December 31, 2013

My top 13 Sports Stories from 2013

click here for my Top 12 stories from 2012

13. Gronk Injury Drama

Rob Gronkowski...possibly the most dominant player in the NFL. When healthy.   

Unfortunately, it's obvious now that Gronk is a big time injury prone player. He's too big, and plays too hard to stay healthy. In the Winter and Spring of  2013, Gronk had multiple back and arm surgeries. He was only expected to miss the first couple games of the season, but didn't make his debut until Week 7. He played 6 very good games before suffering a concussion and torn ACL/MCL. At age 24, Gronk will now have had four surgeries on his forearm, two on his back, one on his ankle, and one on his knee. 

Honestly If I'm the Patriots, I consider making Gronk the first ever "playoffs only" player. He can't stay healthy for a long stretch of time, and the Pats never have him healthy for a playoff run. The Pats waltz their way to an easy division title every single year, they don't need Gronk in the regular season!! 

12. Lance Fraudstrong 

The worst people in sports are the liars... the athletes who sit there and swear by everything they are clean... just to be proven dirty. Rafael Palmeiro. Ryan Braun. and now the biggest fraud of them all.... Lance Fraudstrong.

For over a decade Cycling federations around the world accused Fraudstrong of doping, cheating, and bribing his way to 7 Tour de France titles. He vehemently denied it all and even TOOK LEGAL ACTION against those who testified (truthfully) against him. Finally, after mountains of evidence and testimony, Fraudstrong admitted to doping and basically/hopefully fell off the face of the earth.

PS- I still faithfully wear my "Livestrong" bracelet, as I have for over 10 years now. I don't associate this with Lance whatsoever.

11.Super Bowl black out

Last year during the "Harbough Bowl" there was an electrical blackout. John's Ravens and Jim's 49ers were forced to deal with a 40  minute delay in the 3rd Quarter.

Jacoby Jones came out and returned the 2nd half kickoff 108 yards for a TD... It was an awesome play (longest in Super Bowl History). A few minutes into the responding 49ers drive, the lights went out:

Of course Ray Lewis and other Ravens Lunatics all thought this was NOT an accident, that the outage was done by someone in attempt to slow down the Ravens. Even if that was the case, Joe Flacco capped off his perfect playoffs (11 TDs, 0 INTs) and the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

10. Lebron James/ Heat win

I'm not a big NBA or basketball fan, but I LOVE when Lebron James wins, because, like me, Haters fuel Lebron James. Irrational hate to the max. Especially here in Boston, people go CRAZY about hating Lebron James. Well guess what? He's the man and you all suck. Kiss the rings. Scoreboard. Lebron won his 2nd consecutive ring this year, collecting another Finals MVP in the process. Scored 37 points in Game 7... and this was after his triple-double in an OT road victory against the Spurs. IN case you celtcis fans were counting, since he's been in the league that's 2 titles for Lebron and 1 for the Celtics. Just sayin.

Not 1, Not 2, Not 3....

9. Thornton suspension/hockey issues

In early December, Shawn Thornton was involved in an ugly incident at the Garden. Here are my detailed thoughts on that specific issue. Overall, it just bothers me that Thornton got a 15 game suspension.... the league is making an example of of someone who has SET the right example for a decade. Makes no sense.

There's has been increasing discussion around the idea of eliminating fighting from the NHL. As someone who has a good understanding of the game and a working brain, I am obviously very strongly against getting rid of fighting in hockey. Yes, I enjoy it from an entertainment standpoint, but beyond that there is a use for fighting in the game. People who don't play hockey don't really understand that allowing fighting keeps players accountable on the ice. There is an unwritten "code" that the professionals abide by, and when it is broken, there is accountability. Very simply put, if Brooks Orpik had fought Shawn Thornton when (appropriately) challenged, he wouldn't have gotten knocked out. Check out the poll below taken from NHL players in the past 3 years.

8. Pats lose to Ravens in AFC Championship Game 

Last January the Pats lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship... at Home. This was a devastating loss for a few different reasons.

-Aqib Talib left this game early... not good for the Pats.

-Ray Lewis' last game... or so we thought. This ended up being Ray's 2nd to last game

-The Pats got shutout in the 2nd half. Up 13-7 at halftime, everyone felt good about the Pats chances to win the game. Through the years, the Pats have gotten stronger as game wear on. This year, however, the Pats got dominated int he 2nd half. The Ravens scored 3 TDs and the Pats had no response whatsoever.

