There are a lot of beautiful things about sports. The would of sports provide excitement and entertainment, and they are a way of life for people across the entire globe. The nonstop action a sporting event provides is riveting, yes, but there is something more that makes sports so paramount in the lives of so many. With every year, fans embark on a journey with an unknown destination, and when this journey takes place, something new commences before their eyes. Every season and every year provides new excitement and a new journey, whether its records being shattered, curses being broken, or streaks being launched, every expedition is unique in its own individual way, and I want to take some time to reflect on the journey known as 2013.
Let us first venture way back to the magnificent month of January. Unfortunately for the die hard fans world-wide, I am not talking about the World Darts Championship. Instead, I am talking about Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide taking their third National Championship in four years. Although the Tide will not be participating in the soon to be played Championship, Saban and the boys absolutely demolished an inferior Notre Dame squad headed by the one and only Manti Te’o. Seeing a college team completely dominate the entirety of its competition is something we are not accustomed to seeing, but the Crimson Tide made winning a title look just about as easy as one could make it look. In addition, although the Te’o debacle did not partake technically in 2013, it is always worthy of a shout out. Way to go Manti. Keep being you.
Next in line to write their way into the history books were the Baltimore Ravens. The man that separated this run from others is none other than Ray Lewis. Whether you like the man or not, it is an indisputable fact that he is one of the most inspirational sports figures of this modern era. The most memorable game from this magical run had to be the matchup with Denver, or the “Mile High Miracle.” It was simply your typical 70 yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 30 seconds left that would send it to overtime, only for Justin Tucker to win it in double overtime. Was it busted coverage? Maybe so. Nevertheless, it was one of the most remarkable plays in playoff history. The Ravens headed to the Super Bowl to take down the 49ers in a game delayed by the stadium lights going out. Colin Kaepernick fought back hard, but in the end, Lewis and fate was too much to overcome. We saw the true power of inspiration in Ray, and not only that, we saw fate run its path as the Ravens Super Bowl victory marked the end of Lewis’s career.
The 2013 NBA scene was fully headed by the Miami Heat and LeBron James. Not only did the Heat win their second title in a row, they also went on a memorable 27 game winning streak, second longest in the history of the game. When Miami arrived at the Playoffs they wasted no time in beating my measly Bucks team and the Rose-less Bulls. They encountered a physical and inspired Pacers team in the Eastern Conference Finals who they would battle with for seven games. However, they proved superior in Game 7. In the finals, the Spurs looked like they would be the new champions. However, shady play by Manu Ginobli and others down the stretch greatly hindered the Spurs. Regardless, it took a miraculous three by Ray Allen and a questionable no-call at the other end in Game 6 to eventually propel the Heat to the 2013 NBA Championship. Although it was not necessarily a surprising outcome, the fight put up by their opponents is what made these playoffs something memorable.
In college basketball, all of 2013 was as unpredictable as ever. However, nothing could quite top the magnificence of March Madness. The Cinderella of 2013 was the Wichita State Shockers. On their run to the Final Four, they took apart Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle, and squeaked it out over Ohio State, but they would ultimately fall to the eventual National Champions, Louisville. Although the run by the 9 seed Shockers was remarkable, it continued a trend of Cinderellas that should be deemed nothing less than disappointing. Whether George Mason, VCU, Butler(twice), or now, Wichita, upon arrival at the biggest stage, they could not deliver the Championship. However, this may be one case where it is fitting that the Cardinals ultimately pulled it out and Cinderella did not prevail. It is not often that an entire nation is utterly appalled at a leg injury; However, Louisville’s back up point guard, Kevin Ware, suffered broken leg against Duke in the Elite 8 was won of the more gruesome injuries displayed on live TV. When play resumed after Ware was rushed to the hospital, it was blatant that Louisville was no longer trying to win themselves a National Championship, they were trying to win it for Kevin. Because of this, the emotional victory the Cardinals achieved is forever engraved in my heart and the heart of basketball fans across the country.
From a record and statistical stand point, the 2013 MLB season was full of excitement. Chris Davis put on quite a spectacle with his 37 first half home runs, and 53 total. Mike Trout also wrote a new chapter in the history books as he became the youngest player to ever hit for the cycle. The incredible Miguel Cabrera became the first player to ever record 30 home runs and 90 RBIs before the All-Star Break. I could go on and on, but the last notable achievement was Big Papi setting the record for most hits ever by a Designated Hitter. Moreover, Ortiz was not done in the regular season. Much to my dismay, Ortiz led the Red Sox on an improbable run to a World Series. Whether it was Victorino, Saltalamacchia, or Ortiz, the Red Sox were able to achieve whatever task necessary whenever put before them. This fate-propelled run was never to be forgotten, as the high-intensity and “fairy tale” endings provided excitement unmatched by Playoff Series in recent memory.
Have no fear, we have saved the best for last. This football season, both college and NFL, has provided memories and history that cannot be found in another single season. We have had the pleasure of watching Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson exemplify historical receiving performances. What made their performances so fantastic is their ability to perform at this high of a level consistently. Gordon was the first person to record 200 receiving yards in consecutive games, and Johnson recorded the second most receiving yards in a game in NFL history, 329. However, the most remarkable record is that of Peyton Manning, who broke Tom Brady’s record for passing TD’s in a season at 51. Peyton still has one game left to make the new record even more unreachable. With the regular season coming to a close, it has been action packed, record setting, and of course, memorable. However, nothing can quite equal that of the conclusion of the college football year. In most seasons, I would talk about a plethora of games and moments, but instead, all that is necessary is two games and two plays. The Auburn Tigers pulled off two of the most miraculous plays in the history of sports in back to back weeks. If you had told me that their 73 yard touchdown pass on 4th and 18 to take down Georgia would be the second best play of their season, I would have kicked you in the shin for your nonsensical opinion. However, it was in fact the second best. In the best rivalry in football, the Iron Bowl, Chris Davis of Auburn returned an Alabama 57 yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired. This return will forever go down in the history books as one of if not the most memorable play in the history of football. A story book run to the National Championship with an undetermined ending. We will leave their finale for 2014.
From January 1 to December 31, a lot of things in life are constant, but oh how the sports world conforms to something you could have never expected. Records have been broken along with hearts, lives have been made, and memories have been forever engraved into our brains. Many things may always be predictable such as the Cubs will suck and UVA will underachieve in everything except women’s rowing, but it is the unpredictability of every year that keeps us coming back and craving more. The end of the journey of 2013 is coming to a conclusion, and it is an ideal time to reflect on all of the magnificence the year has brought us. However, when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, buckle up sports fans, a new journey is just beginning, and a brand new story is about to be written. A new year will bring new excitement, new records, and new champions. Grab your refreshments folks and get ready for the ride.