2012 has had its share of memories that shook the sports world, and like most years, that will be talked about for years to come. Some were historic, some were good, some were bad, and some may go down in sports immortality. In no particular order here are my 10 favorite memories of 2012.
10) Danica Patrick goes fulltime to NASCAR: After two years of driving in both NASCAR’s Nationwide Series for Dale Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team and IRL for Andretti-Green, sexy female driver Danica Patrick decided to drive fulltime in NASCAR. She drove the full season in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports team and ran a few select races in the Sprint Cup Division for Stewart/Haas with sponsorship from BigDaddy.com for both series. While she did not win any event, she did manage to finish the year in the top 10 in points in the Nationwide Series and will be going full time in Sprint Cup driving for Stewart/Haas. She did manage some top 10 finishes in her Nationwide run and put everyone on notice that NASCAR is not just for the boys.
9) New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal: Early in 2012 it was revealed that several players had been involved in a bounty system for several years, including their historic 2009 Super Bowl Season. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season, former Saints Linebacker Scott Fujita eight games, Defensive Coach Joe Vitt for eight games, Defensive Lineman Will Smith for four games, former Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams indefinitely, General Manager Mickey Loomis for 8 games, and Coach Sean Payton for the entire season. The players have filed appeals and have testified in court, who threw out the original suspensions, and the league voided coach Sean Payton’s contract. In response Goodell appointed former Commisioner Paul Taglibue to review the case and give his own ruling. The fallout from this scandal can still be felt and could take years to resolve.
8) San Francisco Giants win their second World Series titile in three years: After a less than stellar 2011, the San Francisco Giants quietly took control of the National League West division and then took to dominating the National League in the post season. After a showdown with the St, Louis Cardinals, the Giants fought their way to get the pennant and sweep the Detroit Tigers, who featured Miduel Cabrerra the first AL Batting Triple Crown winner in 45 years, in the World Series. A large part of their postseason success was due to moving one time ace starter Tim Lincecum to a middle reliever role in the post season and a healthy Buster Posey, who went on to win NL MVP, who was out for the 2011 season with a broken leg after a major plate collision. One noticible absence from the field was eccentric closer Brian Wilson. Wilson had been out since May due to Tommy John surgery. He was in the dugout and was present in the on-field celebration. With a healthy Wilson coming back, the Giants will be gunning for a chance to become a dynasty team in 2013.
7) Brad Keselowski wins the Sprint Cup Chase: After proving that he can win at NASCAR’s top level and tweet during races, Brad Keselowski proved he can win titles. In what turned out to be Dodge’s (hopefully temporary) last year, Keselowski gave them their first cup title since Richard Petty won the then Winston Cup in a Dodge in 1975. It also gave his boss Roger Penske his first Cup title. Penske had many successes in other motorsports, such as the winningest owner in Indy 500 history, but he had never won the top prize in NASCAR’s top division. Keselowski battled five time champion Jimmy Johnson hard and Johnson was bitten by bad luck in the last two races in Phoenix and Homestead which gave Keselowski the edge and the championship. With Penske moving to Ford in 2013 after signing a long term deal with the Blue Oval, plus new car designs planned for 2013, Keselowski has momentum and a target on his back when he tweets from his car in the 2013 Daytona 500.
6) Notre Dame has its best season in years: Notre Dame is college football’s most storied program and for the better part of the last 15 years has had bad luck. Under third year coach Brian Kelly the Irish are undefeated going into their annual matchup with Southern Cal. The Irish have to travel to Los Angeles to face the Trojans which has not fared too well for them historically. If Notre Dame holds off SC they will put themselves in the BCS Championship game in Miami most likely against either Alabama or Georgia. If they face the Crimson Tide, they have history on their side since they have only lost to Bama once in their history.
5) Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal; The biggest sports scandal of 2011 spilled out into 2012. After firing their legendary coach Joe Paterno, Penn State was faced with a rat’s nest of a mess from the actions of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. On January 22, Paterno succumbed to lung cancer. This was the mildest of bad news they would get. In the summer of 2012, the Nittany Lions found out that all of their victories from 1998 to 2011 would be nullified, they were given a four year postseason ban, fined $60 million by the NCAA and another $13 million by the Big 10 Conference. and limited to 65 scholarship players for the next five years. In addition to the penalties, the NCAA allowed any PSU football player to transfer to another school with immidiate eligibility to play and Penn State had to sign an “athletics integrity agreement” with the NCAA and BIg 10. A harsh fate for a program and coach once celebrated for integrity.
4) Miami Heat win the NBA Finals; The Miami Heat won their second NBA Championship by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder four games to one and gave NBA Superstar LeBron James his first professional title. James had often been criticized for his lack of a championship ring despite his leaving the Cleveland Caviliers two years prior for more money and a chance to be teamed with players who were considered a sure thing for an NBA title. In James’ first year the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games. The title removed a huge monkey off of James’ back and a cause to celebrate.
3) A Playoff for Division I FBS football: After many years of debate, and congressional intervention, it was announced in early 2012 that the NCAA’s top football division reached a compromise in the dilema of bowl games vs. playoff to determine the National Champion. Beginning in 2014, a committee will select four teams among the major conferences to compete in a playoff to decide which two teams will battle for the “Championship Bowl”. This may be controversial as to who will play but it solves the decades long controversy as to which team is the national championship. For years it was determined by polls, which will still be used to help determine the top qualifiers, as to who was the best team in any particular year. In other words, the championship will be decided on the field and not by opinion.
2) Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles: After years of speculation and investigation of alleged blood doping and using performance enhancing drugs, the US Anti-Doping Agency concluded that seven time Tour de Fance winner Lance Armstrong had been guilty of all accusations. Their reccomendation was for Armstrong to be stripped of all Tour titles. Armstrong appealed and fought the USADA’s ruling for a few months before deciding to drop his appeal. As a result the Tour de France stripped him of his titles and Armstrong formally cut all ties to the Livestrong Foundation which he founded. His decision to cut ties with Livestrong was so that the organization would not be tarnished due to his name being tied to charity. His dropping the appeal gave the public the impression of an admission of guilt.
1) Alabama defeats LSU for the BCS title: On January 7th the University of Alabama and LSU met at the Mercedes Benz Superdome for the BCS National Championship game. After meeting a month and a half prior to the championship game, LSU beat the Tide by a field goal in overtime and then sailed through the rest of their schedule and SEC Championship game to become an overwhelming favorite to win the National Championship Game in New Orleans. The Tigers entered the game at 13-0 while Bama came in with a record of 11-1 and a major chip on their shoulder. Coaches Les Miles and Nick Saban were both undefeated in BCS Championship games and both had led LSU to victory in tha big game. This time Saban was on the other side of the field. Alabama wasted no time getting on the board and the Tigers gave a lackluster performance in what was termed by many as the game of the century. The Crimson Tide went on to post a 21-0 win and LSU did not reach the Red Zone until late in the game. One of the noticable problems for the Tigers came from Tyron Matthieu, a Heismann finalist, who was burned by Bama receivers and after the season was dismissed from the team for off the field issues. The Tide and Tigers met again in October of ’12 with Bama leaving Tiger Stadium with a last second win.
2012 proved to be an interesting year in sports and 2013 is poised to be even more exciting. One of the biggest stories might be the success or failure of the Houston Astros as they move from 50 years in the National League to the American League. Also to look forward to in 2013 is the BCS Championship Game, the Super Bowl, The NBA Finals, the Daytona 500, and hopefully some NHL hockey if the lockout ends. If the NHL season is cancelled a second time, it could mean the end of the NHL and North American sports’ oldest trophy the Stanley Cup.