sense. Fellow Sports Blog Movement member Ryan Meehan and I hit on this a while ago, but the keys remain in place. The owners locked the doors because the players wouldn’t accept a new collective bargaining agreement that requires players to accept salary cuts and limits on free agency, despite the fact the owners were more than happy to give those provisions without any threat. The union wants a better revenue sharing plan that help the league’s struggling franchises. Face it, the NHL needs to survive in the Winnipegs and the Buffalos of the world, because in North America, hockey is a regional sport with a limited appeal outside of that region.
The moral of the story: If Meehan, the players, and I can figure that out, what does it say for the future of this league that the owners can’t?
For 25 days last winter, an Asian Harvard graduate was the biggest story in all of sports. Think about that for a minute…Jeremy Lin had been sleeping on his brother’s couch, had been cut by two NBA teams, and was put into a game on February 4th by Mike D’Antoni, whose New York Knicks were so injury-depleted Lin was the only alternative left on the bench besides the towel guy. Lin went on to score 25 points and seven assists leading a comeback over the then-New Jersey Nets. Lin then lead the Knicks to seven straight wins, including one in which he hung 38 on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. What began with a bang (perhaps literally, judging by the photo above) ended with a knee-injury and a quiet relocation to the Houston Rockets.
The moral of the story: All glory is fleeting.
8 ) Michael Phelps Becomes History’s Most Decorated Olympian
As far as I’m concerned, any guy who won 19 gold medals can do all the bong hits he wants. While most stoners can’t get past micro-waving a burrito and watching Scooby-Doo at the same time, this guy joined a frightfully short list of elite athletes while giggling stupidly at his own own reflection in a sheet of aluminum foil.
Phelps made the cover a Wheaties box in 2008 after he won eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing. but then came history’s most publicized bong toke. Phelps received a three-month suspension from USA Swimming and Kellogg’s said they would not renew their endorsement of the Olympian. which goes to show what dumb-asses they both are. USA Swimming finally re-instated Phelps and he went on to win nine more medals in London this past summer, his 19 medals surpassing the 18 won by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
The moral of the story: Somebody ought to start a cereal called Weed-ies.
7) The NFL’s Replacement Referee Debacle
We all know what a debacle the NFL’s use of replacement referees was. The biggest indicator of what dipshits sports commissioners in this country are is that they make me sympathetic to scumbag unions.
The moral of the story: This is just one reason people will look back at 2012 as the beginning of the downfall of the Kommissar Goodell regime.
6) Lance Armstrong Stripped of Cycling Titles
While it isn’t an excuse, there is a shitload of truth in that quote in the above graphic. There’s a huge double-standard about cheating in this country; it is OK when your guy does it. And nobody was more of “America’s Guy” then Lance Armstrong was when was routinely humiliating the French in the Tour de France. That’s really the only reason anybody in America gave a damn about cycling; it was an exercise in hating the perfectly hateable French.
Back in August, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that it was stripping Lance Armstrong of his record-seven Tour de France titles and barred him for life from the sport after concluding he used banned substances. On October 22, the International Cycling Union (UCI), cycling’s governing body, said that it had officially stripped Armstrong of his seven titles and banned him from cycling for life.
But then comes the part where the hypocrisy comes in again.
“He deserves to be forgotten,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said of Armstrong.
Give me a fucking break. Cycling is the dirtiest of the “dirty” sports when it comes to performance enhancing drugs; what’s going on in baseball might as well be the drug problem in pee-wee T-ball compared to cycling. All the UCI and USADA did was to catch the best cheater in sport filled with cheaters whose lifeblood literally is cheating.
The moral of the story: There’s nothing wrong with anything that sticks it to the French.
5) Speaking of Hypocrisy, Let’s Talk About The NCAA
Question: Do you know what the Jerry Sandusky and Sandy Hook Elementary School situations have in common, besides the fact they both involve monsters whose own self-absorbed impulses were brought to bear on many innocent people? They are both examples of how we in America love to pontificate about horrible things, yet do nothing about them.
In the wake of both of these terrible stories, you didn’t hear one credible person come out and say stupid shit like “I’m glad this happened. We need more events like this to learn our lessons.” Anybody who would have said anything like this would have been stamped USDA Prime Whacko and their words would have been filed in the appropriate plastic-bag lined receptacle. But no matter how many times you let a train run over a coin, it still has two sides, and there were far too many people ready to get on the other side of the bombastic coin from the stamped Whackos.
These were the people who took such a brave stand by table-pounding the obvious “we need to protect our children” reaction. There are lessons to be learned, and there are things as a society we need to do; the trouble is that we as society have completely missed the point.
The NCAA serves as the perfect microcosm of American society, and the ridiculous, pointless, and self-serving crap the NCAA does is a perfect reflection of the society in which it exists. It’s numb-handed response to the Sandusky scandal at Penn State proves that.