-Ridley, true to himself, put a HUGE ball on the ground in the 2nd half. He was knocked out by Patriot killer Bernard Pollard.

-WesWelker scored a TD this game... his last as a Patriot. He finished with 8/117/1.

The final score of the game was 28-13 and the Ravens of course went on to win the Super Bowl.

7. Chris Peterson leaves Boise State

Boise State Football had it's worst season since I became a fan in the late 90s.... they finished the season at 8-5.

The 38-6 road loss in Week 1 to Washington should have been a clue... this was NOT our year. A 1 point loss in Fresno, coupled with a surprising road loss to BYU pretty much ended the significant bowl talk for BSU. Of course, even in a down year, the Broncos were invited to the Hawaii Bowl, but proceeded to get crushed by Oregon State.

Two players most worth mentioning are RB Jay Ajayi and DL Demarcus Lawrence. Ajayi is a TRAIN. He doesn't run quite as hard north and south as Doug Martin did, but he is clearly more talented in open space. Ajayi is a JR next year, and wrapped up his sophomore campaign with over 1400 yards and 18 TDs. He averaged 5.7 YPC this year. Lawrence is a monster on the defensive side of the ball... mark my words here... he's a legit NFL talent.

The biggest news out of Boise State this year, however, is the departure of Chris Peterson. Personally I HATE the way he left... seemed to go out in the middle of the night. Very weird. I have a friend/mentor in Boise who posted this on facebook, basically summing up what my thoughts and feelings were:

(Non Boise State fans scroll on)

"Let me start by saying that I have always been very Pro-Coach Pete and am certainly thankful for how he has played a major part of putting Boise State football on the map, therefore being a major contributor to many of my best relationships. The next part of my post may not be received well because it doesn't blindly fall at his feet as we are directed to do by "real" Bronco fans. I'm sorry but being a true fan doesn't mean that you have to sit idly by when things don't go well. I contend a fan who truly cares SHOULD be upset when a kicker misses a chip shot FG realistically ending so many championship dreams or when the ICONIC leader of your team leaves "QUICKLY and QUIETLY." This last part just doesn't sit well with me. In the past, BSU coaches like Koetter and Hawkins have left, striking while the proverbial iron is hot. At the tops of their games. Leaving the cupboard far from bare, allowing the next coach to step in and build upon, if not shatter their previous successes. We all bemoaned Koetter leaving wondering how this goofy Hawkins guy could keep the ball rolling. Then everyone stepped up financially, supporting building whatever facility we could and to raise salaries so we could, "fingers crossed," keep Coach Hawk at any cost. Hawk started to hear the grumbles and left a team that became Fiesta Bowl champs the very next year. Coach Pete built on those successes over the next 8 years and fans kept reaching into their wallets to help finance new construction and his $2.3 million contract. Did he finally succumb to the grumbles himself???

But Coach Pete never left while the "iron was hot." We were led to believe he was different. Ole Miss? Haha Stanford? Nope. USC? Not a good fit. But unfortunately Coach Pete's real legacy is that while he is and was a great coach and ambassador for doing things the right way, he flat our refused to appease the very people who sacrificed their own finances to truly help build Bronco Nation. What??!! Yes, when the Broncos needed to pour it on opponents for style points, he refused even though it was BSU's best chance at playing for a National Championship. When Kellen needed a few extra yards or TDs to win a Heisman, Pete refused to play him in the 3rd quarter of games when we were ahead by just enough. Then in 2nd halves when Southwick came in he never got to throw the ball or truly run the offense, leading to him not being ready to step in against the likes of Michigan State and our team has not reached expectations for 2 straight years. Pete and his coaches didn't cash in their chips on big time recruits after Top 5 and Top 10 finishes instead offering free rides to small, slow receivers, projects and undersized defensive players. Somewhere along the line we were able to recruit NFL talent and a lot of it prior to the Top 5 success but in the past four years couldn't when we'd built BSU into America's darling??? Every fan saw just how thin and bare the cupboard truly is when BSU had a few injuries this year. No offense to the guy I was in the elevator with at the hotel before the BYU game but you look like the kid who used to get stuffed in his locker, not the chiseled athlete you lined up against the next night at LES. Whose fault is that???

