We can’t pinpoint the exact day, e-mail conversation or story, but at some point over the past three or four years, TSS’ sports community has become one in and of its own.
Like any other fan, we’re wrong on occasion, we gloat when we’re right, but above all, talking sports is an American past time and one we’re glad to make a focal point here. Just like last year, we’ve compiled a list of stories that caught our eye the past 12 months.
And as our time-honored traditional eternally states, crowd participation is encouraged. Not that anyone needed that green light in the first place, but still.
1. Boston Marathon Bombing
The Boston Marathon bombing was where real-life terror and violence encroached on the usual comfort of sports in 2013. With simple hatred and some improvised explosives, the Tsaranaev brothers killed three people and injured hundreds more. The search for Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsaranaev captured the nation’s attention and effectively shut down one of the biggest cities in the country.
While many moments and images from the prolonged manhunt will be remembered for a long time, it’s the scenes from the Marathon, itself, where terrified and injured athletes rallied to help one another that best exemplified the importance of sports this year.
2. Congrats USA! You’re in the 2014 FIFA World Cup’s Worst Group
USA did the dirty work in qualifiers only to meet up with a powerhouse in Germany and a formidable Portugal side. Then there’s Ghana who, in case you forgot, eliminated the USMNT in 2010’s round of 16. FIFA system – which ordered the draw – must run in Windows 95 considering France’s lackluster run landed them in an easy group.
Either way Jürgen Klinsmann and co. have to play with the hand they were dealt. That guy must feel pretty, pretty awkward about seeing his countrymen so early, though.
3. Turn On The Lights: The Ravens Win The Super Bowl
Ray Lewis got his picture-perfect send off, going out on top with the Ravens outlasting a furious second-half 49ers comeback following an unfortunate blackout at the Superdome in New Orleans. The first half was a complete domination job by Baltimore, but after the lights came back, San Francisco finally showed up, but fell short at the very end.
Joe Flacco earned himself a massive contract, that he’s since largely failed to live up to (but still may squeak the Ravens back into the postseason). Meanwhile, Ed Reed left his longtime team and has bounced around the league since. At the conclusion of Lewis’ well-documented career, he goes out with two Super Bowl rings, without question a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, arguably the greatest linebacker in NFL history and a legacy that will outlast all of his one-time legal issues.
4. Alex Rodriguez Got Suspended A Shit-Ton Of Games, Kept Playing Anyway
Alex Rodriguez hate officially came to a head in 2013. Major League Baseball suspended the controversial shortstop-turned-third basemen-turned ladies man from the dugout for a whooping 215 games for his alleged connection with the Biogenesis scandal.
So what’d A-Rod do in response? He immediately filed for an appeal allowing him to A) keep playing, pissing damn-near everyone off in the process and B) more importantly, keep collecting checks. In fact, Pay-Rod’s still neck deep in appeals with the next court date scheduled for February 2014, so do the math.
Speaking of 2014, Rodriguez is due $25M if he manages to finagle his way out of exile. Yes, that sound you just heard is a Yankees fan slamming their glass on the table at the bar. And probably their head, too.
5. Johnny Manziel & Jameis Winston: The Tale Of Two Heismans
2013 was the year of the freshman college quarterback. First, there was Jonathan Football I, Esquire. He loved crushing defenses, babes and brewskies, in that order. And because of his annoying insistence on having a discernible personality, he was a walking ESPN Alert all the way up to and through his becoming the first freshman to win a Heisman. Skip Bayless was convinced if Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow were in the same room together, they would cancel each other out of existence a la Neo and Agent Smith in the third Matrix movie (SPOILER ALERT for a decade-old and sh*tty movie).
Then came along Florida State’s Jameis Winston who seemed like the perfect antidote to Johnny’s freewheeling ways. Millions of grown men across the country fell in love with Winston after his deconstruction of the Clemson defense and his even more impressive, well-spoken post-game interview.
Then, of course, the sexual assault allegation reared its ugly head. Winston was never charged – and eventually won his own Heisman – but his experience served as a reminder that no freshman QB can enter the scene in the NCAA without a healthy dose of controversy.
6. Bayern Munich Is A Pretty Good Club, Guys
You’d think Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga and DFB Pokal domination for the umpteenth time should quell the German giant’s thirst for silverware. Yet, the Reds set out on a redemption mission in 2013’s Champions League Final. They met and conquered rivals Borussia Dortmund in an all-out display of Germany’s football excellence.
Arjen Robben spirited performance yielded the difference in an otherwise tight match. The forward finally put his past failures behind him and, 90 minutes later, secured his team’s rightful place in the beautiful game’s history books. His intent read like a finale to a cheesy, underdog sports film in hindsight. Except his play, in the moment, served as an enthralling show for millions across the globe.
That’s how Bavaria – not Catalonia – became the home of the world’s best club in 2013.