After former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his report , the NCAA got into the fashionable “shitting on Penn State” and did it in a completely meaningless way. While Penn State may have received some of the harshest penalties in NCAA history, they were ultimately without real teeth. If you doubt that, let’s break them down:
- A 4-year bowl ban: Normally that would hurt, but at the end of the 2011 season, this team could only qualify for a low-rent bowl where they got smoked by a Houston team whose coach was on his way to making Texas A&M the Belle of the SEC Newbies ball. Nobody saw the miracle incoming head coach Bill O’Brien pulled off; he literally made a team intended to be kicked off the B1G island and made it the second-best team in the conference.
- Loss of 20 scholarships: This does kill bench depth, but lets be honest…you can still win with only three punters on the depth chart. 65 scholarships is still plenty to field a winning team; NFL teams only have 53 roster spots. The only part that could sting is that Penn State can only sign 15 recruits per year rather than the usual 25.
- $60 Million Fine: Penn State has an endowment of nearly $2 billion and has an athletic department that generates cash in gorgon-like quantities. $60 million to them is the change you keep in your car’s cup holder for toll booths.
- Loss of shared conference bowl revenue for four years: This is estimated to be around $13 million per year. See above.
- Five years probation: That might as well be Dean Wormer’s “double secret probation” from “Animal House” since the NCAA really has no interest in handing out real punishments.
- Players were allowed to transfer without penalty: The team still won eight games.
- Vacating of all wins from 1998-2011: Record book hocus-pocus. This was only done to screw Joe Paterno, who was already dead by the time this move was made. Utterly pointless.
In other words, the NCAA didn’t do anything substantive after the Sandusky situation just like we won’t solve the problem after Sandy Hook.
The moral of the story: I can’t wait for NCAA President Mark Emmert to weigh in on gun control.
4) The Ongoing Tim Tebow Saga
Where do I start start with this? Here’s a guy who sold more jerseys than anybody before he even took a single NFL snap. Here’s a guy who stays in the headlines despite the fact he’s only taken 50 snaps this season as a New York Jet. Here’s a guy who everybody keeps saying isn’t an NFL quarterback, and yet right now we are talking about where is the next place he “isn’t” going to be an NFL quarterback.
The moral of the story: I’ll buy lunch for the first person who can explain Tebow-mania to me in 50 words or less.
3) The “Bounty-Gate” Debacle
Too bad NFL Commissioner Kommissar Goodell doesn’t have a paper towel good enough to clean up the mess he made.
Think about it for a moment. How many times have you seen a guy over-estimate his power, do something completely stupid because of that over-estimation, then need somebody to come in and clean up the mess. I guess former commissioner Paul Tagliabue is the one who had the big roll of paper towels.
To make a long story short, “Bountygate” blew up in Goodell’s face when he mistakenly assumed the players he suspended would simply roll over and take his brand of “justice.” But when Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita were reinstated by a three-members appeals panel. which included former NFL head Paul Tagliabue. The panel overturned a ruling that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was within his powers to suspend the players for their alleged roles in a pay-to-injure agreement.
What it all boils down to is that in the end, Goodell managed to emasculate himself, and required Tagliabue to get him out of the mess he made for himself. In other words, the commissioner did not have the final say; the former commissioner did. I don’t know of too many executive-level managers who stay employed after they need to be bailed out, especially when Tagliabue was only intended to review Goodell’s decision to impose suspensions on four New Orleans Saints players and instead found the action so flawed he had to vacate those suspensions.
The moral of the story: This is another reason people will look back at 2012 as the beginning of the downfall of the Kommissar Goodell regime.
2) Miguel Cabrera Becomes Baseball’s First Triple Crown Winner in 45 Years
Miguel Cabrera became the first player to win baseball’s Triple Crown since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and just the 15th player ever. This puts Cabrera on a list with baseball royalty which includes Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig. Cabrera led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs.
The moral of the story: Dude can hit.
1) The Los Angeles Dodgers Are The First Sports Franchise to Sell For $2 Billion
The Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to a group that includes NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson for a final sale price of just over $2 billion. That represents the highest price any sports team has ever sold for — by a wide margin.
Television money for live sports is skyrocketing, and it’s driving up the values of sports teams not just in the United States, but around the world as well. People keep trying to tell me baseball is dead, and a baseball team just sold for a staggering amount of money. If one were to pay that $2 billion in cash, you would need sixteen standard shipping pallets stacked four feet square with $100 dollar bills. And the prices are only going up.
Want to buy a European soccer team? Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, so you’d better bring your wallet. Manchester United was the first team to break the the billion-dollar barrier, and that was a decade ago. Now, buying a top team in the English Premier League will easily cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. If you still want a big-time European soccer club, but want to save your pennies, you might be able to get Real Madrid for just under $2 billion. Even the Jacksonville Jaguars, arguably the least-valuable franchise in the NFL, just sold recently for $770 million.
The moral of the story: Television money is exploding sports as we know it.