If Coach Pete had left for Stanford or USC or even Notre Dame a few years ago no one would have blamed him. But now while the ship is sinking... lets face it with our schedule BSU shouldn't be going 8-4 and a TRUE fan does demand excellence when excellence is more than attainable and mediocracy is achieved. This is where people who don't know what a required BAA membership is pound their chest and cry foul. Tennessee Martin? Southern Miss? We can only beat chumps with our current talent. And lets face it, SD State and Fresno are barely more than chumps. All the good will from the Kellen years are gone.

Coach Pete, I'm reading lots of open letters that express their gratitude. It is well deserved, no question. I too am thankful. But here is my open letter to you. I APPLAUD Coach Pete for everything he has done, but I can't believe that you couldn't even make a statement. How about a THANKS to the people who gave the money to make the facilities happen? How about a THANKS to the people who shelled out $200 a ticket to help make your family rich? How about a PUBLIC THANKS to the BSU President who had your back at every step, shouting from every mountain top even when it made him look like a fool? How about a THANKS to all the people, whether they gave or not, who blindly fall at your feet singing your praises while you leave them in your dust without so much as looking in the rearview mirror? I THOUGHT YOU WERE DIFFERENT.

Coach Pete, if you are different than every other Coach Nutt in the country who leaves in the middle of the night, then take your ample resources (which have now been significantly increased by a new rabid fan base) and TAKE OUT A FULL PAGE AD in the STATESMAN thanking the very people who ARE BRONCO NATION. Don't leave "quickly, and quietly." Be different."

6. Great Season on PGA Tour

The PGA produce 4 different major winners this year, a 5th player that won the FedEx Cup, and none of that includes Tiger Woods, who blew away the field with 5 wins in 2013.

-Adam Scott and his long putter took home the Green Jacket in April (in OT)

-Justin Rose won his first major at the US Open

-Phil Mickelson won his first British Open in impressive fashion, finishing as the only player under par

-Big Daddy Duff  chewed his way to the PGA Championship

-One of my faves, Henrik Stenson, beat everyone at the end of the FedEx Playoffs winning TPC Boston and the Tour Championship for the $10 Million prize.

-USA beat down Europe in the Presidents Cup

... it was an AWESOME year in the PGA. I love the way the tour is headed... Its not Tiger vs the field anymore. It's Tiger, then about a dozen or so major threats, and THEN the field.

5. Welker/Amendola Saga 

Back on March  when Wes Welker left for the Broncos, people were outraged (myself included.)

The Welker saga had actually started many years previous... the Pats made a few minor attempts to sign Welker to a multi-year deal-  that never happened so they started using the franchise tag on him. Players, while they get rich off of it, generally don't like the franchise tag. It means they aren't getting a long term contract with lots of guaranteed money. Welker made BANK  under the franchise tag... but with his impending free agency... the Pats offered him about half the annual salary for a 2 year deal. Basically a slap in the face to their 2nd most consistent offensive player.

Welker moved on to Denver, and helped Peyton and the Broncos offense set all sorts of records. Of course Welker's season got cut short due to a concussion..

The Pats brought in Amendola to "replace" Welker... then actually gave this injury prone player a 5 year deal, with a higher average annual salary.

It's safe to say that letting Welker walk was a mistake. While it's true the Julien Edelman basically put up the exact same stats as Welker would have (100+ catches, 1000+ yards), it's also true the Patriots could have had both Edelman AND Welker tearing it up this year. They made a mistake letting him walk.

4. Tyler Seguin gets traded

4th of July, the last thing I want to think about is the NHL (after losing the cup a couple weeks earlier) and what happens? Superstar Tyler Seguin gets traded. 

There are the people who say the Bruins gave up early on the kid, that they sold low, and it was a mistake to let an elite talent like Seguin leave the team.

Then there are people like me who actually watch the Bruins who were happy with the trade. Listen, I love Tyler. I was at the draft party in Fanuil hall when the Bruins picked him. I've blogged about him many times. We probably don't win the Cup without Seguin in 2011. BUT...

-The guy doesn't fit Claude's system (and Claude is here to stay! yay!)
-He has a shitty work ethic (Apparently he went out in Toronto like every night DURING the playoffs)
-He has a restricting contract (The Bruins strength is depth, not star power)

It was nice to get Loui Eriksson in return for Seguin, but as of this writing the real take was Reilly Smith!!!! Can you believe this guy LEADS THE BRUINS IN GOALS THIS SEASON????

While playing alongside Bergeron and Marchand, Smith has tallied 14 goals and 12 assists. That's awfully "Tyler Seguin" like of him... at only 5.5 million dollars less...

