2013 brought many strange occurrences and changes. From the triumphant, like Jason Collins’ admission of homosexuality, to the tragic, like the Boston Marathon bombings, to the downright necessary, like Pope Francis and the charge toward universal acceptance. Toronto got some run, with Drake and Mayor Rob Ford (pictured above) giving the Ontarian capital a few things to consider aside from the Maple Leafs’ collapse and a distinct lack of Chris Bosh in recent years. It also brought a website, born of a hellish New York morning and a few text and Facebook messages, which, we hope, you have enjoyed thus far. Now, several of us discuss 2013 in its many forms. How could 2014 ever follow this performance?
I made my peace with 2013 over at my home blog, ShittyBanter, with a collection of “20 Lists of 13 to Celebrate 2013.” TwH overlord and my dear friend Rory Masterson picked a few of his favorites, and we’re including them here. If you like this small sample, I invite you to partake in the sixteen other lists that I constructed. Take care in 2014. I think it’s going to be a big year for us.
13 Moments That Reminded Me Why I Love Sports
- The Iron Bowl
- Eagles over Redskins Week 1
- Ray Allen’s Three Pointer
- Allen Iverson Presents the Game Ball and Iggy Forces Game 7 Against Boston
- David Ortiz Hits Grand Slam
- The Blackhawks Score Two Goals In 17 Seconds to Win Lord Stanley’s Cup
- Auburn Miracle Win Over Georgia
- That Time My Picks Went 5-0
- New Rochelle’s Half Court Miracle
- Steph Curry in the Playoffs
- Andy Murray Winning Wimbledon
- Bruins Comeback Against the Canucks
- That Time ESPN Gave Me A RT
13 Shows I Attended That Were Dope
- Bo Burnham: what.
- Jay Z and Justin Timberlake: Legends of Summer Tour at Citizens Bank Park
- Jay Z at the O2 Arena
- Kanye West at Governor’s Ball
- Calvin Harris at Firefly
- Vampire Weekend at Firefly
- Dawes at Union Chapel
- Radical Face at Union Chapel
- Brothers Past at Brooklyn Bowl
- Nas at Governor’s Ball
- AWOLNATION at Pier 31
- The Dough Rollers at the Slipper Room (with all you can drink whiskey)
- Beyonce’s National Anthem At Obama’s Inauguration
13 Tweets I Sent To Rembert, Andy Greenwald, and Zach Dionne That Got a Reply
13 Tweets I Sent To Rembert and Andy Greenwald That Were Not Replied To
A WEIRD YEAR
This was a weird year. Maybe we should have seen it coming.
Only a few weeks into the New Year, one of the strangest sports stories broke when Deadspin revealed that Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend was a hoax. The story of Te’o defined the 2012 college football season, as a heartbroken linebacker lead one of the game’s most storied programs to an improbable appearance in the National Championship game, all in the wake of the death of his grandmother and the love of his life. That script is almost too unbelievable. The truth, well, it just got weirder.
The girlfriend never existed, but in stepped Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. The word “Catfish” permeated out sporting lexicon. We questioned whether Te’o was complicit in the ruse. Sit-down interviews were scheduled and broadcast on prime time television. The physiology of it all was dissected and replayed over and over again.
Every year we expect footballs to be caught, baseballs to collide with wooden sticks, and soccer balls to gracefully arch over a grassy field and settle in the back of a net. What we don’t expect is for a man, who only a few months prior rose to national attention for his heroics on a field, to become ensnared in a scandal involving Twitter, secret identities and virtual love.
This weird beginning to 2013 set a precedent for what would be a year of baffling sports stories that certainly bucked the trend of the tried and true stories that seem to play out each year.
The Super Bowl is often the pinnacle of sport each year, typically because of the play on the field. Instead, we got a blackout. Half the lights in the Superdome went out, stalling the game for a half hour and sending Twitter into a frenzy. Conspiracy theories ranged from Roger Goodell’s back room dealing to a simple unpaid electricity bill. On a night we’re supposed to fawn over the titans of the gridiron, all we could talk about were a few malfunctioning light bulbs.
We’ve seen gruesome injuries in the course of action before. The names Willis McGahee and Marcus Lattimore come to mind. And yet, this year, during the March Madness Tournament, we witnessed Kevin Ware’s leg snap in two. It was hard to watch as Ware was carted off, leaving a wake of distraught teammates in his path.
