There are always lessons to be learned from sports. Some can be discerned between the lines and others have to be seen from off the field, but each year we learn a little more about the current sports landscape. Here are the biggest lessons we learned from the world of sports in 2013.
Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook .
Top 10 Learned In Sports
10. The Splash Brothers will make it rain on any defense
The Splash Brothers -- aka
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson -- generated some buzz during the early part of the year, as they helped lead the Warriors to 47 wins and their first playoff birth since 2007, while shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc. They really launched themselves into the mainstream NBA consciousness, though, during the Dubs' run to the Western Conference Semifinals, during which the pair produced more than their share of highlight moments and repeatedly turned Oracle Arena into a madhouse with their in-the-gym range. From Curry’s 22 point third quarter against Denver in Game 4 of their first round series to Thompson’s franchise record eight threes in a Round 2 victory over the Spurs, this duo helped make every Warriors game a must-watch for all basketball fans. If Curry’s ankle can stay healthy these two will help make Golden State a tough out for years to come.
9. Cinderella is alive and well in college basketball
The 2013 version of March Madness featured a return to prominence for underdog stories, a year after a men’s tournament in which just two teams from “mid-major” conferences made the Sweet 16 and none made the Elite Eight. This year’s tournament boasted four teams seeded ninth or lower in its top 16 and had a feeling of general chaos throughout. In the span of three weeks,
“Dunk City” became a household phrase, Harvard won its first tournament game ever and Wichita State “Shocked” everyone with a run to the Final Four (see what I did there?). Even individual players became Cinderella stories as back-up point guard Spike Albrecht of Michigan dropped 17 points on Louisville in the first half of the National Championship. The lesson here-never count Cinderella out.
8. Nick Saban is actually human and therefore prone to errors in judgment
One of the most surprising developments of the 2013 college football season came after Alabama beat LSU to move 9-0. Immediately following the game, Nick
Saban, the Tide’s famously stoic coach took a running leap of exuberance into quarterback AJ McCarron’s arms. It turns out that Saban is not a robot with superhuman coaching ability, as some previously thought. With human mind comes human imperfections, however, and Saban certainly made an incorrect judgment three weeks later when he sent Adam Griffith, his backup kicker, in to attempt a 57-yard field goal at the end of regulation against Auburn. This particular decision produced one of the greatest plays in college football history at Bama’s expense, costing the Crimson Tide a spot in the SEC Championship Game. For the first time in a while, one of Saban’s choices was criticized. To err is human.
7. Forgetting to pay the electric bill can have serious consequences
XLVII was, overall, a tremendous game. It was closely contested throughout the fourth quarter, Beyoncé gave an incredible halftime performance and Ray Lewis gave an even more incredible after ending his Hall-of-Fame career with a second championship. However, all of the on-the-field stories ended up being overshadowed by an above-the-field story. Early in the second half, the lights at the Mercedes-Benz postgame speech Superdome went out, resulting in a 34-minute delay. How much of an effect the lights had on the actual game is up for debate, but it certainly was embarrassing for the league and commissioner Roger Goodell. The commish had to endure accusations from Lewis that the blackout was part of conspiracy to help the 49ers (who were down 28-6 at the time) get back into the game. It was not the NFL’s finest hour, but it did produce some Twitter comedy, so, really, the positives outweigh the negatives.
6. The Spurs are an exciting basketball team
Despite making the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons since Tim Duncan joined the team in 1997 and winning four championships over that span, the Spurs of the
Duncan-Ginobli-Parker era have long been accused of being a “boring” team. Personally, I never thought this was the case at all; the Spurs won consistently and had a number of highlight moments, especially during their epic struggles with Steve Nash’s Suns during the mid-2000s. Yet, the three lowest rated NBA Finals since 1981 (2003, 2005, and 2007) all involved the Spurs and they never seemed to get much love outside of San Antonio. After the 2013 Finals, the storyline changed, though. The scintillating series between Duncan’s Spurs and the Heat went seven games and the Spurs more than held their own in the entertainment department, despite falling agonizingly short of a fifth title. With Tony Parker approaching superstar status and young newcomers and Kawhi Leonard Danny Green lighting up the scoreboard, the Spurs are now far from dull.
5. The UFC needs better-qualified judges
This became readily apparent after the welterweight title fight at UFC 167 between champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger
Johny Hendricks. GSP kept the belt by split decision but, for the vast majority of people watching the fight, it certainly seemed as though Hendricks had won handily. I tend to agree with them and was shocked when Hendricks was denied the belt. So too, apparently, was UFC commissioner Dana White who blamed the Nevada State Athletic Commission for supplying less-than-stellar judges for fights.