Also... I cant not mention this... Tyler Seguin's priorities are all fucked up. When asked by the Dallas Media what his advice for a young person coming to the Bruins would be, he laughed and said "Get Married." Clown.

3. Aaron Hernandez arrested 

I went back and forth about even putting this clown on this list.... BUT ultimately I have to. The Hernandez saga dominated the Summer headlines... and the fall out from losing him on the field was significant.

I always loved Aaron Hernandez as a player. He won me a fantasy football championship last year. I saw him score on MNF from the 2nd row vs the Texans. He always had a great attitude and was a cool player to root for.

BUT that was all a trick. Hernandez is a dirt bag murderer. It's beyond me that someone like him can have SO MUCH and still turn back to his old lifestyle. Grow up bro, you could have been a legend here. Now you're in jail for the rest of your life. No second chance. Good call.

2. Sox win the World Series/Boston Marathon

Worst to first. You hear that saying a lot, but rarely does it ever actually ring true.

The 2012 Red Sox finished 69-93 in last place of the AL East. During the off season, UMass alum Ben Cherington was able to convince the idiotic Dodgers to trade for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford AND Adrian GOnzalez... freeing up the necessary space for Cherington to re build the Red Sox.

In comes Johnny Gomes, Jarod Saltalamcacchia, and Mike Napoli. and the rest, they say, is history.

The Sox ended up taking down the Rays, Tigers, and Cardinals en route to another title. David Ortiz, the only member of all 3 Sox Championship teams, hit a mind numbing .733 in the world series. He of course won the MVP (and should seriously be considered for best Red Sox player of all time.) Koji Uehara took over as closer in June, and never looked back. Historic season for both of these guys.

Of course, what made this year even more special, were the events at the Boston Marathon. No one in Boston will EVER forget Papi taking that mic and letting the world know "This is OUR Fucking City."  I'm legit getting chills just writing that. Ortiz and the rest of the Sox all knew this title they won  was for the city, and no one else. Ortiz even said at one point almost every single game there was some sort of Marathon remembrance/ ceremony... so basically this whole season was dedicated to the city of Boston. It was what my friends and I like to call a "God Season".... basically no matter what the Sox were winning the world Series. And they followed through big time and produced the city's 8th parade in the past 11 years.

1. Bruins lose in the Stanley Cup Final

This was, by far, the biggest sports story in 2013 for me. The Bruins proved to the world that "Bruins Hockey" works, is here to stay, and that this young core of talent we have can and likely will deliver multiple deep runs. The 2013 Bruins team reminded me of what the Red Wings have been in the past decade- a team you KNOW is going to be fighting for the Conference crown every year. Simply making the playoffs or even just winning a round or two is no longer acceptable here... the bar has been set high, to Stanley Cup level.

This Stanley Cup run was highlighted by the Game 7 comeback in Round 1 against the Leafs. Click here to me reminded of that magic. If you didn't think Patrice Bergeron was a shoe-in to have his number eventually retired by the organization, his playoff performance this year erased all doubts. Not only did he score the game toeing and series winning goals in Game 7 vs the leafs, he battled through so many injuries that he left game 7 and went straight to hospital where he stayed for a few days.

Don't ever forget Gregory Campbell... blocking a shot that broke his leg only to finish his shift like a true hockey player. (Still one of my favorite stories is that Clay Buchholz got a hang nail a couple days after Campbell broke his leg, and despite being medically cleared, Buchholz didn't return to the Sox until late September, by that time Campbell had already resumed skating!!)

After the comeback, the Bruins steamrolled the Rangers in 5 Games... aka Krug's coming out party.

Next up in the ECF: Jarome Iginla and the Penguins. This is when the Bruins really proved to people they were for real. Sweep City. Crosby, Malkin, and Iginla combine for 0 goals. Tuukka Rask is a God.

Then the Blackhawks. The two best teams facing off. A great series that went from looking like it was going to 7 games, to being over in just 16 second. Heart break city. Another team lifting the Cup on our home ice- something I NEVER want to see again.

But you know what? this team has seen it all. They've been together for a long time, they know what it takes to win a Cup, and the 2013 Bruins came THIS close... but despite a loss they affirmed what we all thought was happening... the beginning of a long string of deep playoff runs. I expect another deep run and possible Cup in 2014!

My Aunt and Uncle in the first row watching the Cup clinching goal

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