Taking a look back at this past year in sports, there has been everything. Stories of triumph and underdogs and comebacks were everywhere but seemed to be overshadowed by the dark events that have taken place this year. Tragic, horrific and disturbing stories that take the magic that sports can bring to people away and brings everyone to the realization that there is much more important things in sports.
Tragedy struck hard for me personally as me and a nationally televised audience watched a extremely talented driver and kind human being lost his life. Dan Wheldon’s life reached the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in 2011. Getting a one race ride together for the Indianapolis 500 was difficult for Dan, who was a former winner of the race in 2005. Getting into the race was hard enough but to compete and have a chance to win the race was a task that seemed unreal. But it was becoming real as the race continued as Dan was in second with one lap left in the race. Trailing rookie J.R. Hildebrand (the very driver who replaced Dan) heading into the final turn it appeared that a second place finish was in Dans future when the unthinkable happened as Hildebrand took a turn too wide attempting to pass a lap car and crashed into the wall coming off turn four. Dan made the pass taking first and his second Indy 500 victory. It seemed like a dream that a driver who everyone seemed to give up on and nobody wanted could reach the highest peak in his sport again. The emotion that race brought to Dan and his family made us all believe in the magic that sports can bring to us. Unfortunately the next time we would see Dan on a national stage would be the last.
At the season ending race in Las Vegas, Dan was racing for a $2.5 million prize if he won this race as well as the Indy 500 while other drivers were racing for a championship. It was learned before the race that Dan would replace Danica Patrick and race full seasons for Andretti Autosport. Several people around Indy Car and complained about the dangers of the high speeds the cars obtain on the oval in Vegas reaching over 200 MPH at times. At lap 11 running in a pack of about 15 cars, one car got loose, taped another car and all hell broke loose. Cars hitting other cars, getting airborne and flying everywhere. It was a mess. As the cleanup began, one by one drivers walked away from the accident until there was only one driver who did not. Dan was loaded into a helicopter and taken to a local hospital. As we all waited watching the accident again and again on tv and still not hearing any news about Dan, everyone started to fear the worse might have happened. At 1:54 PM PST Dan Wheldon was pronounced dead. Because of the events the race was called and the grieving began for the entire sports world. The sport lost one of its bright stars.
Losing faith and trust in coaches is a unfortunate fact that we all have had to cope with this year. The horrific atrocities that allegedly have occurred at Penn State from former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and his inappropriate relationships with young boys and the events that have taken place afterwords still shake all of us to the core that all of these acts can go undiscovered or just pushed under the rug for so many years. And knowing that head coach Joe Paterno knew about all of this and did not do everything in his power to make sure the truth came out and keep Sandusky away from his program and report him to the proper authorities is just as disturbing.
Having these types of stories at one organization is bad enough but to have more coaches from more universities now being brought to light pushes the issue of really knowing who is around your children. Former Syracuse mens basketball coach Bernie Fine sexual abuse allegations shows that this is and has been a problem all over and has been happening for a longer time than we first thought. Parents must pay attention to who they are letting their children around and really know who that person is.
Along with the NBA lockout that stretched into the beginning of the NBA season and resulted in lost games for the season, all of the colleges breaking rules for recruiting and obtaining illegal benefits showed that not all things in sports are nice and good and friendly.
Hidden behind all of the dark stories are the moments in sports that we all love to see.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy returning home in Green Bay as the Packers beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers escaping from the shadow of Brett Favre and reaching the potential greatness that people had projected him to reach. The unbelievable season that Tom Brady had and the unexpected exit that the Patriots had all lead to a exciting NFL season that lead into a lockout that scared all NFL fans into the reality that their might not be a NFL season in 2012.
The excitement of the final day of the Major League Baseball regular season and the craziness that ensued. Having two of the biggest collapses in MLB history with the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves falling to the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals. Who would have thought in August that the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays would be in the post season. As the playoffs continued the Cardinals continued their miraculous run all the way to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers returning to the Fall Classic for the second consecutive year. In game 6 the Rangers lead the Cardinals 3 games to 2 as the Rangers led the game in the 9th inning with one out remaining from their first championship. But David Freese hit a game tying 2 run Triple to send the game into extras. After the teams exchanged runs again in the 10th inning again the Cardinals coming back from the brink of elimination to send the game into the 11th inning. Again David Freese came to the plate and again he came up clutch. Smacking a solo shot to dead center over the fence sent St. Louis into madness and into game 7 and the eventual championship. The unbelievable events that occurred in game 6 have caused many people around baseball to call this one of the best games they have ever seen.
Several other examples of sports moments like the Mavericks winning the NBA championship over the Miami Heat and their superteam, The US Women Soccer teams run in the World Cup and falling short of the championship, the exciting finish to the NASCAR season between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, Derek Jeter hitting his 3000th hit in grand fashion with a homer, Cam Newtons rise to prominence and winning a national championship with Auburn, University of Connecticut winning the NCAA Basketball championship behind Kemba Walker’s impressive run, and of course the media’s obsession with Tebow Mania, are only a few of the events that made the 2011 sports year the one that it is.
What we all must remember when these type of scandals and tragedies occur is that there is much more in this world than just sports and we all have to remember that. At the end of the day it is just a game that gifted athletes play against each other and should not be taken so serious some times. You must take a step back and look at the bigger picture. But when sports can show us good in the world and make us feel good, that is when it is more than just a silly game. It can heal woulds and give hope to people without it.
Unfortunately all of the other events that showed what good sports can do to for people was overshadowed by the countless stories of tragedy, scandals, and accusations.
This is what the 2011 year in sports will be remembered for.
by Andrew Isaac