Is it really possible that 2011 was the best year in sports ever? It may be due to the fact that it is still so fresh in memory, but it certainly seems so when looking back. The year was filled with so many stories to determine the biggest or best is virtually impossible. In addition it has a lot to due with ones perspective. Certain fans will remember their team winning it all while others on the losing side will try and erase the memory. Other fans put more value in the moments in sports that cause us to look at things more important then the final outcome of the game. Either way 2011 combined them all into a memorable year that nobody will soon forget.
One word to describe the Champions of 2011 is unlikely. The Green Bay Packers, Dallas Mavericks, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Bruins were all unlikely winners of their respective trophies. They all showed the importance of playing as a team and momentum. Racing fans also saw Jimmie Johnsons 5 year steak end at the hands of Tony Stewart.
Despite the crowning of a well deserved champion (Dirk Nowitiki), the NBA had a rough year. Fans turned against the leagues poster child, Lebron James and reveled in his 4th quarter disappearing act in the finals. The NBA also lost two pivotal figures with the retirement of Shaquille O’Neil and Phil Jackson. On the surface it’s just a coach and player, however they left huge voids that when you take into consideration the impact of both of these former LA Lakers will never be filled. The NBA was then involved in a lengthy lockout that appeared to have the entire season in jeopardy before David Stern announced that he was given fans the ultimate gift with the return of games on Christmas Day.
The NFL also gave fans the feeling of a lockout, however, unlike the NBA were able to work it out with no loss of regular season games. The Packers have captured the focus of the NFL as they are currently building a resume to be considered the next dynasty however a recent loss to the Chiefs has their immortality in question. Taking a lot of the spotlight off the Packers though has been the fascination of Tim Tebow. The unconventional quarterback is the topic of conversation in any NFL circle and has guaranteed that this will continue for years to come.
MLB had the best year on the field as the World Series will go down as one of the best ever and the Cardinals were the story all year. It started with the media circus surrounding the free agency of Albert Pujols. It appeared to be the distraction that everyone said it would be as the team started the season underachieving, but were able to right the ship in time to make the playoffs and eventually win it all. The World Series was a hard fought 7 game series highlighted by Game 6 which is being called the greatest game ever. In addition was Pujol’s game 5 performance which can be argued as the greatest World Series game performance for a hitter (5-6, 3 home runs, 4 runs, 5 RBI, 12 total bases). Cardinal fans happiness though was short lived after losing both Pujols and La Russa. Was the beginning of the year a distraction for the team? Guess not.
The biggest loser by far though was College Sports. There has been an ongoing debate for years about paying college athletes and until this is done there will continue to be the issues with boosters. In 2011 several programs were involved in some sort of story with their players accepting benefits. Ohio State and Miami were the two biggest programs found guilty of their players receiving money, tattoos, cars, jewelry and everything else imaginable but this is nothing new and these were just the two that were caught as this goes on at more schools then not. The biggest headline though was soon to be NFL rookie of the year, Cam Newton and Auburn who found themselves in the middle of a storm while making their Championship run robbing them of the praise they should have received as a team and putting the focus on Cam Newton and his father.
However, Penn State put these infractions into perspective. Taking gifts or asking for money to go to a school is flat out against the rules so there is no leeway when it comes to justifying these actions. However, there is an overwhelming group of athletes, coaches, fans and media who have all openly voiced that players should be given some sort of compensation so there is the opinion that these actions should be allowed. There is no gray area though when it comes to sexual abuse. Penn State’s issues left the sports arena and stepped into real life. The institution of college is on that promotes growth and development. Families send their most prized possession to a given university in the hopes that they have picked a safe place for this to occur with the understanding that those who work at and represent the school will ensure that this happens. After the details surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal were released, it’s clear that Penn State is more concerned with their own well being. It’s not just a matter of making sure this doesn’t happen in the Penn State locker room, but this should not be allowed anywhere. By taking the actions that they did the university showed a lack of concern for society as a whole.
The scary thing is that this is not an isolated incident. Shortly after the Penn State story Syracuse also found themselves in the same situation with assistant coach Bernie Fine facing similar accusation. Did Penn State open the lid on a dirty secret? How common is this act of coaches using their position or control to molest children? Chances are we will see more of this in the upcoming year. We sometimes forget that the final outcome is really unimportant. Indy Car racer Dan Wheldon who lost his life after a violent crash and membes of the Oklahoma State basketball team and Russian Hockey were all lost due to unfortunate accidents. In addition there were two separate incidents involving Bay Area teams leaving one fan in a coma and two others shot.
It will be hard for 2012 to live up to 2011 but there is hope. Will the Heat win it all? Are the Lakers the second best team in LA and still a contender? Can the Packers pull off the repeat? Will Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally step in the ring to settle their score? Can Matt Kemp win the triple crown? Is Andrew Luck going to be as good as we think? Is Tiger Woods back to his winning ways? How good are the Angels going to be? Will Petyon Manning come back? One thing that is certain is that we will live vicariously through our favorite team, player and sports to help us through another year. We will experience the ups and downs that come with being a real fan. Fans though must not let the lines of life and sports blur and resort to the violence or lose sight of the most important things in these stories, it’s just a game and the well being of those involved is the most important thing