This has been a year sports fans would love to forget. There have been tragedies, lockouts, and moments where ownership moves caused intense head scratching (Red Sox). We're lucky to see 2013, no apocalypse, yay -- although I was really looking forward to not paying back my college loans.
First, let's start with the Red Sox, or the Boston Paw Sox. The Red Sox looked more like a minor league ragtag group of players rather than the third highest payroll in Major League Baseball. Then there was the blockbuster deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford packing for the West Coast. Kevin Youkilis was sent to Chicago as part of a trade, and now the free agent first baseman recently signed a deal with the New York Yankees.
Everyone was calling for Bobby Valentine's head, and general manager Ben Cherington was often the butt of many Red Sox jokes. StubHub offered tickets for as low as $1.50 for a late season Red Sox Royals game at Fenway. Now, I will admit I was tempted, but then I remembered how bad the team was and that it cost more money to go into Boston than it was worth to see a bunch of minor leaguers struggle with the big club.
The most miraculous thing, you ask? The Red Sox announced that Fenway had sold out despite all the empty chair backs. Tampa Bay and Boston's actual attendance was probably about equal at some points during the season. Boston was the third worst team in the American League with an abysmal record of 69-93. A season that was supposed to be one of the most memorable seasons, with Fenway celebrating its 100th birthday, turned into a season Red Sox fans would love to forget.
But new pieces are falling into place, with former pitching coach John Ferrell coming in as manager and a couple off-season signings of Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino.
Let's now talk about the New England Patriots, who fell to their nemesis. This time there was no bubble gum on the side of New York Giants' wide receiver David Tyree's helmet. Nope, it was just Eli Manning and the Giants rising to the occasion. Tom Brady had a Super Bowl record 16 straight completions, but Manning then set up an 88-yard game-winning drive that sent the Patriots back to New England empty handed, 21-17.
This year's New England Patriots team looks poised to make a return to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. The Pats barely got out of Jacksonville with a seven point victory Sunday, and were embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers at home, despite making a miraculous second-half comeback. The last couple of weeks have me a bit worried about the prognosis of this team going into the playoffs.
New England's secondary has improved a little bit with
Aquib Talib back there, but the run defense was suspect on Sunday against Jacksonville. Patrick Chung -- while he uses his head a bit much in helmet-to-helmet hits -- hauled in two interceptions Sunday. New England's defense allowed 436 yards of total offense to a Jacksonville team who usually cannot get out of their own way. Where was the team that devoured Houston at home? For the rest of the season I am taking a wait-and-see approach. Brady was off his game Sunday, and he even admitted it to the media. A first-round bye in the playoffs is still a possibility, but I am always skeptical of byes. New England is a team that needs to get momentum, and playing an opening-round game could make them more dangerous in the later rounds of the playoffs.
In 2012, we also saw the NHL lockout take place, something hockey fans everywhere are beyond upset about. Many of the people I know say that they don't plan on supporting the NHL if they do come back and play 20-30 games or whatever is even left before all is said and done. I personally don't see hockey happening at all in the future.
The two sides don't seem willing to compromise, and if they do come back, if you win the Stanley Cup, you and your team will have an asterisk next to it. Many NHLers have taken their game overseas, and I can't say that I blame them. When the first group left for other leagues, it was quite evident that an agreement being reached was an absolute long-shot.
So, if you like hockey, do what I have been doing -- go out to the high school games. The Groton-Dunstable vs. Hudson game I covered last Saturday was one of the best hockey games I have witnessed. It had everything an NHL game has, except or the money-hungry owners and overpaid players. Saturday's game was physical, gritty, and the skill these young players exhibited was unreal.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tragedies that have struck the NFL and the country this season. First, there was the death by heroin overdose of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid's son, Garrett, a strength training assistant with the team.
Javon Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra, and then took his own life. While two lives were lost that day, Belcher forgot to think about their young daughter, who will someday ask what happened to her parents. How it will impact her? Time will only tell.
Belcher was stopped earlier in the evening asleep in his car on the side of the road with his lights on. Kansas City Police stopped and questioned him and just sent him back upstairs to the apartment where his girlfriend was. The autopsy showed that Belcher had been under the influence of alcohol, which begs the question why he didn't use the service provided to all NFL athletes to deter drunk driving.
In 2012, we saw a freshman win the 78th Heisman Trophy given to college football's best player, usually a skill player. Johnny Manziel did something that has never been done before; the Texas A&M quarterback more than deserved the trophy with his 3,000-plus passing yards, and 1,000-yard rushing season.
Here's to hoping that in 2013 the Patriots make another trip to the Super Bowl and avenge their loss to the Giants a year ago. I hope that my alma mater, Charlotte, continues to turn heads in men's basketball nationwide with their 11-2 record, and that Charlotte football has a successful first football season.
Hopefully, the Red Sox play competitive baseball and avoid dwelling in the cellar of the American League East. I hope that the tragedies of 2012 involving Belcher and the most recent incident of horrific violence at Sandy Hook Elementary teach people to be more aware of suspicious behavior with loved ones.
Sports are not the most important thing in life; they give fans a chance to blow off steam. Diehard sports fans are usually blue-collar folks looking for something to be happy about, and if their team performs well, they forget the stresses and struggles of everyday life. Look on the bright side: We have all defied the odds. No one can stop your dreams and New Year's resolutions, not even the Mayans.