7. Kobe Bryant And Derrick Rose Suffer Career-Altering Injuries
The NBA was robbed of two of its brightest stars over the last 12 months. Kobe’s torn Achilles tendon was sad, especially because the 35-year-old was balling on ever-elite levels. Just six games into his return in the 2013-14 season, Kobe’s already back on the disabled list for six weeks after suffering a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. Love the guy or hate the guy, no one ever wants to see a player go down with injury, especially one of Kobe’s all-time great stature. Now, unfortunately, we’re forced to at least peg one question in our mind. We know Kobe’s mental approach will be as relentless as ever, but how much does his body have left to give him?
But Rose injuring his other knee – after a year of torn ACL recovery and super-uplifting adidas commercials – is one of the more tragic things to happen in a stadium or arena in recent memory. So when Rose’s rehab winds down, and rumors leak about his possible return for the playoffs, let’s not call his character into question. Just cross our fingers we see him donning a Chicago jersey sooner rather than later.
8. Riley Cooper, Richie Incognito And How The “N-Word” Became A Sexy Topic Of Conversation
White guys dropping the N-word had a career year in the NFL, and the N-word itself had a Heat-like streak in sports period this fall. Things got underway when Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper was caught on camera drunkenly throwing the slur around at a Kenny Chesney concert (!), then apologizing.
Fast-forward a few months and Miami Dolphins offensive lineman (and “honorary black man”) Richie Incognito got in the act – to the dismay of Shannon Sharpe – hurling it at a teammate he was “bullying.” He also later apologized.
Eventually, Matt Barnes would get into the act with the “a” variation – and you’re not going to believe it – he apologized, too. Barnes, a Black man, using the word caused Michael Wilbon and Charles Barkley to defend Black people’s rights to say whatever they feel like saying. Phrases like “bully culture” found their way into people’s mouths and ESPN immediately stopped caring after the Dolphins played their Monday Night Football game on the network.
9. Sir Alex Ferguson Retires
Former Manchester United Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, took the reins at Old Trafford in November 1986, overseeing a limp-dick United squad that sat in 21st place in the English soccer’s First Division. He retired this May with a United team that finished top of the English Premier League, good for his 13th league title as manager (he also won two UEFA Champions League trophies with United).
But let’s put this longevity in perspective because it damn sure needs to be: when Ferguson retired, the only American sports coach who had been at his/her position longer was Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who began at Duke in 1980. Jerry Sloan’s entire 23-year career as head coach of the Utah Jazz could fit inside Ferguson’s timeline at United. And when you consider the rapid turnover rate for managers at the world’s biggest soccer clubs, Ferguson’s career was a statistical anomaly. No wonder United’s on the skids now.
10. Boston Red Sox Win World Series
Well, here ya go, Boston. Yet another championship. Yet another bleeping championship for the ever-charming city of bleeping championships.
The Red Sox victory – a year after the team went through one of its worst seasons in recent memory – just goes to show how far the proper leadership can take a team. Boston imported some key position players – Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino in particular – but the team’s incredible starting pitching was the same group that under-performed for Bobby Valentine a year before. So, hats off to John Farrell for setting things in order.
11. Manti Te’o’s (Dead…Fake) Girlfriend
When it came to sports controversies in 2013, the Manti Te’o fake-girlfriend saga had everything. Newfangled technology! Notre Dame! Classic gay panic!
Still, what seems so classic now felt utterly impossible at the time – like it was just an underdeveloped idea from the South Park writer’s room. How on Earth can a star athlete at an enormous college football program date someone for so long without meeting them? Because 2013, it turns out.
In 2013, it’s just not that weird for a (presumably) chaste Mormon athlete to develop a meaningful relationship over the internet…even if that person doesn’t exist. Manti Te’o maintains that he was not in on the Lennay Kekua hoax, and as 2013 gets older and older, it becomes easier and easier to believe him.
12. Kevin Ware’s Horrific, Gruesome, Vomit-Inducing, Disgusting Leg Injury And Louisville’s National Championship
HOLY SH*T, GUYS! REMEMBER WHEN KEVIN WARE WENT UP FOR A JUMP SHOT, LANDED FUNNY AND HIS BONE POPPED OUT OF HIS LEG? OUR EYES ARE STILL SCARRED. F*CK. AND NO, WE’RE NOT LINKING TO IT.
To date, Ware’s just kind of been hanging out, getting speeding violations and being inspirational by actually already being back on the hardwood. We’ll probably get a more complete picture of Ware’s life since the injury when 60 Minutes inevitably does an interview with Ware during the 2014 tournament.
And, oh yeah – congrats to Louisville for cutting down the nets when the dust settled after beating Michigan in the national title game. Rick Pitino is a hell of a coach.
13. Floyd Mayweather Dominates Canelo Alvarez, Collects All-Time Record $41.5M Check
Floyd Joy Mayweather, Jr. made it another calendar year with a goose egg in the loss column. In boxing’s most high-profile bout of the year, Canelo Alvarez – billed as “The One,” as in “the one to finally end Floyd’s reign of terror” – was actually the latest “one” to get his ass whooped by Floyd who improved to 45-0 in his career.
The fight itself wasn’t close in any regard, despite it being a split decision thanks to “judge” C.J. Ross. Floyd executed masterfully, frustrating Canelo the entire fight prompting the young challenger to note afterwards, “There was no solution for him.” For an hour’s worth of light work, Floyd left Las Vegas with heavy pockets. How heavy? To the purse of $41.5M, the highest in boxing history.