We’ve come to expect the unexpected. Sure, the Prayer at Jordan-Hare was unbelievable. A quarterback chucks a pass down the field. It’s tipped by two defenders and falls into the hands of an open receiver for the game winning score. Unbelievable.
But we’ve seen last minute heroics. We’ve seen prayers answered on buzz beaters and half-field heaves. So the next week, Auburn returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Unprecedented. Miraculous. Weird.
But despite these anomalies, this year still seemed familiar. In the end, every year is a lot like its predecessor in the sporting world.
We’re blessed with inspirational stories of children finding healing through sports, of teams coming together in times of grief, to triumph over the dark in our world. We see the beauty in sports and the escape it offers us from the truly bleak world outside our arenas and stadiums.
But we’re also reminded of the darkest depths the pursuit of glory can bring us. For every inspiring story, there is a Lance Armstrong admitting to doping, an Aaron Hernandez or Oscar Pistorius on trial for murder.
This past year, the NFL settled a concussion lawsuit for $765 million, yet it still feels like the corporation triumphed over the little guy here. The reporting in League of Denial exposed the NFL’s systematic cover-up of the debilitating effects concussions can leave on the human mind and left us to grapple with our own infatuation with the sport. A corporation and its money wins, while the little guys are left to pick up the pieces.
We witnessed a Florida State quarterback accused of rape, but never charged with a crime after the police department impeded the investigation just long enough. The quarterback hoisted the Heisman trophy and will play for the National Championship. The girl is left to pick up the pieces.
Every year, we’ve come to expect the light and dark, the black and white. In the coming year, it’s safe to predict that some story will find a way to captivate and inspire, while another shocks us with its deplorable nature. It happened this past year, and the year before. Why not expect it to happen again.
Every year seems more cyclical than the last. A ball falls through a hoop or flies over a fence. A runner crosses a finish line; a swimmer dives into a pool. A man jubilantly jumps from his seat or further slinks into the crevice of his couch.
When it comes to sports, we’ve come to expect what will happen each year. Weird.
Patrick Masterson: Quiz Kid Donnie Smith: I’m sick and I’m in love.
Thurston Howell: You seem the sort of person who confuses the two.
Quiz Kid Donnie Smith: That’s right. That’s the first time you’ve been right. I confuse the two and I don’t care.
Grand prix motorcycle racing hasn’t been healthy for years. The decision to make MotoGP more exclusive with a rules makeover in 2002 and the exorcism of tobacco money in the second half of the decade poorly prophesied the global financial crisis and left promoter Dorna’s leadership in a lurch. There’s still a brave face being put on behalf of the far end of the paddock about CRT this and ART that, but what’s left of the big money moves exclusively among satellite and factory seats at the sharp end.
Ignoring these woes with stable global viewership has been easy thanks to MotoGP’s most charismatic golden calf, Valentino Rossi, and an ensemble of characters propped up as his bromidic adversaries over the last 14 years: Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo. While everything else eroded, Dorna has ensured Rossi remains relevant in the name of ratings.
But Rossi turned 34 in 2013. He will never win another championship. He’ll never win another race on his own terms, either. And the collective conscious of the sport seemed to accept that fact for the first time this year thanks in large part to a new marketing linchpin.
Marc Marquez is the youngest MotoGP winner in the history of the sport. He’s also the youngest world champion ever. He scored six wins, nine poles, and 16 podiums in 18 races. The only precedent for a debut of this caliber is Freddie Spencer’s from 1983. He has Repsol Honda, the most powerful consortium in top-flight motorcycle racing, supporting him. He crashes and avoids injury. He wins with conspicuous flair. He has conquered both his opponents and the media. Writers are still searching for novel ways to frame his unheralded genius.
But Marquez turned 20 in 2013. He hasn’t even entered the prime of his career yet. He could be the most devastating rider the sport has ever seen. He could be its most successful, its most telegenic, its most personal, its most transcendent. He could be MotoGP’s saving grace for the next decade. Dorna brass aren’t the only ones with rosary beads out as the quiet of winter sets in. But you know what they say.
Thurston Howell: It’s a dangerous thing to confuse children with angels.
