As we bid farewell to 2013 we always spend a couple moments reflecting on the year we’ve had: the highlights, lowlights and memories that will last a lifetime. Though we experience life on a very personal level we also have the opportunity to look back on what we were able to observe other people experiencing. One of those things is professional sports. As I think back on 2013 I think about the top moments in sports that I experienced in 2013. Now being a fan of certain sports and certain teams my favorite sports experiences of the year are going to be much different than other people but alas they are my favorite. So here, in my mind, are the top five sports stories of 2013.
5. The GOAT retires
For years when the ninth inning of a game came around the New York Yankees knew who would be on the mound. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” would begin to blare and out from the bullpen would trot Mariano Rivera. For 19 years Mariano Rivera cemented his legacy as the best closer in the history of the game and when 2013 came along, he declared it his final season. All season long, everywhere the Yankees went, it was a farewell party to Rivera. He saved 44 games and finished with a major league record 652 saves. A 13-time All-Star, Mariano Rivera left a lasting legacy on September 26th when he took the mound for the final time. Rivera finished his career with 652 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and 1173 strikeouts.
4. Fourth and Eight
When week 9 of the 2013-14 NFL season came along, the Green Bay Packers were 5-2 and in first place in the NFC North Division. Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone against the Chicago Bears and missed the next seven games while the Packers shuffled through three different starting quarterbacks and went a combined 2-5-1 without Rodgers. It wasn’t until week 17 that Rodgers made his return in a win-or-go-home game against the same Chicago Bears that he injured himself against. With the Packers trailing 28-27 they started a fourth quarter drive with the ball at their own 13-yard line. The Packers converted on a 4th and 1 on their own 22. They followed that up with a 4th and 1 conversion from their own 44 when Rodgers found Nelson for a six-yard gain. The Packers then faced their third fourth down on the drive; sitting at 4th and 8 on the opposing 48-yard line. Fullback John Kuhn blocked Bears linebacker Julius Peppers from sacking Rodgers, who sidestepped the blitz and launched a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass to receiver Randall Cobb that propelled the Green Bay Packers to the division title and into the playoffs.
3. Reversing The Curse of Beer and Chicken
In 2011 The Boston Red Sox had a disastrous 7-20 record in September and missed the playoffs. Longtime manager Terry Francona was shown the door amongst rumors that he’d lost control of the clubhouse and the team was more dedicated to beer and chicken than the game on the field. The Red Sox replaced him with Bobby Valentine who skippered the team to a midseason fire sale of All-Stars Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. The Red Sox lost 93 games and finished last in the American League East. Valentine was fired and the Sox started over from the ground up. Former pitching coach John Farrell was brought on as the new manager and the Sox focused on signing guys with good clubhouse rapport like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara. The Sox took off and won 97 games and finished tied for the best record in the majors a year after finishing in last. Boston battled their way to the World Series and offed the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to 2 to win the World Series for the 3rd time since 2000. Boston’s remarkable turnaround was hinged on the city uniting after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. Overall, it was the Red Sox year from the get go and like many times before, the Sox put the city of Boston on their back and marched straight to the top.
2. Long Live The Kings
For the past several years, the future of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings was up in the air. With owners Joe and Gavin Maloof trying to relocate the Kings to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and possibly even Virginia Beach, the saga came to a crescendo in January when it was announced that the Maloofs had agreed to a deal in which they’d sell the Kings to a Seattle-based group with the intent of moving the franchise to Seattle. Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson went to work again to assemble an ownership group to compete with the Seattle group in an attempt to keep the Kings in Sacramento. In May, the NBA board voted 22-8 against the relocation of the Sacramento Kings and effectively rendered the deal to sell to Seattle pointless. Johnson’s ownership group, which included former minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, Vivek Randive, swooped in and purchased the franchise for $535 million and ushered the Maloofs right out of town. The new ownership group committed to a new arena in downtown Sacramento and locked in the Kings future in the city. The sale of the team was a great victory for Kings fans and mayor Johnson who had been on strings for years with the fate of the Kings up in the air. The Kings are slowly improving under the new ownership group but remain on a long road back to glory. Sitting at 10-20 the Kings finished the year by knocking off the Houston Rockets, and the defending champion Miami Heat.
1. This Is Our F***ing City!
On April 15th, the annual Boston Marathon was rocked by two bombs that exploded near the finish line, killing three and injuring hundreds more. It marked the first major terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. The city was broken and the two men responsible led the authorities on a wild manhunt throughout Boston for the following week. It wasn’t until April 19th that the manhunt ended with the apprehension of the younger brother involved in the bombing. The Red Sox game on the 19th was postponed and play resumed on the 20th after a ceremony in which David Ortiz declared “This is our F***ing city!” Boston hosted the Kansas City Royals in a somber game and trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the 8th inning. With two men on and two outs, Daniel Nava stepped to the plate and launched a three-run home run to right center field to put the Sox up 4-2. The Sox held on and won the game 4-3 and the city stood as one. The culmination of a somber and powerful ceremony and an unheralded outfielder who beat al the odds to even crack the Red Sox lineup coming through in the clutch, Boston stood united. The slogan “Boston Strong” was born and though it was just a game, it was the first real step in the healing of a city. The Sox continued their miraculous season all the way to the World Series where they clinched the championship at home for the first time since 1918.
These are my top five sports moments of 2013. It was a year of negativity in sports: with Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun headlining a long list of suspended MLB players. Lance Armstrong admitting to steroid usage, Manti Te’o being catfished among other things. Though there were many less than stellar events in the year in sports, 2013 was highlighted by some of the best moments and ultimately established itself as a year to remember. What were your top sports moments of 2013?