2012 was no different than any other year in the sports world in many respects. In mid-October, those that cover the NFL for a living were proclaiming that this season was completely unpredictable. I hear that every year. In late September, I heard from the college football folks that the polls shouldn’t even be tallied until 4 or 5 weeks of the season have been completed. I hear that every year too. Cyclists cheat. Ditto.
2012 was also totally different than any other year the sports world in many respects. In mid-October, the Orioles were playing in the American League Divisional Series. That hadn’t happened in 15 years. By the end of the Summer Olympics Games in London, Michael Phelps had reeled in more Gold Medals (18) and more total medals (22) than any Olympian in history. No one has more. In April, Kentucky’s Wildcats won the NCAA basketball tournament with 12 freshmen or sophomores on a roster of 15. The days of upperclassmen like Blake, Dixon and Baxter dominating the tournament are gone.
So what happened in 2012 that was worthy or unworthy of our fandom? Santa Claus is usually the best judge of what is good or bad over the course of the year (being as he has a list and checks it twice). Coal in the stocking, or the lack thereof, is the true barometer of what flies and what doesn’t. Sources around the globe have revealed who got coal and who didn’t Monday night.
Got Presents: NCAA football for finally giving in to what seemed to make so much sense over the past – i don’t know – 50 years. Using three existing bowl games to run a four-team tournament is a huge step forward. Personally, i’d prefer seven games with 8 teams but expanding tournaments doesn’t always improve it. See below.
Got Coal: NCAA basketball for expanding a perfectly fine 64-team tournament to 65, then 68 and potentially blowing the roof off of it by going to 96 or as many as 128 teams. Naming the 61-68 seed games the first-round is just silly too. No seed lower than 11 (that’s right, high number = low seed. Who ever lists the top-seed at the bottom of a list?) has ever made the Final Four. No team lower than an 8 seed has ever won the tournament. By that logic, the tournament should be thinking about going back to 32 teams. Not adding more.
Got Presents: Buck Showalter for restoring some faith in a wayward organization. 93 wins seemed impossible back in March. Hell, it seemed impossible at the end of July. But as is his M.O., Showalter guided the Orioles to the playoffs in his second full season at the helm.
Got Coal: Flacco Bashers for refusing to understand that the man may never be one of the top 7 or 8 quarterbacks in the NFL. Joe is pretty much the only person I ever heard say YES to the elite question. Which HE SHOULD. What is he supposed to say? ”Yeah, I am about the 11th or 12th best quarterback in the league.” And for the people who still feel Trent Dilfer should be quarterbacking the team based on the fact that he “won”, Joe has won as consistently as any quarterback in the league over the last 5 seasons. You can look it up. If Joe isn’t good enough, who is available that is?
Got Presents: Justin Tucker for replacing, near flawlessly, the man who missed the biggest kick in franchise history. With a stronger leg, he may have the Ravens in better shape then the stable days of Matt Stover. Of course, kickers are like closers and can crash at anytime (see Jim Johnson versus the Yankees in the playoffs) but for the time being, confidence exists in the rookie kicker.
Got Coal: Billy Cundiff for missing. Simple. You cannot miss a 32-yarder with overtime in the AFC Title game on the line. I know nothing is automatic. And maybe it wasn’t all Cundiff’s fault. And maybe it was even predictable. Lee Evans at least had the ball stripped from him. Cundiff just missed it.
Got Presents: Jacoby Jones for restoring a threat to the Ravens return game and his whack dances and for muffing the punt for the Texans back in January ’12 during the Divisional Playoff game. (Note: Jones got coal in stockings at his old Houston apartment).
Got Coal: Phelps Bashers for expressing disappointment in the swimmer after not winning Gold in the early stages of the London games. They pointed to him pulling some bong hits two years before the games as evidence that he did not focus on August 2012. He finished 4th and 2nd and 2nd in his first three events. Apparently the THC finally left his system and he went on to win four gold medals after the two silvers, bringing his career medal count to an all-time high 22.
Got Presents: Mark Turgeon for getting the train rolling again in College Park. Yeah, Gary had some issues at Maryland but he did win an ACC Conference Title a year before his retirement. But Turgeon has come in and laid the groundwork for the team to make some runs at the Top 10.
Got Coal: Cal Ripken for trying to be controversial. Cal, just because they give you mic, doesn’t mean you put your foot in your mouth. I know, I heard the backtracking but it doesn’t erase the fact that you poo-poo’d a local hero and 16-time Gold Glove winner on national TV. Even if you never really paid attention to Brooks in his heyday and only watched him toward the end, why low-blow the guy in his golden years?
Got Presents: Replacement Refs for dealing with all the crap they put up with. Player and coach behavior was deplorable on their watch. Media scrutiny was crazy. Sure, they made mistakes. But as for making calls, regular refs are just as bad. Did you watch the joke that was the Giants game last weekend with “real refs”?
Got Coal: Replay Officials for taking so long to decide what so many of us know after one look…for reinventing plays instead of looking for irrefutable evidence…for having a job in the first place. Can we get rid of replay and just play?
Got Presents: DVRs for easing the pain of instant replay.
Here’s to hoping your Christmas (or whatever you celebrate this holiday season) didn’t bring you coal. And if it did, take solace. There’s always next year.