Rory Masterson: Disruption of constants: that was 2013. Nothing lasts forever, so they say, and many of the events this year spoke directly to that. Remember when Alabama was invincible? When the lights went out in New Orleans during the Harbowl? When a Pope was pope for life, and certainly not a Jesuit? How about when a pair of brothers, angry over persecution abroad, turned a place of friendly competition into a battleground? And then when two teams, one on ice and one in a dugout, restored that same ground to a place of unity, a state of normalcy, or something like it?
Think back, to an almost-forgotten time. Spain was king of the pitch. Mariano Rivera was also king of the pitch. Destiny’s Child and OutKast were relics of a time long since passed, when TRL dictated what would and would not survive in pop music. Kevin Ware was just another great young player on a great young Rick Pitino team. The English Premier League had no set American television home. LeBron wore a headband on-court AT ALL TIMES. My Bloody Valentine didn’t release albums anymore because it had already done what its part. The only gay athletes were already retired. Lou Reed was there to tell it like it was. Coming To America was the only time Arsenio Hall was on television. We believed in Roger Federer. The government ran as it was supposed to. Lorde was a minor generating a minor buzz in New Zealand. Tony Soprano called the hits. The only wrecking balls belonged to demolition companies and Bruce Springsteen.
This is 2013. Ben Affleck has shaken off Gigli to become a serious human being again. Alabama is a group of college students, not an indomitable killing machine. Brazil dethroned Spain but does not have the money to finance a proper crown. Andre 3000 and Big Boi are one. The Yankees are just another baseball team with a mediocre bullpen. We’ve come to accept LeBron, headbandless and all, as the all-powerful bastion of basketball excellence, and Sebastian Vettel as his Formula 1 equal. Kanye is certifiably better than Jay-Z as a disruptive marketing machine and “creative genius.” Ryan Lochte is just a swimmer, and a swimmer he will remain. Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon rule the airwaves and late-night television, sometimes together. Cristiano Ronaldo, for better or for worse, is again the best soccer player on the planet, at least for now.
Todd Helton will remain criminally underrated into retirement. Florida Gulf Coast University is just one of 67 tournament teams in 2013 that isn’t Louisville. Visual albums are en vogue. The Buzz is back in Charlotte, and a star 3-point shooter named Curry is sending shockwaves throughout the NBA, but the two are entirely unrelated. Arrested Development has returned, albeit on a slightly different platform. Peyton Manning and Tim Duncan just keep rolling along at legendary paces, the leagues around them reacting rather than anticipating. People adore vinyl records and PBR, and Harlem is gentrifying. Messi’s vertiginous pace will return, but the kids are coming up from behind. Same as it ever was.
On 2013, I borrow a quote from Eduardo Galeano’s brilliant opus on soccer and everything else, Soccer in Sun and Shadow: “We lost, we won, either way we had fun.”
On to the next.
Jill Pellegrini: I’m gonna be real with you guys: 2013 was kind of a blur, so I read a bunch of other 2013 Year in Review blogs to prepare for this, and had a lot of “oh yeah, I remember that!” moments. Here are some of those I thought were especially important:
The year started off with Barack Obama’s second inauguration, during which world superpower Beyonce lip-synced the National Anthem (it’s okay, because then she held a press conference for basically the sole purpose of proving to us that she could, in fact, sing the National Anthem). Queen Bey continued to dominate headlines in February with her much-tweeted about Super Bowl halftime show, for which she reunited with Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams and brought tears of joy to her loyal subjects across the land.
Pope Francis took his spot in the Vatican in March and has proven to be the most badass, awesome Pope of all time. He’s expressed acceptance and love towards gays and atheists (among others), washed the feet of two Muslims and two women on Holy Thursday, loves soccer, used to be a bouncer and sometimes sneaks out of the Vatican in disguise to talk to homeless people on the streets of Rome.
As the weather began to warm, tragedy struck in Boston when the finish line of the Boston Marathon was bombed on Patriot’s Day. What followed was heartbreaking and sickening, but also incredible — the support from within the city and around the world reminded us that humanity is inherently good, and thanks to the grit and determination of Boston-area law enforcement, the (alleged) perpetrators were caught within a week.
