Finally, the year is at an end. To commemorate the last 12 months, we asked each of our writers to recall their favorite, most essential, most memorable moments and stories and photos of 2013. Here’s what they had to say.
Eric Goldschein — Athletes are people too.
In 2013, I learned that athletes are humans. Growing up — and even, to some extent, as an “adult” — I tended to put athletes on a pedestal. They could run and jump and catch and throw the way I’d wanted to in my dreams, and I rarely stopped to think about them as subject to the same struggles, temptations, triumphs, thoughts and emotions as any person.
But so much happened off the court this year that I’ll forever think of 2013 as “That Humanizing Year.” Here are three of the more prominent examples:
The Aaron Hernandez saga. In 2012, Hernandez was an elite NFL tight end, his name plastered across the backs of thousands of Patriots fans, the toast of fantasy football teams everywhere and just another cog in the beautiful, ugly machine that is the New England football dynasty. In 2013, he was exposed — allegedly, we must say — as a monster. Watching Hernandez appear handcuffed in court, and listening to the charges and proof laid out against him by Massachusetts prosecutors was the first time, off the field, I was able to watch a story fall into place, piece by piece — and the mythos of a star athlete fall apart in the process. It was stunning.
On the other hand, Jason Collins’ admission that he’s not just an NBA center but a gay man was a huge step forward for the LGBT community, and for the sports world in general. Collins put a human face to a struggle that none of us had been able to understand tangibly. It’s easy to think about the gay athlete in the abstract, but Collins was that man — toiling under the weight of being a pro basketball player and having to hide his true self from his team, his industry, and the world at large. Beyond the larger implications, however, you have to love Jason Collins for putting himself out there the way he did. He’s just awesome.
Finally, on a more personal note, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling very emotional about Mariano Rivera’s exit from the game of baseball. My sports life — nay, my actual life — will be split into two parts: With and Without Mariano. I was a boy growing up with Mo, and now I must be a man without him.
This was a big year for SportsGrid. I’d like to give a special shoutout to our staff for the following:
-Matt Rudnitsky’s gambling posts, which changed the way I viewed picking games and betting in general. I challenge you to find a better combination of research and wit on the entire Internet.
-Jake O’Donnell’s unmatched creativity, particularly when it came to the “Ugly Sweaters” (for both the NBA and NFL), and his videos — the “Gurus” series and “Mic’d Up Remastered” which frankly made me laugh my ass off.
-Rick Chandler’s uncanny ability to find the small stories that most sites missed. as well as the small stories that would eventually become huge, like the “Hernandezing” fad that swept the stupid part of our nation.
Matt Rudnitsky — Burke v. Kansas.
Two thousand and thirteen was the Year of the Crazy Finish in Big Games. Big games were much crazier than normal. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not recency bias.
The Super Bowl: The 49ers have a shot to take the lead on the Ravens with under two minutes to go. There is potential pass interference. It’s not called. It may have been the right call. It was close.
The NBA Finals: Ray Allen makes an insane shot to force a Game 6 overtime that keeps the Heat alive. The Heat win.
Some of their fans likely don’t know this happened.
Stanley Cup Finals: Game 7 is all but guaranteed. Wait, no, Game 6 overtime. Wait, no, season over. DRAMA.
But for me, as a Michigan alumnus, one thing topped all of these things on the Thing Pyramid: Trey Burke’s Shot.
I was in Ann Arbor. I was at a friend’s house. I expected a close game. Kansas played well. I calmed my nerves with alcohol. It didn’t work. I watched with my die-hard, pessimistic Michigan-fan friend. And others. Kids that know nothing about sports. Somewhat-hardcore fans. Everyone was ready to leave. Everyone was sad. ELIJAH JOHNSON!
But wait, now we’re down three? It was over! Three to tie. It could happen. It won’t happen. I can’t breathe. No really, I can’t breathe. Let Trey shoot. NO TREY DON’T SHOOT FROM THERE!
Still can’t breathe. Hugs. Yelling by others. No breath for me. Yells in the street. Lots of yells. Realization that overtime is a 50-50 proposition, maybe worse, as underdogs. No more yelling.
How long can you survive without breathing? I have to be breathing. I don’t feel myself breathing.
