FRANKLYWNOW - Top Local Sports Story 2012

Top Local Sports Story 2012

There's no NHL hockey. Of course, there's no NHL hockey anywhere. Not even Canada.

But there's no Tebow. You can thank me now. Here we go:

10. Linsanity. You just scoffed. Don't lieI have foolproof scoff detection! I know what you're thinking: This guy just promised no Tebow, and now there's Linsanity? So much has transpired since that magical FebruaryLin's playing for Houston; the Knicks are playing well without him; former New York coach Mike D'Antoni is trying to comprehend Laker egos. It's possible to have forgotten what a fascinating moment this wasthe undrafted, unheralded, twice-dumped point guard leaping off a couch to transform an underperforming club.

Was it overstated because it happened in New York? Of course! That's what New York does, baby!

9. NFL Referee Fiasco. Remember what a huge deal this was in the fall?

Remember the throaty rage the country felt after the Packers "lost" to the Seahawks? Remember how this was a signal of how the NFL had lost institutional control and if they didn't resolve this crisisOK, they resolved it. Never mind.

8. You Are Allowed to Like LeBron Now. One of the more tedious exercises in recent sports memory was the demonization of LeBron James for taking a job in a city with better weather. OK, he also made a crummy TV showif making crummy TV shows were a crime, there'd be six people left working in Los Angeles. James got an NBA title this year and a sappy new story line emerged: Happy LeBron, heavy world off his shoulders. Whatever. Let LeBron be LeBron. Know this: James will be remembered as one of the best ever. If I have to go announce this to Jim Gray at the Greenwich, Conn., Boys & Girls Club, I will.

7. Peyton Manning. Yeah I am putting Peyton Manning on this list even though the Denver Broncos haven't made any playoff noise yet. But they're 12-3 and haven't lost since the first week of October, mainly because of that slump-shouldered old colt they lassoed from Indianapolis. It's worth recalling how much doubt surrounded Manning after his teary-eyed Indy exitnot everyone (including the Colts!) was convinced he was capable of approaching his former greatness. As the postseason approaches, please know he's not just Comeback Peyton Manning. He's Angry Comeback Peyton Manning, who remembers every little thing you said about him last winter, and is muttering it quietly inside his fancy-pants Buick.

6. Lionel Messi's Scoring Record. Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina scored an astonishing, record-breaking 91 goals this year, and though soccer fans will argue about the significance of the feat, the attention paid to Messi in the U.S. seemed to be a signal of how cable and Internet coverage have converged to help a thrilling global sport truly take hold in this country. Football. Is. Not. A. Fad. Bad beards on relief pitchers? Fad.

5. U.S. Women's National Soccer Team. They came, they saw, theydid the rest. Gold in London. There's something also to be said for winning when everyone expectsdemands, reallythat you win.

Also: Abby Wambach is as magnetic a team leader as there is in sports right nowsoccer's version of Magic Johnson.

4. Andy & Serena. Look: we both know I could stuff this list with 40 bazillion tennis moments, and it does pain me to blow off the 2012 renaissance of Roger Federer; Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal's Aussie Open epic; and the improbable rise up the rankings of former U.S. phenom Brian Baker, showing his promise after years of injury. But the two best tennis stories of 2012 were Andy Murraybreakthrough winner of the "fifth" major at the Olympics, and U.S. Open victor in Septemberand Wimbledon/Olympic/U.S. Open champ Serena Williams, who, at her best, is flat-out the most dominant tennis player in the world.

3. OMG Notre Dame. Hey did you hear that Notre Dame has an undefeated college-football team and is playing for the national championship?

I believe this is true.

2. Lance Goes Down the Mountain. The USADA allegations against Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service cycling team were a grim, unprecedented exploration into the polluted underbelly of pro bike racingand prompted a re-examination of an athlete whose fame was less about wins (or even his sport) than his personal narrative.

Armstrong (who rejected USADA's allegations but did not contest them in an arbitration) has seen his titles stripped, his sponsors flee, and his name taken off the foundation he launched. In its wake is a very obvious question: Does Armstrong have a next act?

1. Usain Bolt Does It Again. Look: Years from now, you probably won't remember the Saturday night that undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both lost. You've already forgotten who won the 2012 World Series (the Miami Dolphins) and the Stanley Cup (the Akron Ice Kittens). But if you saw Usain Bolt win the 100- and 200-meter sprints in London, you won't ever forget it. Once more, surrounded by the world's best, the electrifying Bolt seemed to possess an extra gear, and celebrating after his victories, was thrilled to reflect the world's spotlight. It is exactly why we watch this stuff. Irresistible, unforgettableand totally Tebow-free.

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