2012 American sports year in review: Winners and losers

2013 is just over the horizon, and 2012 is ready to fade into the sunset. To bridge the gap, enjoy a brief review of the past year in American sports. Photo: Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, AP Female Athlete of 2012 AP

WASHINGTON, December 31, 2012 — As 2012 draws to a close, two classic sports questions present themselves as always: What happened? What will happen?

No page is long enough to list, let alone analyze the events and thoughts that swept the sports world this year, or the potential events and movements of the next, but we have to start somewhere, so let’s go for the obvious: the official winners and losers of 2012.

It was a good year to be associated with the Giants. In February, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17, thanks to Ahmad Bradshaw accidentally scoring the game-winning touchdown while trying to set Lawrence Tynes up for a short last-second field goal attempt. Almost nine months later, in late October, the San Francisco Giants swept away the Detroit Tigers to take their second World Series title in three years.

2012 Had High and Low Moments

San Francisco Giants celebrate winning the World Series AP

For the first time, it was a fantastic year to be LeBron James in June. He led the Miami Heat to an NBA Finals victory in five games over the Oklahoma City Thunder and was named MVP of his first Finals win.

With the specter of labor unrest on the horizon, the Los Angeles Kings made history behind star goaltender Jonathan Quick by becoming the first eighth-seeded team to win the Stanley Cup, conquering the Vancouver Canucks (5 games), St. Louis Blues (4), Phoenix Coyotes (5), and New Jersey Devils (6), along the way.

At least one team from each league certainly might have wished for a rewind or erasure of their 2012 season. In the NFL, that team wasn’t the Indianapolis Colts, which went 2-14, because they earned the right to draft Andrew Luck. That team was the St. Louis Rams, which finished with the same record, but traded the number two pick to the Washington Redskins, which were revitalized after picking Robert Griffin III.

In baseball, the Houston Astros took the crown for the worst record at 55-107 and were forced to look ahead to a future in the American League. In basketball, the Charlotte Bobcats set a modern record with their .106 winning percentage, or 7 wins in 66 tries, and after all that, they couldn’t even win the NBA Draft Lottery. In hockey, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the bottom feeders at 29-46-7.

Olympics Dominated the News

And the first two weeks of August were most noticeable for: the beginning of the NFL Preseason! Just kidding. London put on a jolly good Summer Olympics, and Americans reveled in a table-topping 104 medals, 46 of them gold, Michael Phelps’ last hurrah, Gabby Douglas’ gymnastics double gold, David Boudia’s breaking of the Chinese diving hegemony, another women’s soccer gold medal, and even more inspirational stories and otherworldly performances from athletes all around the world.

Andy Murray isn’t American, but he became the first British man since Fred Perry to win a tennis major title when he conquered Novak Djokovic at the US Open.

Lance Armstrong is American, and though he still may be the greatest cyclist of all-time, he was revealed as the greatest doper in an age of dopers, losing the seven Tour de France titles that had made him a legend and receiving a lifetime ban from sanctioned sports.

The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky affair continued to astound and shock the nation. On January 22, fired head coach Joe Paterno passed away. In June, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse, and in October was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. In July, the NCAA levied sweeping penalties against the university, including a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, and the vacation of all victories from 1998-2011.

More Sports Tragedies

Lance Armstrong in better days AP

Brain damage and the NFL came head-to-head in more ways than one. On April 19, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling committed suicide, while suffering from clinical depression that an autopsy linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy from blows to the head. On May 2, former San Diego Chargers star linebacker Junior Seau also committed suicide with the autopsy report not listing brain damage as a factor in his death.

The National Institutes of Health are currently carrying out a study of Seau’s brain tissue in compliance with a family request. And in November, a lawsuit involving almost 4,000 former NFL players alleges that the NFL denied the risks of long-term brain damage and falsified research to support that position. The allegation was strengthened when the NFL’s retirement board ruled that football was responsible for the severe brain injuries of three former players.

Aside from Easterling, Seau, and Paterno 2012 bid farewell to many other sports legends. February 16 saw the death of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, an All-Star with the Montreal Expos and New York Mets. On April 1, the original North American Soccer League’s leading scorer, Giorgio Chinaglia, who played alongside Pelé with the New York Cosmos, passed on.

Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky, namesake of the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park, died on August 13. On September 6, Art Modell, the owner who became a villain in Cleveland for taking away the Browns, and a hero in Baltimore for bringing professional football back in the form of the Ravens, died. Darrell Royal, the University of Texas football coach who swore by the running game and the wishbone offense, passed away on November 7.

November 27 saw the passing of Marvin Miller, the MLBPA head who helped break the reserve clause and usher in free agency. They were just nine of the many athletes, coaches, trainers, and executives who passed away in 2012.

What sports moment of 2012 was your favorite? Your least favorite? What did we leave out? Add them in the comments below.


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Arjuna Subramanian

Arjuna Subramanian is an aspiring baseball writer living in the Washington D.C. area.  He started his writing  with his blog Painting The Black on MLBlogs in May of 2009.  He fell in love with the sabermetric movement during the 2008-2009 offseason, and strives to provide balanced articles from both sides of the statistics/scouting divide.  

When not writing, watching/listening to baseball, over-analyzing his Chicago Cubs, staring in disbelief at the writing of Thomas Boswell, or keeping tabs on the latest Milton Bradley blowup, he can usually be found at the DC Fencers Club, where he is a competitive epee fencer.

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