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Owens: The past year in sports from Luck to Paterno (May 2)

Andrew Owens | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the first year of The Observer’s ‘Sports Authority’ content, with a daily column taking you out of the Notre Dame athletics bubble and delving into the wide world of sports.

With this being the final Observer issue of the year and, thus, the final Sports Authority, I’ve made a list of what I see as the top five sports stories of the past school year.

5. 2011 World Series

For the second straight year the Rangers won the American League crown and advanced to the Fall Classic. After losing in six games in 2010 to the Giants and their mega-rotation, Texas was the favorite in 2011. Its opponent, the Cardinals, were 10.5 games out of a playoff spot August 26 before surging to a playoff berth and marching through the National League playoffs.

Not once, but twice in Game 6, the Rangers were a strike away from winning the franchise’s first World Series. Not once, but twice the Cardinals rallied from a two-run deficit, capped off by October legend David Freese’s walkoff home run which gave Fox broadcaster Joe Buck the opportunity to give his late father’s trademark call, “We will see you tomorrow night!”

The Cardinals saw the Rangers the next night, and they cruised to a Game 7 victory.

4. Linsanity

During the darkest days of the American sports calendar, a new name jumped to the forefront of fans’ consciousness: Jeremy Lin.

Lin quickly became the Knicks’ star and briefly provided hope for an otherwise bleak franchise. An injury ended Lin’s season prematurely, but for a while there he sure was Lin-tertaining. (Okay, that one was a bit of a reach.)

The emergence of the scrub-turned-star also led to controversial headlines, tweets, ice cream flavors and statements regarding Lin’s race and became a learning experience for everyone.

3. Colts feel Lucky, drop Manning

Whether or not you fall into the Tom Brady camp or Peyton Manning camp in the best-quarterback-of-the-decade debate, you have to acknowledge that Manning is a one-of-a-kind talent and is headed to the Hall of Fame, which is why it’s such a big deal he is no longer an Indianapolis Colt.

After neck issues kept him out of the lineup for the entire 2011 season, Indianapolis decided not to pick up his $28 million option and rebuild the team, centered around the selection of former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top overall pick.

After Manning’s cross-country recruitment, he settled on the Denver Broncos as the destination to continue his career. Seeing Manning in any uniform other than the Colts’ will certainly be strange.

2. Tebowing to the Big Apple

With the Broncos’ addition of Manning, the controversial Tim Tebow was suddenly available. He was essentially traded to the New York Jets for a fourth-round pick, which tells you how much he is valued as a bargaining chip.

The Jets’ off-season solution to fixing an awful quarterback situation was simple: Add another bad quarterback. After all, why have one when you can have two?

All of this happened after he was named the starting quarterback in Denver, rode the Broncos defense’s coattails to the playoffs and polarized fans along the way.

1. Paterno’s fall from grace

The top sports story of the year was a simple one, and that’s because of its enormity not only as a sports story, but as a news story as well.

Joe Paterno was Penn State, but all of that changed when it was revealed in November he didn’t do enough to stop former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s alleged pedophilic tendencies.

In a two-and-a-half month span, Paterno was fired over the phone, announced he had lung cancer and died. We won’t truly know what Paterno’s legacy will be for years, but it is still hard to believe the man who was seen as a symbol of everything that’s good about college athletics could be taken down by the biggest scandal college athletics has ever seen.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.