Looking back on an entire year of sports feels like riding in a car through the mountains. There were so many twists and turns and drops and blind corners. The road was full of switchbacks and emergency pull-offs, and it was never quite clear what was going to happen next.
There were explosive beginnings as youngsters such as Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck burst onto the scene. New dynasties appeared as the Miami Heat won their first NBA Championship and the Oklahoma City Thunder rose to possibly rival them for years to come. Even so, some other eras ended as stars such as Chipper Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson hung up the cleats for good.
Things changed and they stayed the same. Iconic superstars switched teams: Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Peyton Manning, to name a few. On the other hand, some things stayed as they have always been with legends such as Tom Brady, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Jeter playing as if time has no hold on them whatsoever.
There were sensational personalities, memorable moments, and spectacular performances: Michael Phelps winning more career Olympic medals than anyone in history and McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face becoming an internet meme. Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin became overnight sensations as much for their faith as for their athletic prowess. Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in baseball and Calvin Johnson collected more receiving yards than anyone in NFL history.
But, as in real life, it was not all fun and excitement. There were stories to dismay, disgust, and distress. Former college assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually molesting multiple young men. Lance Armstrong forfeited his seven Tour de France titles under suspicion of cheating. The New Orleans Saints lost a coach and several players to suspension as they were investigated for a bounty scandal in which they tried to injure opposing players for pay. Coaches Andy Reid and Kevin McHale lost grown children. Former All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau committed suicide and Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend and then himself, leaving their infant daughter parentless.
Sports serves remarkably to both help us escape and bring us back to reality. It is a universe of excitement, wonder, stress, and pain. It is entertainment, yes, but it can serve as more than that. Sometimes it is good to look back over the whole landscape, to see the undulations of the year, to remark on how those low points led to the high ones and where the road turned unexpectedly. In this way it can serve as a reminder of how God directs through lows and highs and surprises and graces. 2012 was a year of all of these in sports, and I imagine it was for you as well.