NBA player Jason Collins came out of the closet, making him the first active gay athlete in a major US team sport. He was widely accepted and praised for his bravery, but as a free agent has yet to see much interest from any teams. I don’t know enough about basketball to comment on whether this has to do with his talent level or his sexuality, so I’ll just say: if you can play, you can play.
After a terrible, awful, no good, very bad lockout took away nearly half the season, the Stanley Cup playoffs began in May. The Boston Bruins pulled of a miracle comeback, erasing a 4-1 deficit in Game 7 of the Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs and winning in overtime. They’d ride that momentum all the way to the Finals before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the last two minutes of Game 6 in a series that included nearly eighty minutes of bonus hockey. Boston sports fans had plenty to distract them after the loss — late May was the beginning of the notorious Aaron Hernandez Saga. Turns out that the star tight end is also a cold-blooded killer. After a truly bizarre series of events, Hernandez was released from the Patriots, barred from Gillette Stadium and taken into custody.
Two super important babies were born this summer: North West (a.k.a. the Kimye baby) and Prince George of Cambridge (a.k.a. the Royal Baby). Yeah, Kim and Kanye really named their baby North (like we’re surprised at all), and yeah, Kate Middleton looked basically flawless when she left the hospital.
The verdict of the George Zimmerman trial dominated Twitter in mid-July; his acquittal fueled (sometimes uninformed, often misspelled) discussions of race in America and Second Amendment rights in one hundred forty characters or less. A month later, the masses took to Twitter again to express shock and distaste over Miley Cyrus’s performance at the VMAs. Then *NSYNC reunited during Justin Timberlake’s performance, and ‘90s girls everywhere forgot about Miley and cried while rewinding their DVRs to re-watch all two minutes and fifteen seconds of JT and his backup singers over and over again.
The Red Sox won the World Series at Fenway for the first time since 1918, and the city of Boston managed to keep the riots and destruction to a minimum (casualties: a few cars on Boylston Street, if I remember correctly). The news of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (who definitely could just be Don Vito from Viva La Bam in disguise) doing crack cocaine and threatening to kill people took the Internet by storm. Yeah, he’s still mayor. Meanwhile, across the continent, San Francisco banded together to make a dream come true for a little boy with cancer: the #SFBatKid hashtag was born, and it was freaking adorable.
And just to bring it full circle: Beyonce owned the end of the year, too. On December 13th, she dropped her visual album Beyonce on iTunes with no marketing or promo — and still managed to break the Internet. Is there anything she can’t do?
Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, Miley Cyrus twerked a few times, and we all talked about it ad nauseam. There. Got it all.
James Vasiliou: 2013 was fraught with confrontation. Everything was an uncomfortable conversation – a face-to-face debate that ranged from the NSA and its infringement on personal liberties to the inconsequential opinion on whether or not Yasiel Puig was “too emotional.” It didn’t help that the 24-hour news networks, the Worldwide Leader in Sports included, came full circle in turning every issue into a divisive one with a bevy of debate programming. Everywhere you turned it seemed that things were boiling to a point as somebody posted another “Keep Calm and Carry On” incarnation on your social network’s news feed.
It was the year of think pieces which came hurtling toward you with all the speed of the Baylor Bears offense. Any and every event required knee-jerk responses and knee-jerk responses to those responses. It was a year where many fools were suffered with 1500 words or more. There was Paula Deen’s fall from buttered grace, Jason Collins coming out to Sports Illustrated, Miley Cyrus’ year of “crazy,”the problematic relationship between the privileged and their love affair of drill/trap music, Phil Robertson’s recent homophobic comments and so on. These culture happenings were existing alongside government shutdowns and the NSA peeking into your private information. Tensions were running high and people seemed extremely on edge about everything.
It created a space where the mediums of television, movies and music were all becoming about as uneasy as the world we lived in. Kanye dropped the bombastic, ugly sound of Yeezus on a world that was ready to stay in “club banger” mode. Mad Men’s penultimate season reflected a world in which the old order was being tossed out, with police sirens serving as the soundtrack. Hollywood was being tested by directors like Steven Soderbergh, who believes that the current machine is broken for those willing to make movies that don’t feature CGI and mass destruction.
At the end of it all, contention to convention ruled the day, and it is what made 2013 one of the most exciting years for me. I can only hope that it continues as we roll into 2014 with another national championship pitting the SEC versus this nobody.