"I think they need to step in immediately before they destroy this sport like they did with boxing,” he
said. “It used to be the best commission in the world. It's absolutely incompetence. I'm f--- scared to come back here and do fights."
It’s sad for the UFC that, on a night that the organization celebrated its
20 anniversary and drew over 600,000 Pay-Per-View buyers, there were accusations of th corruption from fans. If the UFC ever wants MMA to become more than a niche sport, they can ill afford boxing-like accusations of predetermined fight outcomes. White needs to put pressure on the NSAC to strengthen their certification process or threaten to remove fights from Nevada altogether. Yes, fights in Vegas are profitable, but more decisions like this will ultimately destroy the sport’s integrity.
4. The Bucs are back and not going away anytime soon
After nearly two decades of futility, the Pirates ended a streak of losing seasons that stretched back to the first term of the Clinton administration. Pittsburgh did much more than post a winning record; they won 94 games (a 15-win improvement from their 2012 total) won the NL Wild Card Game over the Reds and pushed eventual NL Champion St. Louis to a decisive fifth game before finally falling in the
NLDS. The Pirates were one of the feel-good stories of the season as their long-suffering fans finally had something to cheer about in October, but they seem poised to be much more than that in the coming years. Pittsburgh boasts one of the game’s premier players in Andrew , a powerful first baseman in Pedro Alvarez and pitching staff loaded from top to bottom with the likes of McCutchen , Francisco Gerrit Cole Liriano and, soon, top prospect Jameson . Considering they also have one of the Taillon top farm systems in all of baseball, it seems likely that the Pirates will be contenders for a long time to come. As a Cubs fan, I’m worried. As a baseball fan, I’m excited. Raise the Jolly Roger!
3. The Jaguars shouldn’t have drafted a punter ahead of Russell Wilson
In 2012, the Jacksonville Jaguars used their third-round draft pick to select Bryan Anger, a punter from the University of California-Berkeley. By all accounts, Anger is a tremendous punter, having been named to the all-rookie team after his first NFL season. However, two picks after the Jaguars selected their franchise punter, the Seahawks decided to draft Russell Wilson, a quarterback from Wisconsin. Some would argue that Seattle’s pick has worked out even better than Jacksonville’s in the two seasons since. After going 10-6 in his rookie season, Wilson has put himself in the
“elite quarterback” conversation in 2013. He beat Washington (and heralded fellow rookie RGIII) in Round 1 of the 2013 playoffs and has proceeded to lead the Seahawks to the best record in the NFC this season, completing 63 percent of his passes and compiling a 101.1 passer rating along the way. Some would say the Jaguars should have taken Wilson (some would say a lot of teams should have taken Wilson), but without the budding star, they certainly use Anger’s skills a lot more often, so maybe it worked out for the best.
2. Injuries are the worst
Injuries are a part of every year in sports, but 2013 featured an overabundance of top players being derailed by fluke accidents. In the NBA, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose (for the second straight season-*sigh*) all suffered injuries that impacted the playoff picture. Westbrook’s injury was particularly devastating as it cost fans the chance to see the ultra-quick point guard and his teammate Kevin Durant do battle with the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The NFL saw star quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler (yes, the use of “star” is stretching a term there) lose multiple games to injury and has had to deal with the fallout from
RGIII’s ACL tear and subsequent recovery all season. The loss of charismatic and prolific tight end Rob Gronkowski is also a blow for fans and the league alike. Those are simply the most prominent among a rash of players bitten by the major injury bug across all sports (Matt Harvey and Nerlens Noel also come quickly to mind). The only positive out of this was that one injury showed once again why we love sports -- Louisville guard Kevin Ware saw an outpouring of support after suffering a gruesome injury in the NCAA tournament.
1. Jack Hoffman is the (little) man
Along with Ware’s return to the court barely more than seven months after his injury, Hoffman’s story is the one of the most uplifting in sports in 2013. The now eight-year old Hoffman had brain cancer and, after two surgeries and in the middle of a 60-week chemotherapy course, was invited to the Nebraska spring football game. In the fourth quarter, Nebraska coach Bo
Pelini inserted Hoffman into the game where the young fan took a handoff and galloped 69 yards for a touchdown. He was then mobbed in celebration by the entire Nebraska team. Now, eight months later, Hoffman’s cancer is in remission and he is a normal second grader. Thank you, Jack Hoffman, for battling through a cruel disease and helping remind us all why we watch sports.