Floyd’s understudy, Adrien Broner, on the other hand, became an Internet icon for all the wrong reasons.
14. Lance Armstrong Comes Clean That He Wasn’t Actually Clean
We were less than two weeks into 2013 when Lance Armstrong shot that little yellow rubber band into the face of the sports world, leaving a black eye that still hasn’t healed. After years of speculation, and an extensive investigation, the former seven-time Tour De France winner finally admitted to doping and lying about it to the public for several years.
And who is the best person with whom to share your lowest moments and seek forgiveness? A trusted pastor? A close friend? Mom and dad? Of course not. You talk to Oprah.
15. The NFL Came To An “Agreement” On The Concussion Issue
As a resolution to the lawsuit from hundreds of NFL alumni, the league doled out $765M to the former players, and did not have to admit that playing football can cause concussions. The amount may seem like a lot, but when divided amongst everyone, it comes out to less than $100,000 per person. The 2013 season so far has been ravaged by more and more injuries, despite all of the safety rules that continuously get implemented.
The lawsuit will wind up being a band aid that will ultimately become a problem again in the near future.
16. The Miami Heat Win Their Second Consecutive Championship
LeBron James put the finishing touches on one of the most impressive runs in league history this summer. He became just the third player in history, after Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, to win regular season MVP/Finals MVP in the same season more than once, and Miami won its second straight world title.
The Heat really got things going during a 27-game win streak that started Super Bowl Sunday. Even after eventually losing to the Bulls in March and even after Pat Riley told Danny Ainge to “STFU,” the Heat kept rolling into the playoffs. It was only in the Eastern Conference finals when they finally met resistance having to go the full seven games to beat the Pacers.
Things got even dicer in the Finals. Everything came to a head during the best Finals game ever culminating in the biggest shot ever by Ray Allen and eventually ending with a tense Game 7 that somehow lived up to expectations. That has all been covered in length by Tins already, but trust us, it was all pretty ridiculous.
17. The Iron Bowl
Hated rivals Alabama and Auburn, both undefeated and ranked No. 1 and No. 4 respectively, met on November 30, 2013 with national title implications. After Auburn surprised everyone by staying step-for-step with the heavily favored Crimson Tide, the game was knotted at 28-28 with one second on the clock. ‘Bama brought out their back-up placekicker to attempt a 57-yard-field goal, and then…it happened.
Magic. Actual magic. While no one levitated, Alabama’s three-peat hopes disappeared when Auburn’s Chris Davis caught the too short field goal attempt in the back of the end zone, and miraculously maneuvered his way through a crowd of defenders for a game-winning touchdown, and a place in the history books.
18. Aaron Hernandez Becomes A Real-Life (Alleged) Soprano
A little less than two years ago Aaron Hernandez was the Pro Bowl tight end for the New England Patriots who lead his team in receiving yards in Super Bowl XLVII. Since then, he has allegedly spent his time smoking angel dust and killing people – plural – and living in the special management area of Bristol County House of Corrections drawing naked ladies. In September, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and five weapons charges related to the murder of Odin Lloyd, and he is still being investigated for a separate homicide in Boston in 2012.
Things caused such a stain on the Patriots reputation they offered a free jersey exchange before the season where fans could receive any new jersey of their choice in exchange for the No. 81 Hernandez jersey. Over 1,200 people showed up to Gillette Stadium for the exchange, a move that ultimately cost the Patriots $250,000.
Unfortunately for the NFL, this is just another black eye in a long line of similar stories. Rae Carruth, Ray Lewis, Rolando McClain and OJ Simpson have all been here before, but somehow the NFL just keeps on winning.
19. Jay Z, Sports Agent
Jay Z had one hell of a 2013. Besides changing the way the RIAA certifies gold and platinum albums by releasing Magna Carta Holy Grail via a unique deal with Samsung, entering the cigar business, touring with Justin Timberlake and still being married to Beyonce (a win any year), the guy also became a sports agent.
Most new agents start off with a small stable of either minor league or lesser know players, but Jay doesn’t do many things the way most people do. He snagged New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz, Jets rookie QB Geno Smith, and the number three overall pick in the WNBA draft Skylar Diggins to start. Then he hooked a pair of big fish in NBA All-World forward Kevin Durant, and All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, for whom he negotiated a 10-year, $240M contract to join the Seattle Mariners.
Will Jay ever fall off? No.
20. Dwight Howard Leaves Los Angeles, Signs With Houston
The Dwightmare encapsulated most of 2013’s Lakers season. His dragged out free agency talk garnered him enough hate to eclipse that of LeBron’s “Decision” and and make himself public enemy number one, especially in Los Angeles (the city did beg him to stay).
Eventually, after a disappointing first round loss in the playoffs, Howard jetted to Houston, firmly placing all eyes on him once again to shed the whining and complaining in lieu of striving for a championship. But winning is the cure all, and come June 2014, we’ll see if Dwight Howard can shake all the negativity he’s put on himself.