Win. More hugs. Breath still hasn’t returned. Running across the street. Strangers joining. Clothes on, strangely.
All worth it.
What a year.
Rick Chandler — A time of porn ‘staches, family and balls.
If I had to describe the past year, I’d say it was just like a kick in the scrotum. But it was a gentle kick, filled with love. Here is my rundown of the things from the year that have scarred me the most.
Mr. Balls. Known as Senor Testiculo in his native Brazil, he wandered the countryside, warning males of the importance of regularly examining themselves for signs of testicular cancer. He often showed up at sporting events, festivals and, once, at a bullfight. The bulls were confused — the children terrified. Best mascot ever? Possibly. But mostly, all Mr. Balls wanted was to be loved.
Anderson Silva’s horrific leg injury. Human legs are not supposed to bend like that. At UFC 168 last week, Silva broke his own shin — in two places — during his bout with Chris Weidman. Ever see that scene in “Looper” where the guy starts losing body parts? It was kind of like that, only with a ref. Yuck.
Shirtless Valdimir Putin. The Russian President spent far too much time sans shirt in 2013, which normally I could avoid. But with the Sochi Olympics approaching, my job compelled me to look. I guess I should just be thankful it wasn’t Kim Jong Un.
This Photoshop. Sent in by reader @JordanBeall when my own attempt fell a bit short of wonderful, it embodies all the terror of “The Shining”, while also invoking the weather in Green Bay during football season. Now with the introduction of Aaron Rodgers’ porn ‘stache, and my 49ers having to travel there for the Wild Card Game this week, I just want to crawl into the hedge maze and not come out ’til spring.
Jerry Sandusky. Not only for what he did (shower rape involving minors? Really? You could have confronted me with much less and still have scarred my soul), but also for the denial, the Joe Paterno apologists, and the refusal of the campus ice cream store to remove the flavor “Peachy Paterno.”
This guy. In my nightmares he lives, like the leviathan of legend, haunting my very soul.
Goodbye, 2013… to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.
Jake O’Donnell — Do the Harlem Shake.
Nowadays, professional athletes often come across as stiff, that is to say, I tend to think of them as having rigid personalities forged from years of not leaving a weight room. They’re yes/no answer kinda people. Most of them are under 30, haven’t left the country, and are constantly pampered by an entourage of ass-kissers. Those aren’t exactly ideal conditions for developing a complex, nuanced, interesting personality.
I get the idea that most of today’s athletes are groomed to be more machine than man (see: Kenobi, Obi Wan). Their monotonous voices make me think they’re boring. Their lack of wit makes me think they aren’t creative. Their terse responses to interesting questions make me think they have no imagination. Like they’re simple. The New Yorker would call them something like “knuckle-dragging troglodytes whose interests include beating other humans and fornication.”
The New Yorker would probably call us that too, were it not for the fact that we can barely bench 110-lbs and look better suited for Settlers of Catan conquests than sexual ones. But who the fuck cares what those assholes think.
The point is, professional athletes have always seemed to lack the sense of irony that is found at a higher clip in the population at large. On the outside, they’re just cliché meat heads who think different things are “weird” and weird is “bad” and they call people “gay” for wearing glasses.
Then I saw the Miami Heat’s “Harlem Shake” video, and my perception of professional athletes changed forever.
For the better. Way better.
When did these people — whom I had always considered to be the guys who beat you up in high school for wearing corduroys — become absurdists? Anti-humorists? When did “jocks” become post-modern interpretive dancers — the people who actually wear corduroys? Is that Terry Francona conducting a David Lynch fever dream? Is Les Miles doing the “Elaine dance” in a dubstep parody video? Surreal — and unexpected. “What the fuck is going on!” I thought to myself.
On a bus filled with children.
I no longer drive a school bus is what I’m saying.
The Harlem Shake parody videos were a subversive twist for one of modern civilization’s most historically conservative institutions. LeBron James — the single most visible, culturally significant basketball player of his era — was dressed like an S&M version of the Burger King king, embarrassing himself for your pleasure. And you loved it (42 million YouTube views in less than a year). I loved it (two views!). The one-time “bullies” were now running around their respective locker rooms dressed like acid-tripping hipsters at an LCD Soundsystem show. It was refreshing, and it changed how I think about athletes completely.
They’re fucking hysterical.